The Poetry of Retreat

Wake up well before dawn.

Set an alarm, just in case. I don’t want to miss a moment of the five a.m. sadhana.

Under the veil of darkness, stroll along the starlit, lapping lake to the candlelit temple where White Tara beams down upon us all every day and night.

Location: Sumaya, which means “a long awaited dream come true”; a.k.a. paradise found.

Akasha shares his personal practice with us, in such a down-to-earth, accessible and friendly way. Casually imparts the wisdom of years and decades of practice. So humbly, with the authenticity of actions and the nebulous precision of words. The time flies by.

Breathing, chanting, moving, holding, listening. Paying attention.

Sun rises, pastels paint the sky. We invite the morning light. The lake’s daily awakening. All the sounds, the water, the boat motors, voices, birdsong.

And now, a series of seven-minute chants. I read from the sheet and marvel at all the people in the room who has these long strings of Sanskrit syllables memorized.

Mid-morning Ashtanga practice. Powerful. Right effort. Knowing boundaries, challenging limits. Mountain men and women gaining strength, vitality. Soaking up inspiration from our teacher and his teacher’s teachers.

Just one week, and yet we go so deep, transforming energy on all levels. Strangers swiftly become sangha, friendships are forged over meals and spirit animal tarot cards.

Healing circle, full moon, New Year’s Eve evening; glowing hearts, positive energy, splendid synergy. Giving and receiving.

Inner transformation, outward evolution. Deep bow of gratitude, dream come true. The closing of one chapter leads to the opening of the next.

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Thank you. I love you. Please forgive me. I’m sorry. Namaste.

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7 Sacred Directions ~ Weekend Retreat

June 23 – 25, 2017

“Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.” ~ Pueblo Blessing

On this weekend retreat in the land of eternal spring, we’ll voyage through the seven major energy centers in the body: root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown and the seven sacred directions: east, west, north, south, above, below and heart center.

The circle is open to all levels and all body types. Take time to unwind in our lakeside paradise… enjoy group practices, wholesome vegetarian cuisine and free time for reading in the hammock, spa treatments, swimming or simply being.

Schedule

Friday

3:00 arrival & settling in
5:00 opening circle
6:30 welcome dinner

Saturday

8:00 yoga & meditation
9:30 breakfast
11:30 chakra workshop
1:30 lunch
3:00 cacao ceremony
6:30 dinner

Sunday

7:30 breakfast
8:15 Mayan fire ceremony
10:30 closing circle
12:00 lunch & farewells

*Also being offered September 1-3

Learn more!

Location: Villa Sumaya

Summer 2017 Weekend Retreats @ Lake Atitlan

Retreat at Lake Atitlan, one of the world’s most beautiful lakes, surrounded by lush flora and fauna, colorful Mayan villages and three volcanoes.

Here are eight great reasons for us to create the time and space in our lives for retreat, whether it be a single morning of silence in our own backyard or a week of yoga in Guatemala:

  1. Unplug from devices and reconnect with the simple perfection of this one wild and precious life, right here and now
  2. Deepen our formal and informal practices of yoga and meditation
  3. Connect with the glory of nature and the elements of earth, fire, water, sky and space
  4. Be empowered by group energy to cultivate with greater discipline and focus
  5. Do our own inner work for the benefit of all beings without exception
  6. Learn more about our mind’s habit-patterns and escapes
  7. Forge bonds with new spiritual friends through laughter, tears, sharing stories
  8. Devote our time, money and energy to holistic healing and self-love

I’m thrilled to announce the following group retreats for the 2017 rainy season —

 

SUMMER 2017

3-Day/2-Night Weekend Retreats
June 3-5 ~ Wellness Weekend @ La K’zona (Saturday to Monday)
June 23-25 ~ Seven Sacred Directions @ Villa Sumaya
July 7-9 ~ Writing Down the Chakras @ Villa Sumaya
July 21-23 ~ The Path of Beauty @ Villa Sumaya
August 5-7 ~ Seven Sacred Directions @ La K’zona (Saturday to Monday)
August 18-20 ~ Writing Down the Chakras @ Villa Sumaya
September 1-3 ~ Seven Sacred Directions @ Villa Sumaya

Themes

Wellness Weekend: Chakra Yoga, Art & Cooking ~ 

Workshops will cover mindful eating, walking meditation, chakra basics, creative practice (writing, visual art, music, etc), incorporating seeds, nuts, ferments, preparing easy, minimally-processed, highly-nutritious and delicious dishes, making sprouts, growing greens/radishes & making delicious green smoothies.

