I recently spent three days at my favourite wellness retreat. It is situated on a large piece of land on the shore of a small, clear spring-fed lake. The only disturbances on the water are loons, the occasional canoe, or the ripple from a silent gliding paddleboard. The land beneath is rich in mineral deposits. The paths and outcroppings have pieces of quartz, sodalite, and amethyst among other treasures to be found, observed, perhaps even collected. The calming energy is palpable as you emerge from your car. The gurgle of the fountain, the chatter of the chipmunks, robins announcing meal times for their chicks and a horse deeply and loudly exhaling confirm you are thoroughly immersed in nature.

In the past, I may have arrived at this sacred place in a state of stress and exhaustion.  Or perhaps agitated and restless, seeking without knowing. Other times I have approached simply craving peace, simplicity, and solitude. Always I leave with the gifts of new perspectives, rich connections, and a pampered body and soul.

This visit was a celebration of COVID reopening: mine and theirs. I was desperate for body and energy alignment. To do physical, emotional, and spiritual check-in. To be touched.  To be fed. To think and yet not concentrate. To leave behind the burst of anxious energy that had been plaguing me since the comfortable cocoon of isolation had been violated by the reopening.

I was keen to do the morning yoga classes, spend time on the water paddling, and engage in treatments that would move my body and take it beyond its limitations. Only now do I know that was not what I was there for. The agenda wasn’t mine.

Two hours after my arrival, standing up in front of a large armchair that was rooted in its spot in the deep carpet, I made my move: I wanted more space between it and the small table.  With my hands on the padded arms and my legs pressed against the seat cushion, I gave it a mighty shove. The only thing that moved was something deep within my right knee as it popped and I went down. No yoga, no paddling, no Thai massage. I needed elevation and ice.

Later that first afternoon I limped to my foot reflexology session. With a stiff and sore knee, I welcomed the weightless drift, the body and mind suspension. I was somewhere between aware and asleep–one of my favourite places to be. Unlike sessions of the past, there were no tender pressure points on my feet.  Other than the occasional stomach gurgle, my breath was deep and calm. The therapist commented on my relaxed energy.

The next afternoon I sat on a hard plastic chair in the middle of a corral with two other women, a lovely man gently beating a drum and two large quarter horses–the setting for equine meditation. I am an animal lover. My nickname is Dr. Doolittle: the dog, horse, chicken, chipmunk, racoon whisperer. So, I closed my eyes, took several breaths and settled into my meditation, waiting for the horses to come to me. They didn’t. They went to her. The beauty with the red hair and blue eyes. I snuck a peek and one was nuzzling her while the other stood perfectly still in front of her. I closed my eyes and willed them to come to me. I was desperate for their attention. I sat alone, digging my toes further into the hot dirt.

As I continued to breathe, I shifted my focus to the warmth of the sun on my arms, opening my mind beyond the chatter that was overriding my thoughts.  Ohhhhh. I figured out what I needed to be reminded of, what I forget and need to relearn, through discomfort, again and again, and again. I can’t control people, places or things. I can’t make space by trying to move things larger than me. I can’t control a 1,200-pound horse. I can’t control the words and actions of people in my life, even though I love them. Attempts to do so create anxiety and discomfort.  They cause knees to pop. They create toxic inner dialogues.  So, I decided to just be. Maybe she needed the healing energy from these gentle giants. Moments later, I felt the heat and heard the exhale as a velvet nostril grazed my cheek.

There were tears in the circle in the corral that morning. The horses went to the tears.  Stayed with them until they had dried. Then, when I found compassion and let go of my self-centred need to control, they came to me. When I abandoned my energy of wanting, I received what I needed.

At least, that was my experience.