On Saturday, I landed back in LA and was greeted by a fellow passenger with a “good luck”. Though I’m sure the sentiment was very surface, I felt it on a multitude of levels as I awaited assistance to get off of the plane. I guess I should back up a little bit before you all start to worry. The previous Saturday I was on my way to Mexico with Tara for our long awaited trip to Todos Santos for a Free People Escape in which we were going to be hosting our signature Skin Food Talk, a beauty workshop, individual consultations and managing the Tara curated meals for 20+ guests and staff for the next week. We were ready, excited and open for the chance to grow individually and as a partnership. Packed with bikinis and yoga clothes, our day started in the early hours of the morning as we fly to Cabo around 8 am. Our social media feeds were flooded with our friends getting ready for the Women’s Marches in all parts of the world. The FOMO (fear of missing out) started to kick in until we realized that we would be able to hold space for our sisters marching on as we were chosen for this trip for a reason.
Free People escapes are essentially a yoga retreat in different parts of the world with the collaborations with beauty and wellness professionals. They are a blend of good food, yoga and exploration of a land unknown. A lot of different types of people are drawn to these experiences and whether you set an intention or expectation on your experience or not, chances are you will leave a different person than when you walked in. Tara and I felt prepared, until we realized there was no preparing for such an experience.
We first meet Jillian, our new bestie who is a seasoned Free People photographer that had a less than 12 hour turnaround time from a photoshoot in Miami yet still greeted us with a warm smile and hugs. She immediately won our hearts with her easy going personality that makes you feel that she is not capable of being anything but her authentic awesome self as well as her spotify playlist which helped us all stay awake on our shuttle to Pachamama Mexico. Todos Santos is a great little town filled with great food, shops and authentic culture true to the genuine community the locals have kept to themselves for a long time. I can claim that Todos Santos feels like it will be the next Tulum, but I want it to keep its community feel for as long as possible so I won’t put that out there quite yet. Turning into Pachamama was like walking into a Free People ad, down to the adorable VW blue van parked in front of the entrance. Everything on the property was beautiful and unique but the real treat were the employees (Anabel, Ernesto and Elizabeth lead an incredible team and we couldn't have put on such a stellar retreat without them!).
The first day of traveling and getting settled in started to come to a close and after a great dinner with the rest of the staff I knew we had found our place here at the Escape. I went to bed ready to tackle the week by showing up for everyone and I was ready to jump on board every activity, yoga class, beach walk etc. The next day comes along and we spend the majority of the day prepping for guests and familiarizing ourselves with the entire property so we can help with any and all questions. As the evening comes around and the guests start making their way to the dining area after the first yoga class, I sprained my ankle. I was lighting candles to go around the pool, took a step to suddenly find myself sitting in the pool. My first thought was “Really Hayley, now you’re going to be all wet for dinner” followed by “You’re such an idiot, who steps into a pool”. Well, that type of negative self talk quickly went from embarrassment to SOMETHING IS WRONG. I couldn’t get up.
Now I’ve sprained my ankle before and have really weak ankles from dancing when I was a teenager. I’ve also recently broke a toe on that foot that is still purple in color. I’m familiar with how this all plays out as it always goes something like wrap it, ice it, elevate it and you’ll be fine in about a week or so. Problem is, I’m in Mexico and I’m at a YOGA RETREAT! This is when the negative self talk started taking over again. “I’m so sorry”, like I meant to do something like this. “I’m such an idiot”, like I deserved something like this. And followed by “I’m so embarrassed”, like anyone at the retreat would actually make fun of someone who’s hurt. It didn’t matter, I was on this loop of self hate and my breathing started cutting short with anxiety. Jill, Tara, the FP girls, Ashley and Abby, and the Yoga Goddess Kate were all rotating between greeting guests and trying to help me.
Kate works with mother earth in her practice and teachings, so her presence alone has a grounding effect. It’s sort of like having your mother, your spiritual leader and your “take no bull shit” bestie all in one holding space for you. With her hands on me I just started to sob and release everything that was coming up. Without outwardly speaking my loop of negative thoughts she asked me to stop repeating what I was saying to myself, which in that moment was “I’m undeserving of this care”. How did she know? Probably from my resistance and complete shut down when it came to having the attention spent on me and an injury but also her intuitive nature tapped into my core so clearly that I had no choice but to listen.
When I was younger, I would get sick a lot. No matter what, I felt like I inconvenienced someone. Whether it be my teachers for having to try to catch me up before and after school, my mom for having to stay home from work and even the doctors who had to work on me. I always felt like there was probably someone who needed care and love more than me. Now the deep root and seed of this neurological programing has been something I have been trying to avoid for a long time. I do self work but not that deep. So it became abundantly clear that my reason for being at Todos Santos wasn’t just to work, do yoga and teach people about themselves. It was for me to STOP and start accepting help. I’ve been running on empty for so long and had felt my body slowly wanting to stop for a while. I made the analogy that the universe had to physically park me so that I would start listening. So that’s what I did. I asked for help, reluctantly at first but then more comfortably. And I sat and tried to let the FOMO not take over.
I felt sort of worthless at first, like why would anyone care what I have to say at this point? They are all just looking at me for my injury and not my gifts. That was proven false almost immediately. Each woman on this retreat had a one on one with Tara and I and their vulnerability was something to learn from. I was still of great use and each of them thanked us personally for what we thought and how we heard them. My gratitude for these women will continue to be abundant because anytime I start to feel unworthy, undeserving, small or embarrassed, I can think of how they allowed my light to shine so bright. They didn’t dim me and they wanted me to shine bright, so that’s what I did. I was my true authentic self.
I had a choice to run away, book a ticket home and leave but I am so thankful that I stayed. There was no part of this trip that lacked. If anything, I was able to leave a lot behind because so much happened. On the last night, we had a bonfire and released some fears. I physically let go of many things and felt so light and renewed. The teachings never stopped from the moment we walked in, to the moment we shuttled off.
So to the woman, who wished me “good luck” when we landed back in LA, I took your well wishes not just for my physical but for my emotional, mental and spiritual journey back to the states. In the week we were gone, a new president was inaugurated so things weren’t going to feel the same. I know that with what I learned I can really care for myself in a way I didn’t know how before. Sprained ankle or not, last week was one for the books and I wouldn’t change a moment of that experience. xo - Hayley