Love & Friendliness: The Pride of Aruba
“We’re all friends here. There are only 100,000 people on this island – everybody knows everybody in Aruba. There are disagreements but never fighting. Arubians love each other. We are all friends…then people like you come on the island and we have more friends.” ~ Clifford, who spends most days driving the main roads of Aruba
Friendliness is one of the simplest ways we can express love for one another. We can transform ourselves through kindness. My experience running a yoga retreat in Aruba gave me plenty of opportunities to bask in the unity of human smiles and harness the transformational potential that arises from taking time in nature. Staff and hotel guests alike gazed for long moments over sunrises and the new moon, watching the rolling ocean and listening to the whistles and songs of nearby birds.
It started the moment I walked off the plane, with folks posted at intersections and kindly pointing me to baggage claim. Customs was a breeze and my driver was waiting for me holding a sign that read “Nourish Yoga Retreat”. Clifford, quoted above, shared tidbits about Aruba’s language, history, geography, and hot spots. He was clearly a pro. He guided me not to look right, at the shops, but left where the ocean was about to appear. When I saw it, I felt the potential of the upcoming retreat land within me. In that unending, healing blue womb of the earth, we eight women were to be rebirthed.
Clifford let me off at Manchebo Resort where the glowing and organized Jennifer Thorne awaited me with hugs and a Nourish Retreats welcome bag. The staff passed me a cooling kerchief soaked in antibacterial and relaxation-inspiring essential oils. I gave myself a good mopping as she toured me to the restaurants, bedrooms, and outdoor spaces our yoga workshops and classes would occur. What would the next week bring us, as this endeavour we’d spent so many months putting together came to fruition? Soon enough I was standing with her, carrying loot bags
and greeting our crowd of retreaters as they arrived. They, like us, blended right into the loving, friendly environment of Aruba.
The colours and rhythms of our days came together, beginning with yoga and ending with shared inspiration. We filled in the gooey centre with soft green oceans, unbroken blue skies, food, laughs and lessons. I revelled in the creative pleasure of relating our excursions, scenic views and the personal interests of the group with our daily themes.
Amidst our beach walks, SUP yoga, sail-and-snorkel pizza party, and hike/rest day, we each managed to learn a lot about ourselves through the experiences. Each person filtered her own insights through the unique intention she set in our opening circle. I appreciated all the ways they each perceived life reflecting messages, guidance and truth. This opportunity to learn from others may be the main reason I continue to teach.
At the end of each day, it was affirming to hear others speak from their hearts about how many beautiful, meaningful moments sparked an epiphany. These varied but resonant lessons landed deeply in the heart of each of us. At our final closing circle, a theme arose out of the many-varied needs, processes, and insights from each person: letting go. They might not have meant it that way. Clearly I am/was working on letting go because that’s what I heard each one of them say. “Joy is imminent,” one quoted, setting aside anything that might hold her back from a playful life. “Trust myself,” another affirmed, casting off doubt. “Know my worth,” another agreed. “You are not alone,” one professed solemnly of herself and others, letting go of the illusion of separateness. That community bond of friendliness and love was a highlight and learning environment for our entire time together on retreat in Aruba. One of the participants committed to the brave act of asking – for clarity, love, joy, friendship… – and another claimed the courage to “sit with it so you can let go and move on.” She may have nailed why letting go is so hard for most of us: the first step is to sit with and understand the pain of what we are releasing in the first place. It is this common human experience of pain that sets the platform for us to be friendly and loving to one another.
The friendliness of the Arubians and the special kindness and affinity developed by the group gave me a truly uplifting experience on One Happy Island. From the time I landed, people I didn’t know were smiling and waving, offering answers
when I had questions and ensuring that I was having a good time and learning about their homeland. Nourish Retreats (the brilliant Jen Thorne) knew exactly where I was supposed to be and when so I could surrender to allowing my mind to open and wander to its own revelations. Even as facilitator, I experienced the powerful growth created by this warm, natural environment. While it may not be necessary to go away on retreat to realise our simple next steps, retreat does give us space to deeply sense its importance and equip us to change.
When it was all over, Clifford – by “coincidence” – drove me back to the airport. This time he shared about the culture of Aruba by telling me more about himself as he waved and beeped at passing drivers. Aruba affirmed my mission of teaching togetherness and reminding myself and others that when we unite in love, a world of friendliness, fairness and compassion is possible.