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Women Loving Being Together

For 5 days in July the women of the ALP Women's group came together for our annual retreat.  Every year for the last 6 years this retreat has been the culmination of the year before and also the springboard to a deeper sense of unity, love, surrender and happiness.  The hearts of all women always are burning brightly during these retreats.

As I lead these retreats each year I am guided by a force that is in all of us.  Sometimes I don't know what the retreat will be until right before the retreat.  This year was no exception.  I had spent 4 months in India in the winter and Spring of 2018 and this informed the direction of this retreat.  This was the first retreat after the fire (October 2017) that burned a lot of the land here at the home of ALP and I knew that I wanted to honor the land but not from a place of pity but from the understanding that nothing ever really dies.  One thing I learned from the fire is the inherent insecurity of being a human being and with this understanding I learned to accept more deeply the beauty in all things as a manifestation of the One that we all are.   As I spent time in India, I spent time with some devotees of Amma.  It was there that the chant Lokah Samastah Sukino Bavantu came into my awareness.

This chant is about giving, about offering one's love to all beings.  Below is a video of the women singing to the burned trees of Quinta da Mizarela (the ashram and center of ALP)

This chant inspired me to create a retreat that was focused around offering or giving.  Here are the instructions I sent out to the women before the retreat started:

There are 2 instructions that you need to prepare for the retreat...

1.  Usually I ask you to bring a paper with your intention on it.  This year I will not ask you this as the only intention for this retreat that is needed from everyone is to give yourself fully to the intention to live a life of love, unity and surrender that IS ALREADY ALIVE in all of you.  So to be clear your intention for this retreat is ONLY to surrender to the intention that is already alive and active in you. So no intentions other then this are allowed so if you had another intention please leave it at home.  I will explain more about this on Tuesday night.

With that said please create something that expresses the One intention that I have outlined above. It can be on paper, cloth, leaves or something that hangs or anything else.  The most important thing is that it expresses the Intention to be Alive that is already inherently in you.

2.  The retreat will be for 5 days so please also bring an offering for each of those 5 days.  Offerings may express Love to the land, animals, each other, your partners, families to me or anything or anyone else.  Offerings may include habits that no longer serve you or humanity.  Offerings can be something written on pieces of paper, a rock, a leaf, an artistic object, a song, a hair from your head - in other words offerings can be in any form that you want.  This is not a competition so please bring 5 things that mean something to you - there is no such thing as the 'correct' offering.  The only 'correct' offering is an authentic offering.

As the women gave themselves to the instructions magic started to happen as hearts opened and happiness, love and beauty emerged in all different ways.  Here is what some of the women wrote a week or so after the retreat...

Lotte

When I go back to the woman retreat I see a circle of woman in pure joy and happiness. Woman who are discovering how to be truly free. Woman that are warriors, that keep on going no matter how big the fire or suffering. That are devotees of God Realisation. Nothing more, no bullshit. 
This retreat for me was very joyful, relaxed, like no effort, just like life. And at the same time it was very serious and quite some doubt and fear were arising. For me that was being in the fire in the retreat. Knowing with all my heart that this is what I want, no distractions. And being in the fire with all the things that come up with that. 
I realized how hard I often try to be spiritual, to be good, basically to have a certain experience. Cynthia showed me very clearly, that this trying is doubt. It is the doubt that God is not already here, always, but we need some experience to show us that. To believe. What a stupid thing to try to believe in something that is all there is! 
Here is the poem (and song) I wrote during the retreat:

Meet the Fire
Full of force
Through the darkness
Flaming high

Meet the fire like wise woman have done before

Let it blow you open
Let is pierce right through you
Let is crack every part

Let it burn 
Let it burn
Let it burn

Watch your body – it can break
Watch your thoughts – they can destroy you
Watch your habits – they want to let love down

Watch and embrace

Let it burn
Let it burn
Let it burn

Till you think you die

Let it burn
Let it burn
Let it burn

Till there is only ashes
Till you are nothing

Then you discover you are everything
Then you thank everything
Thank and embrace

So meet the Fire
Let it burn
Let it burn
Let it burn

Love to all, Lotte

Lotte's poem was turned into a song - Raquel and Sara holding up posters with the words!


