Nourished and Ignited: My Transformative Weekend With YOL
YOL is a group retreat that teaches you about mindful leadership. Here I talk about my experience with YOL.
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It's been a rough couple of months. You know the kind. When everything all kind of falls apart all at once, and you're like, "Shit, how did I get here?!" You ask yourself this despite secretly knowing that you've been going down the wrong path for awhile.
But I'm a "grasping at straws" kind of gal. I'll work harder to try to make things work even when they are not working for a reason. Eventually I realize that everything is broken and falling apart because it all needs to be replaced. In my life, it's that time again to go back to the drawing board, see what's still working, and throw the rest out.
Life is funny though. Often when you think you are at the absolute breaking point, just the right thing comes along to help you through it. That thing, whatever it is, changes your point-of-view just enough to see that there is a brighter future, even when the present still seems dark. For me, that something was my weekend with YOL.
How I discovered YOL
I met David Cherner, founder of YOL, nearly a year ago. It was back then that I learned YOL is an experiential wellness company that merges yoga, leadership training, and community service. It's a delightful mix of research-supported approaches designed to nourish and ignite people.
As some of you know, I am a well-being R&D expert. I spend most of my time consulting with wellness companies in an effort to help them create high-impact products and services. Sometimes I have a lot of work and sometimes I have little. Sometimes the projects are exciting and sometimes they are dull. Sometimes things just flow, and other times, I wonder why I do this work at all. Lately, I've been on the not-so-enjoyable side of these teeter-totters. But it was last week, when I was completely out of straws to grasp at that David reached out to me for help YOL test it's impacts. I got really excited. It was time for me to see what YOL was all about.
"YOL's mission to nourish and ignite was exactly what I needed. But my YOL experience was not at all what I expected."
Getting out of my comfort zone
After arriving at YOL, I very quickly realized that I was way out of my comfort zone. We started with some light yoga. It was probably the best yoga class I've ever been in. It was easy to follow along, and all the positions felt comfortable, but I'm definitely not a yoga person. I immediately started to wonder if this was going to be a good fit for me. And this was just the first 15 minutes.
After yoga, we began leadership training. To get to know each other we did an exercise throwing balls to each other and saying each other's names. This is when I started to feel really uncomfortable. The two things I'm probably worst at are memory and athletics. I dropped the ball a lot. I got people's names wrong repeatedly. I started feeling stressed. "Hey," I thought to myself, "This isn't what I signed up for!"
But I've never been one to avoid the uncomfortable or back down from a challenge. So I continued to participate, even as my mind tried to resist.
"We were all out of our comfort zones...together. "
Developing intimacy and authenticity
The next morning, we discussed the dark side of service in preparation for our community service activity. I ended up sharing a story with one women - a story that I've probably only told one other person in my entire life. It felt incredibly uncomfortable to be that vulnerable with a near complete stranger. I started to wonder, "Why are these activities making me feel uncomfortable?" Maybe there was something that could be learned from this...
In the afternoon, we did an activity that required we embody another woman's fears. Some women cried. Other women cried in empathy. We all felt it. The discomfort. We all felt uncomfortable yet... comfortable in knowing that we were all out of our comfort zones...together. Something amazing was happening here.
I wont lie to you and say it got easier. It felt really weird being so intimate and authentic. But I did it. And I'm so glad I did.
"I don't know exactly what was different. All I know is that something was different."
Nourished and ignited
By the end of the weekend, my body was literally tingling and my mind was buzzing. What on earth had I just experienced?
On the long drive home across beautiful, green California, I just kind of sat with myself. I don't know exactly what was different. All I know is that something was DIFFERENT.
A few days later, after reflecting on the experience, I could better understand some of the changes that had occurred inside me. I had pushed myself beyond what was comfortable, and it opened up a new part of me. This part of me isn't as afraid of getting out of my comfort zone. I feel empowered and inspired to take charge of my life because I now know it's ok to be uncomfortable.
YOL showed me that I have everything I need inside of me.
After reflecting on my own personal experience, it was time to look at the data. Had the other women in the program experienced the same kinds of transformations that I had? Upon reviewing the data, it was immediately apparent that YOL has real positive impacts. Although I only have data from a small number of women from this one weekend, this it makes the results all the more impressive. Participants experienced increases in leadership confidence, empowerment, and inspiration, and significant decreases in stress. They had found new resources inside themselves.
* Notes statistically significant change from Pre to Post YOL experience.
My YOL experience this weekend reminded me that real change doesn't come easily. But real change is worth it.
So where am I now? I'm here in the moment. I'm finally excited about the future even though I don't yet know where it will take me. I'm no longer afraid of getting out of my comfort zone - in fact, Bring It On! I'm ready for whatever comes next. :)