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Reflection: Restrictions and Growth

2020 has been a dance between control and surrender. It was the year of the Hero’s Journey. My year began with an idealistic plan to embark upon an adventure, and start a life somewhere new. I say idealistic because I didn’t carefully plan out the details. I just knew I was ready to leave New Orleans and experience another city or town. I had some friends in Vegas and wanted to explore the Dance and Yoga scene out there.

I decided I would travel in 2020 with the non-profit WWOOF.

I found a farm in Tecopa, CA, an hour from Las Vegas and set my sights on it. The farm was beautiful in so many ways, but it intimidated me when I first got there. It was a self-sustaining farm in the middle of the Desert. Previously I had worked on my friend’s farm in Austin, another organic farm, off-grid and self-sustaining, but much smaller in scale. I arrived in Tecopa on March 1, just a few weeks before the pandemic caused a lockdown all across the country.

Upon first arriving, my plan was to stay there for a couple months, drive to Las Vegas on the weekends, and spend all my free time in the city, away from the farm. I had always considered myself a “hard worker”, but I felt compelled to achieve my specific aims: Relocate to Las Vegas, get a job, and build my business as a Yoga Instructor, attending 3-5 networking events a week and finding my niche. I determined I needed to start taking action to achieve future goals, but the present moment was eluding me.

Prior to the lockdown, I had been in this constant state of looking ahead and never right in front of me. I needed to create specific conditions and then I would be happy . . . or so I thought. I thought I was being responsible by making plans for the future, but it only led to restless energy. I was physically at the farm, but my priorities were elsewhere, so I gave up easily on difficult tasks at hand and spent my free time in my room or the city. When the city of Las Vegas went into lockdown in mid-march, I had to slow down like everyone else.

I had to learn how to surrender and live in the moment, even when I felt like running away.

I can still recall the conversation with my friend, who owned the farm. It was uncomfortable and led me to reevaluate my commitments and priorities. My focus shifted from my preoccupation with relocating to a city and “making it”, to being present and doing the best with the moment at hand. I needed to embrace both stillness and uncertainty, uncomfortable but necessary for my growth. I had a choice to make: stay and work physically hard or lockdown somewhere else. She explained that with everything going into lockdown, she could not have people coming and going without potentially compromising the health and safety of her workers and customers. With everything in the city closing and the fact that I didn’t have a place to live in Las Vegas, this was the best place to be. I realized it was time to learn how to be in one place at a time. If I was going to spend my quarantine here, I would need to become part of this community and help when and wherever possible.

I had traveled all this way for a reason, to grow and become more self-reliant. I thought it would happen a certain way, but I had to adapt to the bigger situation to actually experience transformation.

I began to pay more attention to the present moment, channeling my energy into everyday farm tasks at hand, rather than constantly worrying about the future or my personal goals.

I learned some valuable life lessons when I shifted my focus to doing the best with the moment at hand, prioritizing the present over the future.

1. Hard work really does pay off.

Working outdoors, tending to a garden, or doing anything physically demanding may hurt temporarily. In the end, one feels a significant satisfaction from consistently putting in effort to make something beautiful. I performed challenging physical tasks that led me to appreciate basic things we often take for granted. Collecting and cleaning fresh eggs twice a day, planting and pruning over 300 tomato plants, and continuously maintaining the garden beds and greenhouses led me to understand what goes into food production.

The hard work was worth the benefits though. I loved being able to pick fresh vegetables and herbs and make an entire meal out of them. Also, things got easier overtime. I enjoyed the freedom of answering to nature alone, rather than people and societal expectations. I learned what it means to be responsible in a new way and how rewarding it can be to take others’ needs, the well-being of other people, and the environment into consideration.

2. Responsible, sustainable living is healing and leads to a feeling of connection with others.

Since I happened to be on a self-sustaining, solar and wind-powered farm, various people came to stay there during lockdown and make the most of uncertain times. At one point, there were 8 of us living in the same house, plus another 8 people who came during the daytime to work. Being in this communal environment was a stretch outside my comfort zone.

We woke up early for breakfast and our daily meeting to get a report on the pandemic, discuss the day’s goals, and share positive stories from the day before. Then we would work about 6-8 hours a day. We had a couple hours of free time before needing to be present again to help prepare dinner and clean up afterwards. There were always work tasks to be done and people around, so we never experienced boredom or anxiety that comes with constantly watching tv news and checking social media.

To end the night, we might sit outside and stargaze, play a board game, or share some laughs while drinking beer; we never experienced FOMO. We made stuff happen while being plugged-into the present moment. We adapted to the austerities of sustainable living so that resources were not squandered, and we grew closer to each other and Mother Earth in the process.

3. We are all different, but we are all the same. We are all in this together.

I knew that deep-down we were all apprehensive about the future. We were all wondering when things would be normal again, when it would be safe to travel, and how family was doing back home. There were people on the farm from Mexico, Italy, Spain, Cuba, Las Vegas, and New Orleans. We all experienced homesickness, fear, restlessness, and doubt. Ultimately, we made the most of our situation. We worked hard and took precautions concerning personal and public health and safety.

4. It is okay to outgrow people and situations. It is even okay to change your trajectory and who you thought you were.

I moved back home over the summer to be close to family after my grandma passed away. This is when I realized how much growth I experienced back in Spring. I became more helpful at home and was able to peacefully coexist with family members for the first time in years. I stopped tolerating friendships and relationships that overstepped boundaries and no longer served my highest good. I realized that all along, I had been searching for my voice and the courage to speak my truth: The courage to say no to situations I had outgrown and yes to new experiences that were scary but beneficial in the long-run.

In the past, I convinced myself that I would create a life that looked a certain way. I was ready to move to Las Vegas and forge a path as a Yoga Instructor, but I needed to evolve before I could feel qualified to call myself a “Yogi.” I realized I had been running away from feelings that were uncomfortable and blaming others for my shortcomings. When I unpacked all these unpleasant feelings, I gained clarity on what I truly need. I realized that in order to accomplish my goals, they need to come from the heart, not the ego. I no longer want to prove my worth to others. I must put myself in situations that are good for my soul and challenge me to be present at all times.

5. What you are seeking does exist, and is seeking you. Sometimes you need to get out of your own way to realize that happiness is all around you.

I stayed on the farm for four months and experienced personal growth, cultivated genuine friendships, found love, made a difference in a larger community, and realized how strong and resilient I am. I began learning a foreign language, something I had always thought about doing. Everyone on the farm spoke Spanish except for myself so this motivated me to learn.

There weren’t any dance or yoga studios in Tecopa, but my roommate and I made time to practice Yoga together most days, and our group had weekend Latin nights with margaritas and salsa dancing. Plus, there were beautiful peaks, hiking trails, natural hot springs, and picturesque sunsets to witness. I missed my friends in Las Vegas and my family back home, but I bonded with my new tribe and made friends for life. I experienced natural beauty each day and my mental health improved from living such a grounded lifestyle.

Less makeup, more Aloe. Less coffee, more water.

Less Netflix, more human interaction.

Less complaining and criticizing, more gratitude, and getting things done.


About the Author

Renee Williamson is a Blog Writer for The Love Yourself Foundation. She is a New Orleans native who currently resides in Austin, TX and works in Green Construction. She has a degree in Psychology and has studied and taught Yoga for the past 2 years. Renee enjoys traveling, hiking, dancing, cooking, writing, reading, and going to live performances of any kind. She believes nature is medicine and that respect for Mother Earth fosters self-respect and love for all beings.

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