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Empathy, Forgiveness and Compassion: 3 Guaranteed Things You’ll Find on a Yoga Retreat

by Tom Thumb

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One of the most common questions I'm asked by prospective guests on the retreats I organize is whether they're too old/young/unfit/inexperienced to come. My answer is always the same: it's the diversity of people on the retreat that makes it such an unforgettable experience.

I'm struck each time how quickly we are to disqualify ourselves. Faced with an opportunity for growth and discovery, we often rush to find reasons why we wouldn't be able to participate, why we wouldn't fit in. And when people do decide to come, the comparisons begin from the first encounters as each assesses the relative experience and comfort zones of the other. Are they in better shape than us? Have they traveled more widely? Are they more popular than us? Are they better at yoga?

So, on each retreat, on the second night, we always hold a sharing circle. We gather around the fire after dinner, a candle is passed around and only the person holding the candle may speak. It might take a round or two before everyone feels like sharing how they're feeling on the retreat and in their lives at this point, but a kind of magic invariably happens. With no fear of interruption, the quieter voices in the group are heard loud and clear and you can almost see the waves of empathy rippling out over the sands.

campfire in the sahara

Listening to each other with attention and respect, we find ourselves in laughter and tears, moved and changed as we put ourselves in the shoes of the speaker. And as we hear the same stories of doubt, hope, fear and relief that we experience ourselves, there's a kind of collective redemption and a beautiful intimacy forms in the group where no one will get left behind.

For some, it's the sharing circles that allow them to open up and share their unique qualities with the group. For others, it's the meditation and dance that allows them to find and express new aspects of themselves. Sometimes it's just the songs and games at night that allow a dormant sense of fun and joy to burst out like a spring. 

sahara desert

When people arrive on the retreat, most come with a fair amount of baggage: facial expressions, opinions and behavior that serve more as defense mechanisms than genuine communication. It's so beautiful to watch over the week as these just fall away. In the emptiness of the Sahara Desert, there's no one to impress and there's a return to simplicity and authenticity that is truly touching to see.

I'm honored to be able to host the process.

Want to join Tom on this journey? Go on a yoga retreat in the Sahara Desert and get ready to transform your life! 

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