Main photo credit: Erica Bretz, Nature’s Wisdom (natureswisdomonline.com)

I had heard of rapé and was sure I wasn’t interested but as Micah continued around the circle curiosity began to replace resistance. As he quietly approached my mat I nodded my request and we whispered words I didn’t hear as he loaded the kuripe with powdered tobacco and other herbs. He held it to my heart and my head then lined it up with my right nostril and blew a small dose—it was surprising and slightly painful. In my imagination the second dose would be the same but it was so intense that I heard myself say from somewhere else, “#%@&, Micah, that hurts so much more than the first!” He replied, “I loaded more this time” and before I could open my eyes to more formally register my complaint he had a hold of my whirling, light-filled head telling me it was okay, I was safe, and to follow it in.
So I followed it in past the conversation happening around me to the inner conversation which had come to an expectant, surrendered stillness. My whole being settled and synced with the ceremony that was about to begin, that had already begun within me. I traveled on the rise and fall of my breath to the tension lodged in my hips and legs from traumas I long assumed weren’t there or would resolve on their own. During the next two ceremonies I would visit grief, joyful lightness, and anger. I would reach out for the assistance that could take me further into my own experience and out the other side to the release and transformation of overwhelming states and emotions. There was a sense of what the traumas were about without the pain of reliving them, like misty dream scenes that shift as they move through, inviting the hard shells protecting tender memories to dissolve. I knew this was for me as I breathed new life into myself instead of the armor of the story line, understanding that as I released the pain I was also bringing these tender memories and newly refined experiences home to be greeted by the greater whole.  I felt the gentle stirrings of radical belonging displacing isolation.
When I emerged from my journey there was wonderful reverie with other travelers in between ceremonies. We enjoyed delicious food and fun adventures at water’s edge pulling ice etchings from leaves and floating them on the water and on our tongues. We marveled at where we’d been and delighted in the simplest things. We looked with a soft gaze and found the beauty and humor in ourselves and others. And still, somehow, the ceremonies carried over one to the next without seeming to end. It was at once all too brief and timeless.
Spending a weekend traveling deep into territory that is easier to avoid along with others exploring their own wilderness brought me to the known edge of myself and from there I could see even further. I’ve experienced the power of personal practices and there is some extra grace that carries us along when we get intentionally lost and found with others. Some came to the weekend out of curiosity or to build capacity and resilience while others came to find meaning or greater access to inner reserves of strength and calm. Many came to feel fully into their lives.
We each moved in our own timing and through our own processes yet created a communal rhythm—on the in breath floated the feeding of our physical bodies and nourishment of our souls.  On the exhale came a chance to step out from our usual responses, to try on different ways of moving, attend feelings we may normally avoid or overlook, and create new conversations with and about ourselves.
Micah and Leah deftly guided us individually and collectively with grace and reverence for the deep work happening in the room. There was an extraordinary sense of safety created by them and the facilitators that allowed us to go inward and be with whatever arose.
For me, the beauty of the structure of the weekend was that it offered a series of invitations to go further into the places that I routinely imagine won’t serve my life and relationships. Taking time to enjoy what’s happening through all of my senses, being willing to offer what I see to others, taking up space, even something as simple as dancing with abandon are all things that can feel overwhelming and because of that get put off until later. During the weekend there was no later, there was and is only the deep and clear now.
If returning to your breath and deepening in your experience of life calls to you, don’t hesitate to sign up for the next retreat at https://page.leahgracellc.com/breathworkretreat.

Inger Brown (https://www.apothecaryoftherose.com/welcome/) is an herbalist and writer at Apothecary of the Rose (https://www.apothecaryoftherose.comwho hit a client’s wall and her own creative dry spell and was paralyzed. She’s learned to use inner work to allow inspiration and creativity to flow and to meet clients where they are, helping them move beyond protective walls to experience greater flow and feeling in their lives.