Group photo thanks to Anahata Yoga Retreat, Golden Bay, New Zealand.
I more than found what I was looking for at Anahata. It was worth any unraveling that happened in my recovery to get here. It's hard to describe in words but it feels as if something deep inside me has clunked quietly into place. Something that I knew could only happen with a lot of stillness and a lot of nature. Perhaps that was connected to my desire to climb mountains. I still have that yearning to hike, to move faster, to get out of breath, the clarity that comes with physical exertion - but I found far more than that anyway. I found a kind of peace, a mental freedom, a sense of vastness. A vastness that is only matched by how rooted in the ground I feel.
My body may not do exactly what I wish it to, but my mind...can do anything.
I'm sure I could have found that stillness closer to home. But New Zealand is different. It is incredibly special. Here is a quality here, a brightness, a lightness, a freshness, a sense of space. It is one of the most healing countries I have ever been to.
I was surrounded by community at Anahata and over the course of six weeks the residents there became my family. And steadily my mobility improved. Until I was walking around without having to think about it too much. Until I was almost able to stop the constant measuring of activity that happens with CFS nearly completely. It was slow, it was steady and I became the healthiest I think I have ever been, in body and mind so far.
It happened gradually, but I kept finding myself doing more. I realised I was playing frisbee when a small group of us went on on a day out by the sea, feeling fine and able to do the short walk to get to the beach and back. I started being able to use my voice more and more regularly - to actually start singing again. I started being able to get up and dance for a song or two. A small group of us went out for the day on my birthday and I climbed the steep track through the trees from the beach and then went out to a spa and out to dinner. I lasted all day - I had all the energy I needed to enjoy every moment of it.
And I will take all of what I have experienced and learned here with me. Wherever I go. It was a myriad of practices that got me here, the community, the support from the people who became a family of friends, the luxury of not having to care for yourself in terms of food - and that food coming straight from the garden and local producers (including the pears we scrumped from the bottom of the hill). I did tiny bits of yoga that I built up, made an effort to join in the daily chanting (I know this helped to retrieve my voice). Most helpful of all was sticking to a deep sleep meditation called Yoga Nidra that happened at mid-day, 6 days a week. A 30 min Yoga Nidra is said to be the equivalent of around 2 hours’ sleep. I will now always attempt this form of deep rest during the middle of my average day.
Some of my favourite moments were walking through the forest at dawn, the light just a tiny glimmer in the sky, to find everyone preparing for a Havan, an ancient healing fire ceremony that felt remarkably powerful. And there was always work to do... I actually managed to get a bit stressed out about finishing all the sewing jobs I was given and we all helped with cleaning, looking after retreat guests and whatever else needed doing. Most residents at Anahata work incredibly hard. I was able to do what I was able to do and rest when I really needed to.
But perhaps the key thing is that I wasn’t only laser-focused on getting better while doing everything my body and mind needed to heal again - I realised I had no choice but to work on accepting things as they really were... now. Not waiting or putting myself on hold until I was able to walk and function normally again. Learning not to make a moment of this experience ‘wrong’. I think there was a little key to recovery in that realisation.
An ME/CFS Thriver