In April of 2022, I signed up for an online yoga teacher training called the Power of Presence, taught by Scott Schwenk; the focus of the 25 hours, beyond presence? Ecstatic Breathwork and meditation. The irony of this adventure is that I no longer teach yoga, so while others were there to learn in order to lead others, I was there just for myself, to learn and grow for my own personal practice. This is the first I’ve ever done a training where I wasn’t preparing to turn around and teach the content and I have to say, that was pretty freeing and magical on top of the already stellar content (Dharma talks and practices + weekly live calls as a group) Scott put together for us. One highlight of the training beyond the actual practices and lectures? Having Scott answer questions we submitted (and making him laugh in a loving way with how I worded mine in Week One):
At the same time I registered for the class, I decided I wanted to reserve a little getaway for myself after completion of the five-week course, to let the lessons and takeaways sink in a bit, and chose The M Guest House in Red Cloud, NE as my destination. I stayed here three years ago with a group of girlfriends, so I already knew the house was adorable and perfect for a little me-time; turns out the little Red Cloud Retreat I put together for myself did not disappointed.
For one, the nice thing about AirBnB’s is that you have access to a kitchen (great for a special diet person like me who needs to cook her own food) and space to do what you want like practice yoga, read in the yard (and on the chaise and in bed), write, talk on the phone, respond to messages, all while not being interrupted by children or chores/duties that come with being in your own house, even if you happen to snag some alone time there. Did I pack a ridiculous amount of stuff for these two sleeps? Absolutely. Do I feel any shame about that? Not a bit because I knew what I wanted and needed to make this time just right for me so I did what was necessary to make that happen. Pack Rat tendencies for the win! (still had to go to Dollar General, though, to buy sunscreen. Whoops!)
The other perk of coming to Red Cloud is that it landed me right smack in Cather Country which ties back to my grad work at UNL for the Cather Project (they hold conferences here every other year as it is the childhood home of Willa Cather and which I missed by all of day of being here) and to the prairie, I did go, several times during my RC stay. The first, the afternoon I got here, actually landed me in Kansas because, again – whoops!, if you miss the little drive for the historical marker/access to the WC prairie, you’re in KS a second later. Easy fix, though, and I explored with a little walk on a wide path along the top ridge of the protected land.
The next morning, after a night of reading and thunderstorms that left me wondering if I might have to take shelter in the house’s crawl space – thank goodness, I did not – I made a mid-morning trek back to the prairie so I could hike around a little more. Even though I died plenty of times from snake bites on the Oregon Trail as a kid, I did not think to pack appropriate pants and shoes (i.e. long jeans and boots!), but fortunately I found the perfect walking stick to accompany me through the narrow paths that explore more of the rolling hills.
Talk about the power of presence and staying focused in the moment! I intended to do a walking meditation with our course mantra anyway but instead it was more hyper-focused than that, even, because I did NOT want to step on a snake (or a cowpie, but really, a snake), which again, thankfully did not happen but it sure kept my eyes wide and aware as I poked my way up the hill.
I’ve always considered myself a prairie-loving girl, but I gained even more, instant respect for the land and the people who have lived on it for generations and centuries because I got super turned around on my return trip from the fence that I walked to (because my stubborn Scandinavian blood told me I had to reach that particular fence line). Somehow the path I followed up was impossible to see as I tried to make my way back down and I ended up going sideways on the slope a bit before I realized I was not headed back in the direction of my van. So, my walking stick and I nervously made our way through the tall-ish grasses, hoping none of them or what they might be hiding turned out to be poisonous. Naturally, of course, I took a selfie of my concern when I stopped for a breather/drink in a semi-clear spot.
Eventually I made it back to the obvious trail and worked my way back down and up to the ridge I walked the day before which I then decided to jog because that’s how flat and open it is (and how much adrenaline I needed to expend after my little adventure and making too-strong of coffee that morning as a little retreat treat here at the AirBnB).
Even though May comes with All the Things to be done/go to and a whole lot of Mama-ing, I am so grateful to have done the online training this spring. I’ve been practicing online with Scott for two years now and this was a powerful step forward with my connection to breath and meditation. I’m also grateful to have pulled off this first-time getaway just for me and hope that I can turn this Red Cloud Retreat into an annual (semi-annual? quarterly?!) tradition because I know how good it is for me to step back, take a breath, and be with just myself for a hot second.
Also, I may have to invest in a good walking stick and hiking boots so I can keep expanding my prairie explorations in a slightly safer manner!