My First Solo International Retreat

By Rhonda Jones

I was about 5 days into my one week trip to Portland, Jamaica at the One Wellness Farm Yoga and Meditation Retreat and there was so much I have discovered and relearned on my journey here. The trip started out as a desire written on a sticky note in my vision notebook in early June that I verbalized daily and then occasionally visualized during my Power Hour Morning Routine.  It read, “This summer I will spend at least 2 weeks in Jamaica working on an organic farm, spending time on the beach, and meeting new people!!!” At the time of the writing I thought I’d do a work exchange, you know, I’ll work for food and shelter. Even as I read it, I really didn’t know if I’d really make the journey this summer, maybe it was all wishful thinking. However, most of us know that an intention is generally the beginning of any manifestation or creation.

About three weeks before finding the retreat center and booking my flight I found myself in a bit of an emotional crisis. Suffering from a restless heart and a confused mind, I knew that a shift needed to happen. Something in my life was out of alignment even if it was only mentally so. A veil of dissatisfaction laid over me for several weeks, sneaking its way in like a pesky fly that just won’t leave you alone. Thank goodness!

Yet instead of trying to kill the darn thing, that feeling, I decided to explore it. Why was it here? Why had it come? What was I doing that opened the door in the first place? Yes, I had to take a meditator’s response to what was going on inside of me. So I sat and I listened and I wrote…


IDK (I Don’t Know)…A short acronym but with so much power and meaning. Power because of its ability to stifle us from moving forward as in idk my purpose, idk if he’s the one, idk what will make me happy.” IDK stops a good many people right in their tracks. But idk may also signify a time to pause. How long a pause, idk, it could be short or long, whatever time is needed to for clarity and direction to return. I will meet my idk’s with stillness, inwardness, surrender, and meditation. The heart knows, the mind distracts, distorts, and confuses. It reasons and questions. It fears, protests, and protects. My heart (spirit) knows. It will show me the way.”

Yes, I needed to pause and that’s really when my trip to Jamaica became a reality. In my quest to “pause” I decided that what I needed most was a place of quietness, beauty, and seclusion without distractions that would reveal …and peel away any mindsets or limiting beliefs that were standing in the way of my peace of mind and God’s best for my life.

So within hours of writing that brief journal entry I knew my destination and my excitement was an understatement. I truly felt I was being directed by God and that there was something for me at the end of this journey, be it a new revelation, direction, or even a purpose. Although I stressed a bit regarding the planning and wanting to try to control every last detail, eventually I surrendered to God’s love and faithfulness. This being my first time taking a solo trip out of the country, not counting a group cruise, I was somewhat fearful of all that might happen. What if I miss the bus, got lost, didn’t know where to catch a cab, or ended up in a bad situation, I pondered? But one thing I knew in all the trepidation, God wanted to stretch me and He wanted me to trust Him to do it. As I write this letter, under a canopy and overlooking breathtaking views of lush foliage and a royal blue ocean, I know that God is preparing me for something, something that would require me to have courage to step out in faith and what better way than to lunge into the unknown and survive.

After a 9 hour flight (one connection) and a 4 ½ bus ride along the Jamaican coast, I arrived at the retreat center, exhausted but elated. What I didn’t know until I got here was that I was the ONLY retreater to sign up for this particular week. What? Why? No partners in crime I thought. Why did I travel 15 hours to spend the next week all by myself? I was really quite unhappy about the whole thing. Ironically, it’s what God knew I needed, and it’s what I unwitting proclaimed, a time to focus on Him, Me, and my purpose. There are no mistakes, only opportunities, and this was another opportunity for me to surrender. While others were swimming in pools and enjoying resort activities, I was mentally and physically detoxing and learning how to confront my fears face on.  And God had given me a wonderful teacher here to help me uncover certain blocks and limitations standing in my way. Sometimes we need a little help.

That doesn’t mean I was meditating all day. I meandered down curvy roads, talked to locals, and even took a taxi to the Blue Lagoon and the beach. I really was quite proud of myself. Before leaving I planned to visit the town of Port Antonio, go to a party, and get a taste of real Jamaica city life. I truly loved the culture there. There is so much community. Everyone knows everyone. On my way back to the retreat center from the beach, I missed my stop and traveled about a ½ mile too far. Not really knowing where to go or what to do, I stepped out of the taxi and asked the family sitting along their stone fence if they knew the whereabouts of the retreat hosts. They knew right away and within minutes another taxi appeared to show me the way. Well my goal for this article, albeit such a lengthy introduction, was to share 12 things I’ve learned or re-learned about myself and life from spending time here in Jamaica. So let me get started.

