By Mara Coleman. Photography By Deun Ivory.
At the beginning of this summer, I traveled to Negril, Jamaica — having attended my very first healing retreat. The Bare Retreat, created by the women of Curly, Curvy, Conscious and Ave 51 was curated to perfection. The attendees of this retreat comprised of all women of color. I’ll get into the details of the retreat activities further in my short summary, but I want to make this clear- every woman in her lifetime needs to add 'attending a retreat' on the list.
A couple months prior, I set the intention to attend a retreat. Understanding how the Law of Attraction works, retreats started popping up from everywhere - mostly by other women of color. (That part was essential for me). I am a firm believer that when you ask for something, the Universe will immediately present you with options. All of a sudden - literally - I began seeing spiritual retreats that I know I’d like to attend, almost every day. From Tarot/Meditation healing retreats to Yoga/Meditation to Ganja Yoga Retreats (all still on my list to attend), but my intuition had been telling me to wait it out, because something even more amazing would come. The BARE Retreat was introduced by Shelah Marie, and I instantly knew this was my kind of vibe, and not to mention, it sold out within a couple days that it was announced.
Around 70+ women met at Hedonism II from June 7 - June 11 and this experience was phenomenal. By Hedo being a clothing-optional resort, there was immediately a sense of a ‘judgment-free zone’. Some of the activities that the retreat ladies held were, nude meditation at the beach, morning meditation, sexual healing meditation by Shelah Marie, yoga by Hippie Heathen, snorkeling in the beautiful Negril waters, a catamaran/yacht party, a lit goddess girls’ pajama party and a whole lot of turn-up in between.
What I’ve come to learn on this amazing journey and travel experience is that spiritual healing can take on so many forms. Simply being in the presence of other women who accept you for who you are, in itself, heals. Being able to be your total self, without fear of judgement or shame, heals. Walking around partially or completely naked at Hedo II made me realize how sexualized women’s bodies are in our society, specifically Western culture. Women are extremely objectified in everyday life, and it was completely refreshing to be able to release all of the energy surrounding the stories of ‘only modest women deserve love/ a husband/ or ‘women who dress like this are *insert degrading term*…all of that inner chatter went completely out the window. The Bare Retreat cultivated confidence. Women were being who they unapologetically, authentically were.
With healing, also comes confronting your fears, head on. Until this trip, I had always been slightly self-conscious about my body and therefore these were the main fears on my list to be conquered.
• Taking full body pictures in bathing suits
• dancing and not being awkward
• twerking without shame
• loving the parts of my body that I’ve previously hated
• swimming in the ocean
• comparing myself to other women
I set the intention to meet my soul family and gained a tribe of sisters. Along with this intention, I also intended to meet women who I connected to on a soul level. Ones who were interested in my same interests, and more importantly had an unwavering passion for self-growth, positive energy, and self-love. Even the women who I didn’t get a chance to talk to personally, I felt their spirit. During our group meditations and self-love projects, we bared it all. We supported one another with so much compassion and grace. We were able to see past the outer exterior that we present to the world, and ventured into the depths of each other’s soul. Many of the most beautiful moments of this trip could not be photographed. Hedonism II has a portion of the resort that requires nudity, and during one of our night ‘activities’, all the ladies of the retreat, walked to this side of the resort and got in the jacuzzi/pool fully nude. The experience was exhilarating. The beauty of this moment is difficult to capture in words, but I will try my best. The combination of the beautiful Negril night sky and the radiant jacuzzi lights, made us look like goddesses. We were goddesses. Our curvaceous bodies covered every corner of this jacuzzi/pool and any sense of fear that comes with nudity amongst strangers immediately was alleviated. There were women of all different shapes, sizes, heights, and this was the epitome of beauty.
Each time we met as a group, something amazing transpired. The overall energy of the room just radiated high frequency energies. Everyone woman walking this Earth has something uniquely special to add to this world. In several moments where I had time to self-reflect during my 5 day stay, I was reminded that I was divinely created and just by being myself, I was offering something special to the world. Like many women of color, and in the age of social media, self-doubt creeps in when you are presented with observing the beauty of others. This concept was completely transformed which in turn I was given peace, clarity, and forgiveness to myself for such harsh judgements. There is no sense in trying to be someone else because there can only be one you. Cliché statements like that used to drive me crazy, but here I am, using clichés…but knowing that they hold a very powerful truth.
Connecting to my Highest Self
This trip allowed me to remember the parts of myself that I neglect in my daily life. When I experienced my initial spiritual awakening, I let go of a lot of old pain, trauma, and subconscious fears. However, in that process, I also disowned the parts of myself that were still needed. Instead of completely throwing away my ego, I learned to embrace my ego in a way where it never takes the drivers’ seat, but it still comes along for the ride. I forgot how much I loved to dance & feel free! It was as if the Divine Feminine/Masculine energy within had awakened and it felt amazing to surrender to that energy. I was reminded that I am a goddess, conspired by the entire Universe experiencing itself in human form, and it is my right to live in my happiest and most authentic light.