 

Laura

When I recall the women retreat what still burns in my heart is the divine mystery of it all and the divine fire.

The mystery of being together as beautiful individual manifestations, both human and non-human, yet truly as one. Sitting, walking meditating, offering - held beneath the chestnut trees and running waters. 
The mystery of devotion; chanting, singing for the heartbreaking joy and love of doing so. 
The mystery of the offerings and the inquiry being of utmost significance and ultimately no significance at the same time because we are purifying individuals and perfectly undivided at the same time. 
The mystery of surrendering ourselves to the burning fire of transformation while at the same time coming to know ourselves ever more deeply as that which is beyond transformation.

It was a time when I came to see how doubt moves in me in a way I haven’t seen or been willing to see so clearly before. The loving reflection, commitment and skill of Cynthia and the presence and feedback of my sisters allowed a crack in the illusory wall of this fundamental illusory movement. Our collective willingness and commitment to stay in the fire of transformation allowed me to cook and burn away some layers that I have wrongly believed to be who I am. The fire still burns, the purification continues but the doubt has been named and seen and I continue.

My heart is full of gratitude to be guided this way by Cynthia whose courage and commitment is beyond my understanding sometimes. There is no greater gift. 
And to be in this fire with you my willing, committed sisters - and brothers - is pure joy.

Thank you, always, Life, Love, Unity, Mystery

Raquel

 

Filipa

Women’s retreat - An experience of Love, Unity, Surrender and Happiness!

This retreat was, for me, the live expression of pure happiness. It was a celebration of the Present without time, a celebration of the Fire burning within ourselves, a celebration of Being!

I loved the rituals, the chanting and the offerings! They always bring us to something more than a ritual or a chanting! I was amazing how everyone just kept offering themselves to everyone else! As I see it now, it was a perfect cycle of giving and receiving!

Manon​

Here are some impressions of our retreat ! 
I loved the the practices of offerings and all the rituals we did , all the singing and chanting together ... each time it felt like our hearts were singing the Love of Being to God and offering ourselves unconditionally.

The space that we opened up to each other was/is one of pure Love, Unity and Surrender. I felt deeply invited to let go, engage fully with each other and trust the "fire". 
Feeling the heat and stay with it until it melt me and the ashes of my illusions are blown away by the love of my True Self ... 
Dear Sisters with your wholehearted intention to surrender, your caring love, your compassionate strength and fearless willingness to feel the heat, I have felt and experienced a deeper truth and reality of Being. I am more than ever committed to be a "Devotee to God Realization" :) and assume the obligation to live from the deepest understand I have seen with all of you in Life!

Sandra R

"Some moments from the retreat in photos and one video...


It will take me time to be able to articulate the depth of what has been touched inside me.
I am "working"on relaxing with these feelings of turbulence, high levels of energy, insecurity, some confusion, love, sadness... ... ...
Faith Love Surrender"

Raquel D

Open hearts. Sisters holding hands.
Bearing witness to the emergence that is present.
Honoring ‘it’. Loving ‘it’. Bathing in ‘it’.
Being washed by ‘it’.
Not knowing what ‘it’ is.
And still recognizing the self.

Who am I? Who are you?
Questions that linger between us.
But then… who cares?
In the face of the absolute
All the stories fall short.
We are. 
Simple. True. Honest. Transparent. Together.
We are.

Another step towards nowhere.
Another veil being lifted.
An immersion in reality.

In the reality that holds us.
In the reality of our nature.
In the reality of love and happiness.