1) I Eat Way Too Much Food

Okay, I know that you’re probably thinking, duh, that’s no real revelation, that’s an American past-time. Although I consider myself a vegan for health purposes, I am a chronic snacker. Outside of my regular meals, I eat just to be eating and I know I’m not alone here. Generally I’m snacking on healthy things like fruit and nuts, but 9 times out of 10 my body doesn’t need these extra calories. Here at the retreat, we have fruit and tea for breakfast, a yummy lunch around noon and then dinner at 7:00 p.m. It’s hard to believe but between lunch and dinner I’ve yet to get hungry! I think eating the right foods that nourish our bodies is important but many of us just need to break that snacking habit and eat when we are really truly hungry. You’ll feel it in vital energy and good health. My goal when I returned was to rid my pantry of unnecessary snacks and hopefully make eliminating snacking a new habit.

2) Everyone Needs to Schedule Regular Retreats Just to Stay Sane

I didn’t say vacations but retreats!  Although vacations have their place for fun and enjoyment, rarely do they provide the respite of a quiet retreat away from it all. Retreats provide us with the time to relax, reset, readjust, and reflect on what’s working and what’s not, and that’s just something really hard to do when you have so many distractions at your beck and call. They also give us time to reconnect with God, nature, and our inner spirit. I’ve been to retreats that are filled with lots of activity. That’s not the type I’m talking about. We need time to unwind. It may take you the first 2-3 days just to release any anxiety and restlessness that is sure to come up, along with any attachments you might be clinging too. Our mind will surely rebel. You may feel anxious, lonely, isolated, and wonder what in the heck were you thinking! Who would actually pay for this? Yet, stick with it and the rewards are great. As the days pass, a peace and stillness begin to overtake you. You surrender.  Why fight it? You’ll live. Then a wonderful thing happens, you wonder how you lived so long without prolonged and scheduled times of stillness and solitude. Everything about your life and relationship with God will become clearer and richer as you see the layers of attachment, fear, illusions, and limiting beliefs melt away.  I still had my cell phone but even that can be a distraction from what I’m really here to do.  I think we’d benefit if we had to put our cell phones in a locked box while retreating.

3) The Best Teachers Give You the Tools You Need & Then Let You Go

Manglejot, owner of the retreat center and host, has been a wonderful teacher and coach. With 2 hours of yoga and meditation followed by a two hour lesson each morning, my spirit is full. Although this is not a Christian retreat, her love, concern, and spiritual knowledge only deepens my faith in my Creator. I am not suggesting that all would feel comfortable with some of the teachings here, but that is no reason not to find your own place of refugee where you can meet with God undistracted. Hopefully I can help you with that. We have the scriptures, we have the Holy Spirit, but don’t underestimate the role of a great teacher who can point us in right direction or simply remind us what we’ve forgotten. We often look to our pastors as teachers. Many can explain the scriptures with efficiency and give us an intellectual view of what it means to serve our God. Yet, it is our responsibility to seek, create and maintain an intimate fellowship with Yeshua (Christ). No one can do that for us.  Too many Christians have a head knowledge of Jesus but His message has yet to integrate with their hearts which is one reason why we continue to live like the world. Jesus said, “Come out from among them and be ye separate.” I don’t necessary believe He was talking about physical separation, although physically separating yourself to just “be” with God is a necessity we should not forfeit. Equally important is to be separate in world and actions by living a life of faith, purpose, and love. This type of relationship and knowledge comes only from pursuing and seeking the Lord and searching for Him with all our heart. It requires spending time with Him and allowing Him to shape and mold our character. A good teacher gives us the tools we need to access our Lord in a personal way so that we become more and more dependent upon Him for all that we need.

