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Lean on me... when you're not strong...

On the last full day of the retreat I attended at Blue Spirit Resort in Costa Rica, another retreat present welcomed us to crash a class on their retreat. The class and retreat was called Qoya. I met a few of the ladies on the bus ride from the airport in Liberia to the retreat center, and everything they explained to me about the practice and the class, or as they liked to call it, “Way of life," felt like everything I had been searching to experience for myself and share with others. My heart leapt with joy when we were given permission to crash their class (though I contemplated crashing their class without permission, if I am fully honest).

It was life changing.

For years, I have struggled to have authentic relationships with women because of comparison, jealousy, and competition. As a result, I have prided myself on becoming a “dude” or one of the “guy’s guys” and “bro-ing out” because I would much rather roll around in the dirt, throw a football, play video games, or four-wheel, than go shopping, get manicures, or spend hours gossiping on the latest episode of some reality show. I also grew to hate the passive-aggressive nature I experienced with many girlfriends and would much rather have a guy come up to me, tell me why he is pissed, we talk about it, and then we move on with it. With girls, I have even found that we resorted to tiny, what I liked to call, “eating disorder competitions," where it becomes a competition on who can at the least at every meal (or even skip meals) so that we can fit into the smallest size clothing when we go shopping.

There was nothing more damaging to my self-image and ability to love, than those moments.

Beyond the beauty of my shoulder healing in Costa Rica, I found that I longed for healing with women and my relationship to women and femininity, and to find a tribe of women that lived in the highest versions of themselves, spreading love, and celebrating the beauty and victories of other women, while also holding others up in the time of hardship and trial. I found all of that in the Revive Restorative Retreat, but also in one beautiful, life-changing, unforgettable moment in the Qoya class.

The moment I walked in the room, my eyes welled up with tears as I was smacked in the face with Love. It was like when Elle Woods walks into the department store with Emmett, knowing his life is about to change, and he asks, “what’s that smell?”, and the department associate says, “love” except in this case, it’s by the universe instead of Calvin Kline.

I had never experienced that amount of love radiating from every woman in the room and it literally smacked me like twenty women with waaaay too strong perfume, but in the beautiful sesnse of the actual essence of love wrapping me in its arms. Every woman was open, and free, and glowing, and hugging one another, and laughing and crying all around the room. There was no fear and no judgement. The guide, a woman in her 50s who released a book called "'O' is for orgasms" because she never experienced an orgasm until she was in her 40s due to sexual abuse as a child (very long, but necessary run-on sentence to introduce this radiant, glowing woman) brought everyone into a circle close together. Shoulder to shoulder, she had us all put our arms around one another, and then lift our legs into tree pose. There were subtle shifts across the room, but not a single woman fell or let go of the woman next to her on either side. We closed our eyes. We inhaled and exhaled together. In the background, a version of “Lean on Me” was playing, and before we knew it, we all were singing, harmonizing, laughing, and then crying.

Tears streamed down my face, as I realized that not only was I experiencing the love and support of so many women, but it was POSSIBLE for fifty women to love and empower one another. Not a single woman fell. We lifted our legs. We swayed with the music. We held one another through the entire song. That was the most magical moment with women, that I have ever experienced.

How could I bring this healing back to the United States?

Flash forward to a few weeks later, and I am back in Ohio. The magic of Costa Rica is no longer around me, but it is within me. It hit me as I drove to my first Chicago rehearsal (as a choreographer) what I was going to do with the cast before I taught them a single step: the circle. Each member of the cast came together, shoulder to shoulder, and wrapped their arms around one another. I asked them to lift their leg into tree pose. Then, I asked them to close their eyes, and take a deep inhale and exhale, together, a few times to feel the breath and energy of one another. Not a single person fell. They swayed, but they swayed together and supported one another.

They opened their eyes, and I saw the light in their eyes as I explained, “Did you see how not a single person fell? This cast is only as strong as the weakest link. The weakest link is not the person with the “least” amount of talent, but rather the person that chooses to bring negative energy into the rehearsal process and the cast. Each one of you is just as important in holding up this circle as the person beside you, and even the leads. Your voice is heard. Even in the ensemble, you have a voice to share.” We are stronger together, when we link arms and hold each other up. When we try to do it alone, we are more likely to topple over.

“…Lean on me When you’re not strong I’ll be your friend I’ll help you carry on…”

I would fall down a bridge ten more times to experience and share the beauty of everything I experienced in Costa Rica.

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