Sia

"Describing the retreat in words is very hard when all that is left after 5 days of being together is a deep desire to give oneself to a longing to meet who I am in an ever deeper way. From the beginning what stood out for me most was the simplicity of everything we did.
Where mind is habitually very good at placing meaning onto everything there was just simplicity. There was a candle and an altar and offerings. But all of those things were just simply what they were as sacred and simple as everything that is. 
Life was simple.
And yet the depth in which we met and inquired and the fullness that naturally emerged was heartbreaking. In this presence we gave ourselves to the fire of our hearts and we let it burn. This burning brought more light and lightness to all of us. Whatever arose, arose on the grounds of compassion and simplicity. Not the idea of compassion and simplicity but simply as qualities that are already there in presence and not something that needs to be created. 
I loved how each one of us offered their addictions and habits to a much greater Love. This is what our hearts desire most.
Being ourselves and being naked in the face of the fire of our hearts. 
In those 5 days we celebrated, we chanted, we cared for the sacred space that emerged and we recognized that life is a sacred space that wants to be cared for naturally. 
I could see each and every woman giving her all to this retreat in the simplicity of just being herself and responding to the demand of her own fire to bow down and celebrate life. 
As I said before in the context of this retreat: words are just words.
What I am left with now a week after is the undeniable knowing of this demand that wants to live through me as a manifestation of love and life. 
What does that mean?
Standing in the fire always. 
Not resisting it but welcoming it with love and dignity. 
Let it burn every part that is not me. 
Let it burn everything.
All with the recognition that everything that can burn is ultimately not me anyway. 
This retreat has touched my heart in a completely new way. Nothing was new in a sense and at the same time the embodiment of a desire to give myself to life has deepened. 
The love, the devotion, the songs, the being with each other was all happening on the ground of life itself being sacred. It is a natural quality of life. And the natural response to that is a caring for life and all that there is. 
In deep gratitude, Sia

Ana Sofia

Women’s retreat 2018: the truth of Love, Unity and Surrender (and deep deep Happiness!)

I loved so much this retreat because it was Life unfolding. With simplicity and radical happiness. It still is.

I feel a very strong continuity between the two days I spent at the Quinta and life before and after the retreat. It is Life. It is the same essence: being fully engaged with the divine source and being the most vivid expression of it in this manifest world.

I loved how we embraced rituals as a way to honour the time we spent together and the space we shared. We were together as One, many expressions of a single force. The vigil, the altar with intentions, the offerings were less a way to demonstrate this reality (as if we needed proof) and more a way to acknowledge and celebrate what is, what our hearts know it is true.
The morning exercise+dip in the water+meditation felt as healthy as never before. Healthy not in a way to cultivate my well being but as the only way to live (as in fulfilling the divine Law). I cannot express how it felt so right: pure happiness at the cellular level.

I am in love with the challenge to manifest this divine essence every minute of my life, always, with every person and in every situation. I feel amazed because the possibilities are infinite and they are here so available to be expressed.

I also loved the opportunity to take my family and realize how there is no separation at all. The three of us were fully relaxed and smoothly transitioning between the care of each other, and the care for the Land, the retreat sisters, the volunteers and the service team, Cynthia, Pete, the animals... it really all was One. This is the ultimate fundamental reality!

Love,
Sofia

Suma

A celebration of Self as one with all of nature and the threads of time. In essence, one woman, one humanity, one nature, one experience beyond time and place, felt through song, altar, ceremony, offerings and thanksgivings; in detail, chestnut trees, 25 women, two dogs, cat visits, bodies stretching, then beautifully naked in the cold stream without resistance, meditating beneath trees and skies, a merging of pain and joy in honouring a charred landscape, sharings of happiness and heart-ache without judgement, a remembering of what was never truly forgotten. Cynthia held the space with lightness, depth, humour and love, reminding rather than teaching. A celebration of one love.

Katrin

I have been here at the Quinta since March, I love it and I am very comfortable. Maybe too comfortable! Something about the Women’s Retreat pulled me right out of my comfort-zone, which was very unexpected, but exactly what I needed.

