Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Light in Mykonos

2013 went down as the most difficult of the first 26 years of my life. I am so #blessed, but this past year was not easy. My personal life was shaken up in ways I never could have imagined. Daily reminders of the beautiful life that I truly am blessed to live (no hashtag joke here) got me through some pretty tough times. I spent every single day trying to be present in the moment and appreciate every emotion - good or bad - that came my way. I definitely would not have found that presence or the quiet strength inside of me without yoga. After a long day in the MBA grind, I went to my mat. When I was stuck inside my own head, debating personal dilemmas, I went to my mat. When I was so emotionally tired that actual tears were mixed with sweat, I went to my mat.

This spring, as everyone was busy planning post-graduation Euro trips, I decided to just spend a few weeks in Charleston with my family instead. But my good friend Emily mentioned that our friend Jessica was thinking about a yoga retreat. Jess reached out to me with a few options and she made the decision to travel to Mykonos for Danai Kougiouli's Jivamukti yoga retreat (check out the retreat's website here and Danai's website here). After scanning the retreat website and emailing back and forth with Danai, I decided to jump on. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I am so grateful to Jess for the open invitation.

Jessica spent the week prior to the retreat visiting friends in London, so I woke up at 3:30 am on a Friday morning and left for the airport alone. After making stops in New York, Toronto, and Athens, I finally made it to Mykonos (28 hours later). I was incredibly nervous to travel so far alone, but began to view the whole experience as an adventure - my own mini modified version of Eat, Pray, Love.

Danai and another teacher, Melody, picked me up at the airport, and we headed to the retreat. We stayed in beautiful private villas, complete with separate bathrooms for each bedroom, a shared kitchen, and shared seating area. After unpacking, I met the 20 other yogis. People traveled from London, Belgium, Athens, and the US. Hardly anyone knew anyone else. It was amazing to hear what drew each person to yoga and, specifically, to Danai. Some of the yogis were debating switching careers; others were searching for some personal peace; a few were just looking to expand their practice. I so enjoyed getting to know them all. And I quickly realized that this was the best graduation present I could have ever gifted myself. 

Our days began at 8:30 in the morning. We spent the next 2 1/2 hours with yoga and meditation. From 11-12 we had an amazing catered brunch. Most of our afternoons were free - I spent a lot of time lounging on the beach or by the pool - but we also had two evening yoga sessions from 7-8:30. On the fifth evening of the trip, we took a boat out to the Isle of Delos, said to be the birthplace of Apollo. Since I didn't spend any additional time in Athens, it was amazing to get to experience some of the ancient ruins. 

The trip lasted 7 full days and 8 nights and I definitely could have stayed longer. This was something that I did 100% for myself. I let my frizzy hair fly free the entire week, unplugged my mobile devices (for the most part), and got the best golden tan of my life. The villas were absolutely amazing - clean and spacious. The people were so warm and kind. And our teachers, Danai and Melody, were fantastic. They made themselves available throughout the entire trip and spent time hanging out with us, giving us extra yoga help, and chatting about anything and everything that came up during the course of the journey.

We all face difficult times, but all we can do is live through them. We can try to be present in every moment and appreciate the fact that pain is a direct reflection of our ability to feel and to love. We can forgive others for causing us harm, but more importantly, we can forgive ourselves. We can all contribute to the freedom and happiness in the world through our own thoughts and actions, and we can send blessings, love and gratitude to those who have contributed to the freedom and happiness in our lives. 

Namaste, my friends.

The view of our villas (you have to look closely!) from down below. 

 Another view of the villas.

 The gorgeous view.

 One of the private swimming pools.

 The room that Jess and I shared.

 The common area in our villa.

 We got to practice every day on a beautiful sundeck...

 ...or on a beautiful beach.

 Danai and Melody before our sunset yoga session.

The whole group at the ancient theater.

 Exploring downtown Mykonos.
Wearing // dress: Madewell // bag: Urban Outfitters (old)

 The view from dinner at sunset.

 Enjoying a day of shopping with Jess and Melody.

 After a long day of relaxing on the beach.
Wearing // top: Urban Outfitters (old, similar here) // shorts: 7 for all Mankind (old, similar here) // shoes: Vans for Madewell

Meera, Imogen, Marek, and Briony on the last morning.

After a spontaneous dip in the pool after our last yoga session. Thank you, Danai, for everything!

 The whole crew.

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