Seven Sacred Directions: Yoga, Ceremony & Celebration ~

We’ll be practicing yoga with a focus on the 7 chakras and 7 sacred directions, celebrating and reflecting with a cacao ceremony and a fire ceremony.

Writing Down the Chakras: Yoga, Meditation & Journaling ~

This will be a weekend to practice conscious being, breathing, moving, relating, expressing, and creating. We will share in the group practices of yoga, mindfulness, meditation, writing and also allow plenty of time for reflection and integration.

General Schedule

Friday arrive & settle in / 4:30 opening circle / 6:30 dinner

Saturday 7:30 tea & fruit / 8am yoga / 9:30 breakfast / 11:00 workshop or ceremony / 1:00 lunch, free time / 4:30 learning circle and practice / 6:30 dinner

Sunday 7:30 tea & fruit / 8:00 closing circle & fire ceremony / 10:30 brunch

To get more info or join one of these sacred circles, please write to Michelle via yogafreedom at gmail dot com!

Namaste~

A Long-Awaited Dream Come True

villa-sumaya_daniel-lopez-perez197Eight summers ago, when I was packing up my life and readying to move to Guatemala, sight unseen, a dear Austin yoga teacher colleague, Charles MacInerney, wrote me a nice letter recommending that I visit Villa Sumaya, a yoga retreat center on Lake Atitlan where he’d taught several yoga retreats.

Up until then, I’d never heard of this majestic lake.

I moved to Guatemala City in August, 2009. My first trip to the lake was for the American Thanksgiving weekend. I stayed with a bunch of teacher friends at a colorful chalet outside Panajachel, on the road to Santa Catarina. I would, four years later, find myself passing that house daily, when my family lived twenty minutes outside Pana.

My second trip to the lake was in January 2010 with my teaching buddy Kat. We escaped the city on the chicken bus, found our way to Pana, and then crossed the lake to Santiago. We stayed only one or two nights at the lush Posada de Santiago, but it felt like a joyful eternity, a portal into an alternate universe, light years from the dirty, loud, dangerous capital city where we lived and worked. We swung in hammocks, soaked in the hot tub, sweated in the sauna and dove into the cold lake. In less than 48 hours, we were transformed. I began my ongoing love affair with Santiago Atitlan, though life has led me to live in Pasajcap, on the north shore instead of the southern one, 20 minutes walk outside the hippie haven of San Marcos La Laguna. Nowadays, I journey over to Santiago about once a week, to teach yoga in the same gardens at the same Posada and to take my daughter to the most adorable preschool on the planet.

Along with my friend, Ash Fletcher, the wild woman who spurred me to start leading weekend yoga retreats, because we led them together, I toured Villa Sumaya, sometime in mid-2010. I remember being very impressed by its beauty and in awe of the idea of bringing retreat groups there. Villa Sumaya is luxurious, especially by lake standards, and its prices are set to U.S. standards, meaning most people who live here in Guatemala can’t afford it. We stuck to teaching our two and three night retreats at more budget locales, lovely in themselves, such as La Paz in San Marcos and Earth Lodge outside of Antigua. I’ve been doing it ever since, several times a year. Always weekends. Always amazing.

A few months after leaving my decade-long career in education/school teaching in early 2015, I spotted a flier for a job at Villa Sumaya. Long story short, I got the job and have been working as the retreat and reservations coordinator there ever since. I currently work on site two days of the week and from home the rest of the time. It’s a good job, and I am grateful for it. I can’t say I love managing the logistical details of retreats as much as I love teaching yoga and facilitating retreats, but now these two skill sets are coming together and enabling me to do both at the same time.

