Healing Trip #6 - Ojai, California
“When did you fall?”
My head swivels from his gorgeous wife to meet his eyes. “Excuse me?”
“The fall. How old were you?”
I don’t understand what he is asking me. I don’t remember any fall. And then my eyes notice his right hand, gently cupping his left jaw. And I remember.
“I was about four, I think. I fell off a slide. I broke my jaw and knocked out some teeth.”
“Mmmmm,” he nods, going silent again. So I redirect my attention to his wife.
* * *
This summary of my spring trip to Ojai, California is more than long overdue. Its not because it was a bad trip, because it wasn’t. It was magical. But it was so healing, so wondrous, that I have struggled with putting words to the experience.
I suppose, though, that this has been the ongoing struggle I have faced when it comes to taking you along on these trips.
* * *
I was sitting in the coffee shop when my phone rang. I was finally through chemo and sitting confidently (with a side of nervous) in my decision to forego the recommended additional treatments. It was the owner of my home yoga studio, offering me a spot on their retreat in Ojai the next week. And I really wanted to go.
But as I searched around for flights and a last-minute sitter for Hope, things just weren’t falling into place. So I turned the sweet offer down.
A few days later I was emailing with my trauma-coach-turned-heart -sister – who happens to live in Ojai.
“I’ve been meaning to tell you I think you are supposed to visit here,” she wrote. “There is so much healing energy in this space.”
Fast-forward a few more weeks, and with merely a mention of the thought of heading there, my big sister agreed to come along.
So that’s how I ended up in Ojai.
* * *
I didn’t have much in the way of a plan at the time Ojai made it on the healing trip itinerary. I trusted my trauma coach, and if she felt like I should pay it a visit, I was going to do just that.
So when she referred me to a couple to work with while there, I was going to do just that too.
He is an energy healer and Shaman. She is a sound healer and Ayurvedic practitioner.
Together, they work miracles.
* * *
To me, Ojai will always be the mingling of roses and pixie tangerines. Long dusty hikes and wooden pergolas. Winding mountain roads leading to homey creek-side storage containers (don’t ask).
Ojai will always be sisterhood.
Ojai will always be healing.
Ojai will always be a place my heart calls home.
* * *
I did a handful of phone sessions with my healers before actually landing in Ojai. Leading up to my trip there, they had me do a 14-day Ayurvedic cleanse in hopes of easing the digestion troubles I had been struggling with since chemo and potentially settling the hot flashes I’ve continued to experience.
I’ve done cleanses in the past, but never one grounded in Ayurvedic principles. I won’t go into details, other than to share that other than not feeling hungry or deprived, this cleanse was one of the most healing physical experiences of my journey of the last several months. The issues with my gut resolved, I slept more soundly, and I had far more energy that I had found since before my surgery. It was amazing, and once again confirmed for me that there is magic in what sometimes feels like the lost science of Ayurveda.
* * *
“So what exactly do you feel like you still need to heal?”
The three of us are sipping tea in their front room, where windows overlook the rising hills several feet beyond. She and I are nestled on the couch so companionably that (other than the presence of her clipboard and pen) were a stranger to enter the room, the might think we were simply old friends catching up after time apart. He is seated at a nearby small high-top table. As she and I have chattered back and forth, he has largely listened silently. The one exception before now being his question about my fall.
“I don’t know,” I tell him honestly. A pit rises in my stomach and I wonder if they are going to send me away. “I just have this nagging feeling that there is still something there that needs to be addressed. But I can’t articulate what it is exactly.”
He nods quietly before speaking again.
“Most of us see disease as a tree,” he begins, “and we believe that if we cut it down from the trunk, we have done the job of removing it from our system.”
He makes a slashing motion in the air with his palm – as if he is chopping down an invisible tree.
“But think about weeds – what happens when you pull them. You can’t just cut them down at the stalk. You have to pull the root out. And the root is never just one main artery. There are hundreds – thousands – of tiny roots. Even leaving one thread-like root behind runs the risk of the weed regrowing. You have removed the larger roots of the cancer. What you are sensing is that there are smaller roots still present. Roots you may not even be aware of."
In that moment, I knew that I was both in the right place and completely unprepared for what was to happen.
* * *
I would be negligent in sharing the story of Ojai if I didn’t mention the sisters who accompanied me on the journey. Because as any ongoing reader has come to understand, a significant part of the healing I was meant to do in the last year and change has been focused on my relationships with women. On the importance of sisterhood and a tribe.
As the oldest child in an alcoholic family, I often dreamed of what life would be like with an older sibling. I longed for someone to understand, to comfort me, to give me guidance and wisdom when I felt a bit lost. I longed for one of those relationships that I knew would always remain, even if I messed up or fell short. I wanted a big sister in the way some 16-year-olds want a convertible. And I found her – finally – in the midst of that bleak summer of 2016.
If you had asked me what big and little sisters do when they are grown up, traveling together would be on the list. So when she wanted to come to Ojai with me, I was so excited. It was like a bucket list item I never believed would be fulfilled was finally getting a check mark – “Take Trip With Big Sister”.
Waiting for us on the other side of the country was another sister who had traveled that murky road with me. One who listened for hours over Skype as I poured out the details of all the heart-wrenching events. One who gave me permission to grieve them all. One who helped me to see that anger and frustration could beautifully coincide with grace and love.
During that golden sliver of time in Ojai, we wandered dusty trails, shared long meals, and lolled mountainside over eggs and kitten snuggles. It felt like magic. Not just because Ojai is magical, but because these women are magical too.
And on that last night there, in the small cottage we had called home, as my big sister in I curled up in the same bed with a movie on a laptop and all the pillows and blankets and chia pudding – as she drifted off to sleep beside me – I had to hold my breath for a moment and thank God for all the dreams that He made come true in the midst of all the ones that burned to the ground.
* * *
We did three sessions together – back, to back, to back. He explained the need for three as follows:
The first to allow for opening.
The second to allow us to dig.
The third to close the healing.
Again, I won’t share details. It would be impossible to give words to the beautiful marriage of sound therapy and Ayurveda and energy healing and journeying that took place in that space anyhow.
But I will tell you this.
I have not dreamed much since my surgery. Once a vivid dreamer on a nightly basis, my sleep has been dark and silent since I was filleted open, precious parts removed from my being.
But in the nights following our sessions, my dreams returned.
People from my past coming one after the other. Offering apologies. Words I longed to hear.
Words that had within them the power to heal.
* * *
“But I don’t know what it was about. Nothing came to my mind.”
I am explaining that during our second session the bones in my leg ached. Deeply. Energetically. Painfully. But I couldn’t connect the dots to understand why.
“Sometimes our memories are not visual,” she explains. “Sometimes they are a scent, or a sound, or a feeling. And we are not meant to understand why. All we are tasked with doing is being open to releasing them if they no longer serve us.”
* * *
Yes, to me, Ojai will always be the mingling of roses and pixie tangerines. Long dusty hikes and wooden pergolas. Winding mountain roads leading to homey creek-side storage containers. It will always be the most amazing kombucha and dreamy avocado toast and the prettiest blanket that now sits on my bed at home.
But it will also be a scared space of deep healing and sisterhood. Of apologies I had given up on. Of understanding that we don’t always need to understand it in order to release it.
To me, Ojai will always be magic.