me in jamaica

4) It Takes Courage to Live a Life with Meaning

Are you really living the life you want? If not, what’s stopping you? Fear, finances, or confusion are common culprits that stand in the way of our dreams.  I believe at various junctions of our life, we make the choice to plunge into deeper waters or succumb to security or practicality. I’ve been to these forks in the road plenty of times, in fact, sometimes many times in a day. Sometimes it’s simple decisions about how best to spend our time or what foods to put in our body. Decisions, decisions, but each decision we make is either pushing us closer to or further from our goals, that is, if we even have any altogether. Each time we deny our true heart, we lose a bit of ourselves, our purpose, and our creativity, and as time persists, we can become hollow shells of who we once were.  It takes a lot of courage to follow your heart instead of following the crowd.  I believe it is nearly impossible if we’re not building a spiritual foundation that includes spending time in God’s presence and His Word. We must all become intricately familiar with our hearts and its quiet yearnings. Most often it speaks to us through sensations: anger, depression, restlessness, and anxiety. Unfortunately, our usual response is to quickly brush these away in an effort not to feel them. These messages from the heart expressed through our bodies contain vital revelation needing to be explored. Do not cast them away so quickly. Dig deeper to find their origin and don’t stop until you do. It is at that point healing and direction can take place. If you’re having a hard time figuring it out, it may be your time to pause. God may be desiring to transition you to a new level of being or service.

5) We Must Build Our Life on a Spiritual Foundation

We are all spiritual beings having a human experience.  I truly believe as Christians our ultimate goal is learning how to love and forgive. My favorite bible verse reads, “The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love.” Without faith it is impossible to please God and without love we are literally nothing regardless of the good works we might do.  Every encounter, lesson, and hardship gives us another opportunity to build our faith and express God’s love through us. Nothing else really matters. Many people don’t live fulfilling and happy lives because they do not build their life on these important principles. Ask yourself today, what choices or decisions did you make today that were motivated by love or faith?  Building our life on a spiritual foundation is like walking up a staircase towards our goals and purpose with each step supported and directed by God.  Creating and manifesting according to God takes on a completely different trajectory than accomplishing in the world or our own strength. God’s ways are not man’s ways. To manifest our dreams and desires, we are told to declare a vision, abiding in Christ, ask and believe to receive, speak those things that are not as though they were (affirm), cast every care upon Him,  and then wait patiently for Him to answer and guide us, all while possessing an unflinching faith, peace and joy.  These are the spiritual muscles we must build if we want to succeed God’s way. Retreating, prolonged times of stillness and solitude, can move us closer to fulfilling these dreams.

6) I Will Make Sure My Future Retreats  REALLY Address Our Need to Reconnect with God

There are retreat vacations and retreats that transform. Most of mine have fallen in the former. We learned about Christian meditation, did some Christ-Centered Yoga, and then did lots of fun activities. That’s great!  There is a need for that type of vacation retreat, but it’s not where real transformation takes place. If we really want to reconnect with God, regain clarity, detox from our worldly attachments, and get a fresh and new perspective for our lives, it takes a different type of work. It’s not a physical work though, but a spiritual one, and those often are the toughest to manage. It may be difficult to spend a full day with your own thoughts, especially the one’s causing us stress and anxiety. As we spend time in God’s presence we find these things falling away and a new vision emerges.

7) Consistency is Key

Jesus said, “To him whose knows what to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” If you are reading this post, you probably KNOW what you need to do to enhance your life and relationship with God! For the most part, I do too and God’s grace will cover what I don’t know at the moment. But does that mean I always do it. Heck no! One thing Manglejot reminded me during one of our lessons is that all the knowledge in the world if not applied can’t help you. We can know about the wonderful benefits of spending time with God, retreating to quiet places, or even the tools on dealing with our mental and emotional stuff, but it’s only as good as how much we apply it.  Again, I am making a new commitment to myself to making my quiet time with God a daily priority along with having a consistent personal Christian Yoga practice.  I know many have issues with any type of yoga, Christian or otherwise, but it is a wonderful way to access the heart while strengthening the body and calming the mind. If Christian yoga is not your thing, then just incorporate some form of exercise and strengthen your meditation practice to spend extended time in God’s presence using a sacred word, your breath (which God created), or a guided Christian meditation.

