It’s 6:05pm on Tuesday February 25. As I write this, I’m sitting on a United CRJ700 Canadair Regional jet, trying unsuccessfully to ignore the butterflies in my stomach, questioning every noise in the cabin, every bump in the sky, and the proximity of the mountains on either side of me. It’s no secret: I’m a fearful flyer.
I’m on my way home to Los Angeles after a glorious trip to Jackson Hole. It was our second annual Yoga/Ski/P90X retreat with my husband, Ted McDonald, and our friend, Tony Horton. 35 people graced us with their presence. Inspiring people of all ages, 20 through 60, all of them young at heart, each one knowing that the key to a happy life is to have fun, be healthy, stay fit, and to smile and laugh as often as possible.
In the afterglow of the retreat, I’m left with images of a sea of smiling faces, the echoes of their laughter – and mine – still ringing in my heart.
Was it me? Was it Ted? Was it Tony? Was it the food? What is the people? Was it Jackson?
Or was it the 19 inches of fresh snow we got 3 days in a row?
I guess we’ll never know, but I know this for sure:
There was powder. Lots of powder. Laughter. Lots of that too. Ab workouts. Leg workouts. Yoga classes. Gentle snoring in Savasana after a long day on the slopes. Great food. Wonderful conversations. And of course, our fearless leaders, Ted and Tony, whose brotherly banter sent ripples of laughter and happiness through the crowd, sure to be felt for weeks to come.
New friendships were formed. Old ones were nurtured. And I’m fairly certain that some acquaintances crossed the tipping point to become lifelong friends. Yoga retreats tend to have that effect on people. The mountain does that to you too. After the big group photo on the first day, everyone breaks off into groups according to their ability level and hits the mountain together. A few times I broke away from my group, took a few turns and then stopped near the top of the mountain, taking in the beauty of it all, the stillness of the sound of the snow as it fell from the sky and landed softly on my jacket, mittens, and everything that was exposed. Every snowflake like a fingerprint, each one more beautiful than the next.
I know I’m biased, but the trip was the absolute perfect mix of yoga, P90X, skiing, and inspiration. After our morning workout each day, Tony would set an intention for everyone to follow for the proceeding 8 hours. Participation was strictly optional, and yet, not surprisingly, everyone chose to participate.
The first day, our intention was to introduce ourselves to as many strangers as possible, ask them where they were from, what they did, what made them excited about life.
The second day we were not allowed to say anything negative. It was a complaint-free zone. Cold? Couldn’t say anything about it. Hot? Same deal. Thighs burning? Nope. And if any negativity happened to escape from your lips, you had to do 3 pushups for every 1 misdemeanor. I’m not at liberty to tell you how many push ups anyone had to do by the end of the day, but you should know that it was not zero, but it also wasn’t a hundred. It takes 30 days to break a habit, after all.
The third and final day was two fold, the ultimate challenge. Our first intention was to spend 11:30am-12pm in complete silence. As you can imagine, this was difficult, particularly in our 15 person group of intermediate to advanced skiers. How do you communicate which run the advanced skiers should take, and which run the intermediate skiers should go? Which lift were we meeting at? Which way?
Sign language. And trust. Lots of trust.
The bonus and 2nd intention of the two fold challenge for that third day was to do 3 good deeds. It could be anything we wanted: Buy a stranger a hot chocolate. Help someone with their skis if they happened to lose one on the mountain. Buy someone a Jackson Hole neck warmer (thanks, Tony). Whatever felt right.
Though I was originally skeptical about the 30 minutes of silence, I have to admit, it was a pretty amazing experience. When we use our voices, it’s harder to pick up on our 5 senses. To be in the presence of your friends and to not use your voice but instead to use only your other senses to communicate is an incredible thing, something I’m bound to want to experience again sometime soon.
Now here I am, sitting on this plane, the sun setting on the horizon, casting an orange glow through the window. I’m sad that the trip is over, but like Dr. Seuss said, I shouldn’t be sad because it’s over. I should be happy because it happened. I feel like I’m on a high after this trip, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m flying at 30 some odd thousand feet above the ground, gliding effortlessly over the clouds.
I want you to feel this way too. I know you can’t join the retreat now, but you can next year! And until then, here are some intentions you can try right away so that you can feel as high as I do right now:
Guaranteed Happiness: 10 intentions to try this week:
Resolve to spend 30-60 minutes in complete silence at least one day this week. Set yourself up for success here, though, friends. Don’t schedule your silence during a dinner party or soccer game or anywhere where you will be expected to speak! You can do this with your friends or family present, letting them know what you’re up to and even asking them if they want to join too! Whatever you decide, just make sure that you’ve communicated to the people around you about your intention. We don’t want any hurt feelings, and certainly do not want to start any fights.
For an entire day, resolve to say only positive things. That means no complaining about traffic, how hungry you are at lunch, how much you hate your new haircut – nothing! You will notice how often you resort to saying something negative over saying something positive. And according to my new yoga retreat friends, recent science shows that thoughts actually have mass, which means that the law of attraction just might be a scientific fact. So maybe your one day of positivity will turn into 2, and then 3, and then 15, and then almost every day, causing the very favorable consequence of attracting only great things into your life. (*Note: I dare not say you should always have positive thoughts, because sometimes you just need to vent, and that’s healthy as long as it’s short lived).
Do something nice for every single person you encounter for one whole day. That could be as simple as just smiling at someone. It could be something like helping to shovel a neighbor’s driveway, buying a stranger a coffee – whatever you want. It doesn’t have to be about money – just about spreading goodness into the world in hopes that it will inspire others to do the same.
If there is room for improvement in your diet, resolve that today you will eat one less bad thing for you (i.e. soda, cookies, chocolate, alcohol), and add one healthy thing you wouldn’t have otherwise had (i.e. put broccoli on your pizza or in your pasta or salad, swap out your ice berg lettuce for spinach or a spring mix, etc.). If you find that easy, try another day and up the ante. Continue in this way as long as you feel comfortable. *Spoiler Alert: eating healthy often causes people to feel light and giddy. Consider yourself warned.
Resolve that for one day, you will not think or say negative things about yourself. For example, (and I can’t count on my fingers and toes how many times I’ve been guilty of doing this) if you’re looking in the mirror and want to say something bad about your body, instead, tell yourself how great you look. Of if you find that you are having self doubts about something, stop those thoughts in their tracks and tell yourself you can do anything you put your mind to. Take care of those inner thoughts for they create what you put out into the world.
Do one thing outside of your comfort zone this week. You pick. Find your invisible barrier, and break through it.
Resolve to be calm for an entire day. Traffic? Put on some great music and smile at the people driving up beside you rather than pounding the steering wheel and maybe swearing a little. Nervous about something? Meditate or call a friend and enjoy a meal together. Computer not working when you really need it to? Just breathe, and stay calm. Approach your day and the problems it may present with the intention of staying calm, cool, and collected (that’s what I’m trying to do on this flight right now…so far…so ok..!).
Watch the sunrise or sunset one day this week.
Resolve to spend an entire day as a listener. Don’t speak your opinion unless it’s asked for. We so often want to interject (and do) when people are talking so that we can share our own experiences as well. Resist this urge today unless it’s asked for. Be a listener.
Take a crack at these intentions and let me know how they work out for you!
Here’s to a great week, filled with happiness, love, tranquility, and lots and lots of laughter.
Highlights from the trip, compliments of the amazing Shane Philip: