The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Men: How to pick up the pieces and move on...

 One small sign of hope on the charred Mayacamas Ranch property

One small sign of hope on the charred Mayacamas Ranch property

“The best-laid plans of mice and men….”

We’ve all heard that saying. Even if you give something your all and feel you have all the pieces in place to prevent failure, major challenge or an unwanted outcome, circumstances even beyond your control can cause your plan to go awry. This happened recently with The 3rd Act Women’s Retreat scheduled for October 29th - November 2nd.

The fantastic speakers and practitioners were in place. We had women coming from the Bay Area, Maine, New Jersey and the Midwest. We had the perfect retreat property booked and ready to make us our specific elimination diet meal plan and we had hopes for relaxation, growth, learning and meeting new friends. Within the first day of the devastating California wildfires our much-loved Mayacamas Ranch burned to the ground and all was lost for the owners and their 12 employees. Jobs, their gorgeous property and even homes. And for The Healing Farm Retreats and all the other retreat leaders and retreat participants, we lost a very special property that was unique in so many ways. As stated on the Mayacamas website and in their fundraising campaign:

“It is my deep belief that something beautiful will emerge from this devastation.”

It is my own hope that the owners of the property have it in them to rebuild and I hope to hold retreats at the property in the future, but in the meantime I had to make the decision to relocate or postpone the retreat.

As the week went on and the wildfires continued to destroy acres and acres of land, wineries and properties at which I had photographed so many weddings over the years and as the death toll continued to rise, I was frantically trying to find another location at which to hold the retreat. I was tired, I was heartbroken and I was fearing for more and more loss as the fires burned. I finally had to come to the conclusion that it was best to reschedule the retreat and started going about notifying guests and team members and trying to contact the devastated staff of Mayacamas to figure out the financial end of the loss for my own business (at least in the short term). I am so grateful that I have developed the skills through my own growth process in the past few years to “roll with the punches” as another well-known saying goes. That hasn’t been easy in the last two weeks, but here’s what I continue to do to calm myself in trying times:

Meditation and Prayer

Just 10-20 minutes a day is life-changing. You can really teach your mind to view your worry, obsessive thoughts and sorrow as fleeting and to see this life as existing in a much bigger place than all of us. This situation was not as devastating to me as to so many others, but compounded with running two businesses, staying in touch with my marriage and going to a business plan writing class two nights a week it was hard and continuing to do the meditation practice almost every morning really gave me a sense of calm and understanding that life is so much greater than myself. There are two books that I always recommend. Both of which have helped me understand meditation practice:

Regular Exercise - Oh that Seven Minute Workout!

I’ve mentioned it countless times, but it’s because I believe in it so much. The New York Times Seven Minute workout is essential to my well-being. If I don’t workout (and meditate) in the morning the day gets away from me and it doesn’t get done and then I feel down. When I do the workout, it lifts spirits and energy levels like nothing else. When it’s hard for me to get out of bed because I’m down and I really don’t want to workout, I do my other routines (meditation and prayer, coffee and email/news and making the bed) and then it’s hard for me to justify blowing off a workout that takes seven minutes! Once I do it, I’m usually motivated enough to add-on my equal-length stretching routine derived from years of yoga. I’ve added another seven minute workout to alternate with the NYT workout too. For women over 40, keeping up your muscle mass is key to weight management and bone health, so I now alternate days and added a Pop Sugar seven minute hand weight routine (thanks for the tip Christina of Nightingale Photo!). Between these two workouts, I feel toned and healthy and it really doesn’t take long. Plus it’s a GREAT stress-reliever. Especially if you put on DJ Dan in the background!

Healthy Diet, Low or No Alcohol and Great Sex!

The past few months I’ve gone back to an elimination diet meal plan (first learned with Chris Kresser's "A Paleo Cure Book")  pretty much full time until I relieve some chronic conditions that have popped back up. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol, carbs, grains, dairy or sugar in about ten weeks. I’ve dropped 25 pounds and am looking and feeling great. If I had gone through this major challenge at the weight I was at, feeling bloated and belchy and tired and drinking too much wine on top of it, I might not have gotten out of bed while the California wildfires raged. Even though food and alcohol can be soothing when you’re feeling down or stressed and offers some immediate relief, give it a little time and you’re going to actually feel worse. We all know this, yet we continue to repeat these old patterns of comfort. Teaching yourself newer, healthier patterns of comfort (like mindfulness meditation) can really help you in a more positive way when you’re dealing with stress.

And then there’s sex. Glorious sex. Or maybe I should just say “orgasm” because not all of us have partners! There’s nothing like a relaxing evening (or afternoon) at home in bed (or wherever) and a mind-blowing orgasm to relax you and to bring you back to who you are at the core. We are sexual beings. Sex can be the best of mindful meditation. It can take you to a place of pure being like nothing else. Sex with a trusted partner with whom you have a deep connection also makes you feel secure and loved. No matter what happens in your life you can always be reminded that you are who you are at your core, the people you love the most will be with you in hard times and we all pretty much have the ability as human beings to feel this great pleasure and connection to others. It’s really darned important in my book and I feel fortunate that I have grown to not be insecure or afraid or guilty about being a sexual human being and hope to one day lead a Healing Farm retreat about this very important topic. Plus it’s fun!

Does going from devastation to talking about sex seem like crazy talk? I hope not. I hope you can see the connected dots.

I did leave one very important tip out of the above list because I truly haven’t found the time in the past two weeks (except sitting in my own backyard and riding my bike to the farmer's market) so here’s one that may be the most important of all:

Getting out in Nature

This can wrap all of the above into one really lovely gift. All can be done in nature (although the sex part is a little tricky - you may need a tent).

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin” - William Shakespeare

We are all one interconnected organism on this planet and in this universe. Carl Sagan once said we are all made of starstuff and it’s true. Every part of nature is one big mixed and interconnected bunch of elements and when we go into nature we can see the awe of creation and our part in it right in front of us. Getting out into fresh air, taking a hike, camping, looking at the stars can really make us see the awesomeness of the universe and help us to understand our miniscule place in it and suddenly worries can lift and drift away.

Meditate, pray, exercise, eat what nature and human hands provide (whole foods!) and have a kick-ass orgasm all in nature and see how you feel. For those who have lost homes and loved-ones none of this will help in the short term, but keeping at it and chipping away at all of life’s difficulties and tragedies as they come our way (because they will always continue to do so) and learning how to practically deal with our challenges and emotions will help so much in the long run.

In the meantime, grieve if you need to, volunteer if you can, give money if you’re able, but most of all take care of yourself and learn what makes YOU accept and move through your own challenges more gracefully and with hope.