8) We Are More Adaptable Than We Think

Before I even left home, I knew that Jamaica would be hot and humid and that where I was staying did not have air conditioning. I know many vacationers would never consider giving up air conditioning for any reason. In fact, one of my girlfriends who was contemplating coming said no A/C would be a deal breaker. When I first entered my room, which happened to be adorable, the real reality set in. After showering to cool off and then getting in bed, I thought how will I be able to deal with this for a whole week. “If only I had brought a small fan I could take it,” I said to myself.  I literally thought I might die. To compensate for the humidity, I took off all my clothes (sorry if too much information) including my socks, something I never do, and here’s what happened. The sweat from my body started to cool me off and I slept like a baby. Again, God showed me that we are often stronger than we think and we can adapt to change, sometimes reluctantly, without dying. Footnote: I found out the last day of the retreat that fans were available! Another lesson, “You have not because you ask not!”

9) I CAN Be a Christian Yogi

I know there is a lot of controversy about yoga, meditation, and the church. But here’s what I know to be true, yoga and meditation do not have to be a religion unless you choose them to be. Yoga means unity. Therefore, as a Christian Yogi, I seek unity with Jesus, my Lord, Savior, and Creator. But why would I even want to be a Christian Yogi, you might be thinking? The answer is that there something extremely profound about integrating our faith with our body, it’s almost like solidifying it within our whole being and not just in our heads. The scriptures tells us to bring our minds under the authority of Christ but the body needs transformation as well. Through my yoga practice I bring my body in alignment with the Biblical principles I expound. By integrating the scriptures with movement, our entire being becomes an object of worship and devotion to the Lord. I am reminded of Daniel, who at least 3 times per day, kneeled in a certain direction and prayed. This daily practice is what gave Daniel his strength to honor the Lord and stand in faith when facing adversity. Praying on our knees in complete humility is another way we can integrate the body into our faith. As of today, I will not apologize for being a Christian Yogi because this is a tool I can use to bring me closer to God and worship Him not just in my head but with my entire being. Through my practice, I am learning to integrate my mind (that wanders), body (that craves) and Spirit (that’s pure) under the authority of Christ. To me, a yogi lifestyle is one that integrates  spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical wellness irregardless of your specific faith or beliefs.

10) Technology Needs to Be Extremely Reduced

 Modern technology is one of the greatest hindrances to spending time with God. It’s literally an epidemic as well as an addiction. When we have any free time at all, what do most of us do, turn on the television or play on our phones. In reality it really a huge time waster that could be spent in so many other productive ways: prayer, reading, gardening, exercise, self-care, and more. As I think about the benefits of retreating for transformation, de-attaching from technology, so we can attach onto Christ and his spirit, is an absolute must. What good is it to serve you healthy and energy producing foods and then have an array of junk food for sale?  You will never reap the benefits or reach your fullest potential. We cannot serve two masters.

11) You Are What You Eat

Food sustains life and creates vital energy for us to function. The quality of our health is in direct alignment to what types of foods we put into our body. Walk into almost any grocery store and you will see rows and rows of dead food or food-like stuff mixed with lots of chemicals. If we really want that vital energy to be all we can be both mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, what we eat is just as important as what we think. When we put junk food into our bodies, we are not supporting our health. It suppresses our immune system, makes us sluggish, and poisons our cells.  There are many studies that expose the correlation between sugar, vegetable oils, dairy, and processed foods, simple carbs, and degenerative diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and asthma.  Food will always be our best medicine. If you’re not feeling your best, how can you be your best?  Want more information on this subject? Check out books from my favorite nutrition-based doctors, Joel Furhman (Eat for Health), Dr. McDougall (The Starch Solution), Dr. Esselstyn (Forks Over Knives), and Dr. McGregor (How Not to Die).

12) I Need to Connect Personally With More Like-Minded Believers

All Christians are not the same and every Christian who professes to be one is not.  I love Jesus with all my heart but I don’t believe I’m like your typical believer and sometimes that can feel really lonely. I need to build more community with believers who desire more of an experiential relationship with Christ built on the foundation of love, health, and faith as I stated earlier. I’m not just satisfied with being a church -goer. I really want to be used by God and have Him living on the inside of me. If you feel the same, maybe you can help me find more ways that we can connect. We really need each other.

I learned so much more on this retreat and can really go on and on, but I’ll save these for other articles. I give all praises to the Most High for giving me the opportunity to venture here and the courage to step out of my comfort zone. It took quite a bit of determination to get to the retreat and then once I got there to leave the complex (sometimes all alone) and explore my surroundings, but I did it and now I’m ready for my next adventure. Another lesson, “feel the fear and do it anyway.” But more on that later. 🙂

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