I was in France this September to help with staffing at the two Choose Again Las Labadous workshops. I’d love to share some thoughts and images that have stayed with me. My time in France was beautiful, scary, frustrating, joyful, challenging, heart-opening and mind-opening. Let me tell you a little more.
The train to Las Labadous
Paris: Montpellier Station. The start of my trip from Paris to Carcasonne. Busy, rushing and crowds of people at the station. Everyone seemed to know where they were going and where to find their train. I did not. Frustration, fear and anxiety which turned to:
Resting quietly on the train, deep appreciation as the countryside unrolled. Grassy hills, fences, cows, small towns, ancient houses, tiny villages. Bits and pieces of old stone fortresses and fences. Small, prosperous looking dairy and fruit farms. Grapes, healthy green vines winding skyward. A feeling of years and centuries past.
Arrival in Carcasonne: a loving welcome from Christine and Martin, two Choose Again friends, also the owners and hosts and part of staffing at the Las Labadous retreat. Driving through more green fields, country roads and roundabouts, winding up and then down again as we headed into the valley where Las Labadous rests.
Las Labadous Retreat Centre
Nestled in a quiet corner of the Aude valley. Peaceful. Large trees of many different shapes and species. Sheltering with a kindly presence. The foothills of the Pyrenees resting in the distance: a feeling of ancient grace.
Above us, on one side, an old, tiny town: Rennes-le-Chateau. Remnants of the castle, stories of Mary Magdalene travelling and settling. Softness in the air. A kindly presence holds all in place.
On the far side of the valley, and well above us, the remnant another castle, Chateau Bezu. Perching high on a mountain, with the barest remains of a tiny chapel. Soft green trees and fields. Mystery clinging to life on the steep edge of a mountain.
The heart of the retreat:
Participants (clients and staff) from a variety of countries in Europe, and the US and Canada. Some arrived with happiness, others came in the company of fear and self-condemnation. A few felt they had been lax in their inner work, and were discouraged, looking to re-orient themselves back into clarity and peace. Others came with a pleasant sense of anticipation, looking forward to deepening the well-being that the Choose Again work had brought them.
Staff were joined in one purpose: to be of service, knowing that our minds would be healed more deeply as we interacted in service and love with others.
In the retreats, there was honesty, even urgency at times, as people spoke of their challenges, shared in a heart-felt way of their longing for peace. Some spoke in anger or fear as they mentioned grievances they could not forget and the love they could not find. This was the first step – next came the powerful and sometimes joyful desire to take full responsibility for the experience personal suffering. Followed by an equally strong desire to look at it clearly in order to process and release the underpinning beliefs.
I’ve been abandoned.
Over and over there was determination far beyond mere willingness, to release the habit of the same few beliefs that the ego builds a life on.
I heard different words, different languages sometimes, spoken perhaps with tears, anger or laughter, but always the same intention: letting it go, letting it all go. I saw people exploring peace, feeling the strength of the goodness within. Keeping it company until it felt like a friend.
Daring to find a home in the love that stays steady on shifting sands.
Time moved quickly, and it moved slowly, but all was done that needed to be done. Healing flowed in and through and around each of us, weaving its way through hearts and minds. Each received as they could, and took away what best suited their purpose.
After the last workshop ended, I was relaxing in my room, enjoying a final night at Las Labadous. Savouring the feel of all that had gone before and beginning to think about my journey home – its possibilities and unknowns, as I continued on.
A couple of days later at Charles de Gaulle airport: An overwhelming crush of people, slowly stopping and starting again as we were moved through security. Stern looking agents and officers, tired looking airport employees, herding us into line.
Finally, through it, out the other side and into a glorious and quiet corner of Starbucks, near the gate my plane would be leaving from. I sipped my coffee, relaxed into the couch I was sitting on. I picked up my book, and I read this:
“…………Healing is release from the fear of waking and the substitution of the decision to wake. The decision to wake is the reflection of the will to love, since all healing involves replacing fear with love………………”.
The will to love……yes. The workshop, in a nutshell.
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