Today, a long-awaited dream of mine is coming true. I am going to be leading a week-long yoga retreat, at Villa Sumaya no less! It’s a very small group of women coming together, but it is happening. This week will be a model for potential future weeks. This retreat, for me, is a personal revolution and very much a full circle moment.

There is always stress in life, always struggles and challenges to deal with. I do not want to imply that by realizing this dream, I am enlightened or my life is perfect.

At the same time, ever since I set foot in Guatemala, I have chosen and am continuing to choose the path of beauty. The choices have led to this path, for me, at this magical lake, in this mystical Mayan heartland. To stay on the path, wherever it leads us, we must renew our vows to do so, day by day, moment to moment.

Yoga, Heartfulness & Writing Retreat ~ January 21-28, 2017

What better time than now to recharge and rediscover balance, bliss and freedom in daily life? We’ll invite wisdom and love to guide our intention throughout the retreat in order to help expand our consciousness and center us in our hearts.

Join us for a special time of renewal as we practice awareness and moment-to-moment acceptance through yoga, mindfulness and writing sessions. Enjoy spa treatments, eat wholesome vegetarian cuisine and take time to unwind in a lakeside paradise.

The path of beauty weaves together the practices of awareness, wisdom, kindness and compassion. Take time for yourself in our beautiful, natural setting to walk this path.

What’s Included

  • 7 nights of accommodation at beautiful Villa Sumaya on picturesque Lake Atitlan
  • 3 daily delicious, home-cooked, well-balanced, vegetarian meals plus 24 hour tea/coffee and water
  • Tuition for daily group sessions, including mindfulness-based meditation, yoga asana, breath work, restorative and yin with essential oils (mat & props provided) — 12 sessions total
  • A one-hour treatment at our on-site Harmony Spa
  • Use of our solar hot tub (sun permitting)
  • All taxes

Not included: Transportation costs, optional extra activities and excursions (e.g. Trip to San Juan/Santiago/Chichi, Kayak/hike tour, Mayan Fire Ceremony), tips to Villa Sumaya staff.

Daily Schedule

Saturday, January 21st
3pm Settle in
5pm Opening circle
6:30pm Welcome dinner

Sunday, January 22nd
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
10:00 orientation
11:00 Root chakra workshop
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Sacral chakra workshop
6:30 dinner

Monday, January 23rd
7:30 breakfast
Optional – Mayan Fire Ceremony 8:15 a.m. (Cost will depend on the number of participants)
12:00 Solar plexus yoga practice
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Solar plexus chakra workshop
6:30 dinner

Tuesday, January 24th
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
11:00 Heart chakra workshop
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Heart-centered Yin Yoga
6:30 dinner

Wednesday, January 25th
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
11:00 Throat chakra workshop
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Kirtan and sound healing workshop
6:30 dinner

Thursday, January 26th
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
11:00 Third eye chakra workshop
1:00 lunch & free time
4:30 Crown chakra workshop
6:30 dinner

Friday, January 27th
8am meditation
8:30 breakfast
11:00 Kundalini Chakra Yoga Workshop
1:00 lunch
3:00 Cacao ceremony /Closing circle
6:30 dinner

Saturday, January 28th
7:30am yoga & meditation
9am breakfast
11am departures

Pricing & Registration

Singles: $995 USD

Bring a friend! Doubles: $730 per person

Bring two friends! Triples: $660 per person

*Special discounted rates for full-time residents of Lake Atitlan–please inquire!*

A $200 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your space. For more info or to sign up, please write Michelle (reservations@villasumaya.com).

July/August 2016 Retreats!

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I am super excited to be offering two yoga retreats this summer with my dear friend and fellow yoga teacher Paola at Villa Sumaya… Join us!

Living from the Heart: Stress-Free Lifestyle
July 2-9, 2016
Yoga, mindfulness, writing workshops. Nutrition, Ayurveda, Hikes and Healing

Yoga, Mindfulness & the Transformation of Suffering
August 13-20, 2016
Yoga, mindfulness, writing workshops. Permaculture, Learning and Healing

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