“Awaken the spirit and invigorate the body with this rejuvenating retreat,” they said. “Designed for any level of experience and open to all—this 3-day, 3-night wellness retreat,” they claimed. “Join us!” they urged.
My name is Joe Peters. I’ve participated in three organized yoga sessions in my entire life. I’ve had chronic spine issues since I turned thirty years old. A few weeks ago, I threw my back out tying my own shoe. My attempt at meditation has started and quickly concluded with downloading a meditation soundtrack on Spotify, lying on my back, and falling asleep on a yoga mat. It would be accurate to point out that while this retreat sounded welcoming and eye-opening on the laptop, I certainly wasn’t someone who might attend and experience any sense of rejuvenation, right?
Wrong. Erroneous. In retrospect, that initial presumption couldn’t have been further from the truth.
I attended the Caldera Wellness Retreat as I thought it would be a great opportunity to spend a weekend away from the kids with Kate. I wanted to be deliberate with my time dedicating seventy-two hours to relaxing with Kate, and sure….sit on a few yoga mats, stretch the legs a bit, and for all intents and purposes, “mail it in” on the actual designed aspect of the weekend, but have so much fun doing it.
Below is my account of how the weekend actually went.
It was 7 am. It was time for our first yoga session. I walked in with Kate, saw eight yoga mats, and wondered who would be joining us on this journey. I wondered who I’d make a complete fool of myself in front of. I wondered if there would be anyone else with virtually no experience in what we’d be embarking on. Five minutes later, my initial hypothesis was confirmed: I was far and away the least versed with this realm of life, in addition to being the only male. This presented another level of complexity that I had not prepared for, but in retrospect, I wasn’t ready for anything that I was about to experience.
I opened my mind which opened my physical body to let go. Letting go of the stress, the anxiety, the deadlines, the appointments, the responsibility, the life that I seemingly love so much…all to get back to basics. At thirty-four years old, I began to learn and understand the importance of breathing. Seems straight forward, right? I’ve been breathing for thirty-four years. I’m not overly confident, but I feel like I had breathing down pat. However, the art of breathing and the power that deliberate breathing can have on someone with my clinically diagnosed anxiety…well, that was a special revelation.
The initial yoga session set the tone for the weekend. I let go of the anxiety that had kept me from practicing yoga before, despite being urged to do so by multiple doctors as I’ve navigated my spinal issues. I let go of what I looked like, or the fact that I couldn’t show up and simply do everything everyone else was doing, and I felt liberated. I quickly decided that yoga and meditation were going to be what I allowed them to be, and I opened my mind by quieting it to everything outside of that room in that building.
While the transition wasn’t immediate, by the afternoon yoga session, I had quieted the internal dialogue that I was having with my brain; I’d been able to shut down the ambient chirps of my daily routine. By doing this, I started to understand the basic things that seem to repeatedly stress me out—and spoiler alert, they’re simple, and incredibly trivial.
And then? Later in the afternoon? We hiked. Finally, an activity where I’ve got some level of knowledge.
The hiking was a fantastic experience for me to channel the same conscious approach found in the yoga and meditation sessions into something that I had been doing most of my life. Similar to my discovery around breathing—a skill that I felt I had mastered at a young age—this new approach allowed me to create room for growth by changing my perspective.
I’ve been lucky enough to have hiking be a pivotal part of my career for a majority of the last eight years. I’ve hiked in some of the most beautiful places on the planet, but I realized here in Jackson Hole that I had spent a majority of those miles looking down at my boots. I had been so focused on getting from point A to B and pushing myself to go faster than I had before that unless I stopped, my head was focused on the three feet of ground in front of me. In Jackson Hole, I changed my perspective in the journey from looking down to taking as many opportunities as I could to look up. Again, it was a simple shift, yes, but something that I had not realized until taking the time to reflect.
I had been so focused on getting from point A to B and pushing myself to go faster than I had before that unless I stopped, my head was focused on the three feet of ground in front of me. In Jackson Hole, I changed my perspective in the journey from looking down to taking as many opportunities as I could to look up.
The following days were filled with more yoga, more meditation, and more opportunities to exercise my new approach to hiking. Oh, and there was a sound bath. Again, something that I laughed at when I saw it on the agenda, but likely the point of true inflection for me over the weekend. I walked out of the sound bath after something that I can only describe as an out-of-body experience and felt like I was in a state of levitation for a full two hours after it. It was a weekend that changed my perspective, and I sincerely hope changed my life.
From the bottom of my heart, I hope you give yourself the gift of a break that allows you to step away. If you’re able to swing the three-day wellness weekend at the beautiful Caldera House, I full endorse this decision.
I floated away from Wyoming with a transformative experience that opened my eyes, mind, and body to the restorative and therapeutic power of yoga and meditation. The Caldera Retreat allowed me to eliminate distractions in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and it’s a gift that I fully intend on giving myself again.
Joe Peters lives in Saint Paul, MN with his wife, Kate, son, August, and trusted Labrador, Winnie. In his spare time, he’s the head of marketing for Vasque Footwear.