I experienced movements that I normally do not experience so strongly. I needed them right in my face in order to feel them, understand them and see through them. Experiences like what it means to be in the heat, what it means to struggle with resistance or to make a problem out of something. 
Sure, I had all those experiences before, but in a much more subtle way. With my deeper understanding from the retreat, I can recognizes them sooner, even when they are very sneaky and small.

While I was busy “with my problem”, I was less present to the group and the love and it feels like I missed out or even that I participated in a different retreat from everybody else. At the same time I know that retreats are not about being blissed out, but about deepening our understanding and I am very grateful for the teachings I received.

Thank you sisters, thank you Cynthia!

Teresa L

My experience of the 5 day retreat was one of sisterhood, togetherness and being with what needed to happen, joy, friendship and beauty. 
So much happened after the retreat but what remains is a gentle smile. There is so much that we can be together...
I loved the exercises, meditating together, the offers and the way they revealed themselves into something unpredictable but above all, I loved getting to know each one of us more and more and the way we are surrendering to who we truly are. We seem to be getting naked in front of each other, showing our beauty in the form of trust and surrender, and we end up seeing the same reflexion over and over again...It is so easy to love this way.
I love everyone's effort, the continuous support, the spontaneity, the increasingly amount of relaxation and the laughter. Thank you all so much...

Sandra

Being together again one year later for 5 days has been a source of deepening old understanding and diving into new spheres! I think I wrote already last year that one of the things that inspires me the most is the uncompromising courage, love, determination and curiosity that emerges in these days and beyond together. I feel us as warriors with soft strength who step into the unknown together with open hearts and arms, to do what needs to be done and to leave behind what is no longer needed. Personal obstacles may arise but the wisdom of the group leaves no space nor any real wish to hold on to any limitation or belief that has been formed. Real friendships are emerging and deepening as we sit and talk together as we laugh and cry together. We support the best part in each one of us! We dont give up and we enjoy AND ask for the process of living, learning, making mistakes and simply being who we are.

 

Sonja

The women's retreat seems so far away, yet what I perceived, felt and saw during those five days is still with me - ok, where else would it be?

It is not about holding on to a certain experience, but about keeping alive what was understood more clearly: That there is an ease of being, free from "I should", "I want to create/uphold an image", "I want to be somebody".

Before all the women arrived on the first evening I wondered how I would or should be with them, how I should behave, what I should say. Then I remembered that I just loved them and that there was actually nothing to do. Just be that love.

At some points during the retreat there was resistance; resistance to Adi Da's teachings, to going deeper. There was attachment to mediocrity, not wanting to see that there is so much more possible. What is perceived as the ego had "gotten" something for itself, why should it go any further? Why should it let its existence and power be threatened again or even more strongly?

During the retreat it became clear what resting in one's Happiness, Peacefulness, Equanimity looks like.

Also, what holding on to ideas and beliefs that come from this presumed "I" looks like.

And what releasing some of the tension and contraction of wanting to be somebody looks like.

Of course, now I am reflecting upon it from today, after some time has passed and other experiences led to more clarity. But that was made possible by the freedom that made itself known during the five days of the women's retreat. Freedom to just be in Love.

------------------------------

If you would like to join the ALP women's grouo you will need to participate in a long retreat with Pete and/or Cynthia Bampton. These retreats do not happen often, the one that is most frequent is the 10 day retreat in August.  See event page for details. To read more about the ALP Women's Movement please click here.

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About the project

The Awakened Life Project is situated in a beautiful and wild ecological reserve in the mountains Central Portugal. We offer volunteer programs, courses, events and retreats to support the liberation of the human spirit in a context of evolutionary emergence and communion with the ecological web of life.

Contacts

Quinta da Mizarela
3305-031 Benfeita
Portugal

info@awakenedlifeproject.org
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