Before I get started, let me just say that I don’t like the term “New Age.” If you go to any book store and look in the “New Age” section, you’ll find a plethora of books on Angels, Guides, meditation, the Law of Attraction, channeling — this list goes on. These are not “new” subjects, it is ancient wisdom! But I guess the term “Old Age” is not as catchy. So, for the purpose of this blog I will use the common term “New Age.”
Over the last 7 or 8 years I have gone to countless New Age workshops and seminars. It all started with the end of a tumultuous 30 year on again/off again relationship with my ex-husband (now known as my greatest teacher). In my pain, I was cracked open. I knew there had to be more to life than the mound of bills, petty arguments and accumulation of “stuff” that I had been living in. As I mentioned in my first blog, one of my first Divine Breadcrumbs was reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling book, Eat, Pray, Love. This book led me to many other books, online courses, and finally workshops and seminars.
Around 2011, when I first started attending New Age seminars, I felt like the proverbial fish out of water. I don’t remember who the speaker was at the first workshop I attended, but I remember how I felt. The attendees were mainly women over 50, dressed in flowy outfits, pashminas draped around their shoulders. I could tell that they went to expensive salons, their nails perfectly manicured and their hair perfectly coifed. They wore chunky jewelry with turquoise stones or beautiful colored crystals. They exuded confidence. In stark contrast, I wore old jeans and a sweater, no jewelry and exuded an awkward, self-conscious energy. I was convinced they were judging me. In reality, I was judging them but I didn’t recognize that at the time.
The guest speaker led the group in a meditation, using the “So-Hum” mantra. We closed our eyes and began breathing in “So” and breathing out “Hum.” We were told that if our thoughts wandered (which happened to me many times), to bring our awareness back to our breathing and just keep going with the mantra. As we started, the woman to my right, as well as several women behind me, repeated the mantra with gusto. “SOOOOOOOOOO, HUUUMMMMMMMM,” rang in my ears. I was annoyed, yet impressed with the fact that they were not self-conscious in the least. Meanwhile, being the introvert that I am, I was practically whispering the mantra. I likened it to when I was forced to sing “Happy Birthday” to co-workers. I didn’t want to sing in front of them and pretty much mouthed the words.
Over the years, I became a little more comfortable. But there were some situations that still challenged me. In April 2015, my best friend, Deb, and I went to Mexico to attend an event being hosted by Sonia Choquette, Gregg Braden, and John Holland. My father had passed unexpectedly that February and this was a much-needed trip for healing and relaxation. But it was also a chance to learn and experience new things. I was already very familiar with Sonia Choquette’s work. Sonia describes herself as a six-sensory spiritual teacher. She is an author and a sought-after speaker, among other things. At the time of the trip I had already read many of her books, taken some of her online classes and even had an hour-long reading with her over the phone. I was so excited to meet her in person!
Deb and I arrived at the hotel in Mexico, tired from the trip, yet awed by the beauty all around us. Some of the hotel staff greeted us with cool towels, infused with the most delicious floral aroma I have ever smelled. We went to the front desk to check in, noses buried in our fragrant towels. We were treated like old friends by the front-desk staff. I had heard that the Mexican people were very warm and that is exactly what I experienced during my entire stay. When we opened the door to our room, the view literally took my breath away. Through the glass slider leading to our private balcony, I saw a shock of turquoise. I felt a rush of gratitude. How lucky I was to be here in this hotel, looking out at this gorgeous view of the ocean!
Each speaker had 3 workshops spread out across 4 days. The first workshop we attended was hosted by Sonia. We entered the large conference room, lined with several rows of chairs. The room was buzzing with excitement. The pashmina ladies were out in full force, but by now I didn’t have the “I’m under-dressed” feeling. Deb and I looked around, strategically scoping out the best seats. We settled on seats in the 3rd row, on the left side of the room. “Perfect!” I thought. “I have a clear view of the stage.” I settled in and watched as the attendees flowed into the room. We all had nametags which also indicated where we were from. There were people from all over the world! All around me people were introducing themselves. Deb and I met two women traveling together. They told us they were from Washington and we instantly connected. We chatted until Sonia took the stage.
Sonia is like a ray of sunshine. She has energy that lights up the room. As she walked on stage, upbeat music started playing. Sonia began to dance. Once again, I felt waves of gratitude. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be in this beautiful hotel in Mexico and getting the chance to meet someone I admired and respected. I was jolted out of my reverie when all of a sudden, she did something I didn’t expect. She instructed all of us to get up and dance. Immediately women all around me leapt from their seats and started dancing. Some women started “dance-walking” into the aisles. One woman actually started skipping around the conference room! I stood up slowly, feeling stiff and self-conscious. “Loosen up, you idiot!” I scolded myself. The bottom half of my body started moving, but the top half didn’t want to cooperate. At some point I started awkwardly clapping to the beat. Unlike me, women (and a handful of men) were dancing with abandon. When the dancing part of the program ended, I quickly went back to the safety of my seat. “Phew! Glad that’s over” I thought.
But what came next was infinitely worse. After Sonia led us through a beautiful meditation she told us we were going to do an exercise called “Digging for Gold” in which you sit with a partner and say the phrase “If I weren’t afraid I would… ” and then see what comes up. Then she did the unthinkable. She asked us to get up, leave our seats (and leave our things!) and find a partner — someone that you didn’t know — in another part of the room. I’m sorry, what?! I felt the panic rising up through my body. Leave MY seat? The seat that I very carefully chose? Of course, that was the whole point: to literally get out of our comfort zone. That Sonia is a smart woman. I slowly waded through all the people in search of their own partners. I kept glancing back at MY chair and checking to make sure my purse was “ok.” I ended up meeting a really nice woman and the exercise proved to be truly enlightening. Slowly the fear of someone sitting in MY chair or stealing my purse left me. But it’s amazing how a seemingly easy exercise was so hard for so many of us.
While I was in Mexico I saw beautiful sights, including the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza. I met incredible, interesting people from all over the globe. I laughed, cried, learned and healed. But it’s the experience I had in Sonia’s workshop that sticks out in my mind. Somehow, I knew a tiny shift had occurred. It was subtle, but it was real. I felt different, more confident, more authentic. At the end of her last workshop, a day before we were to head home, Sonia closed the session with another dance “party.” This time, although I wasn’t skipping through the aisles, I danced. I danced like no one was watching. Thank you, Sonia.