BREATHING IT OUT AT OMEGA INSTITUTE
By Margie Goldsmith
A friend of mine who read “The Answer is Simple: Love Yourself, Live Your Spirit” by Sonia Choquette, told me the book changed her life. With just simple steps, she said, Choquette taught her how switch her negative feelings into something nurturing and positive, which Choquette calls the Spirit within.
Not long after that conversation, I decided to book a weekend at Omega Institute, a wellness and personal growth center in Rhinebeck, New York, located just 90 miles from New York City. I was thumbing through the Omega catalogue when I noticed one of the workshop offerings: The Answer is Simple: Love Yourself, Live Your Spirit” with Sonia Coquette, PhD. I read the blurb: In this lively workshop, Choquette teaches us how to reconnect to our divine spark. Feeling disconnected, I thought maybe something like this was exactly what I needed.
Sonia Choquette calls herself a “vibrational healer,” which sounded awfully New Age-y to me, but after reading that she’s written 11 books and has been a personal intuitive advisor to Louise Hay, Julie Cameron, and Wayne Dyer, I decided to let go of my preconceived opinions. Yet, when I thought of vibrational healing, certain images came to mind, including her making us do endless obscure Sanskrit chants or maybe turning us into whirling dervishes on the lawn. Still, I signed up. Really, what was the worst-case scenario? That I’d be out of the city for the weekend surrounded by flowering gardens, velvety green fields, and endless acres of woods.. and maybe would spend some time chanting? Big deal.
Choquette was pretty, petite, with eyes that sparkled, and a body that was never still. When she moved, she didn’t walk—she danced. Fifty of us—mainly women—were sitting in an airy wooden building called “Cabin by the Field.” Choquette talked into a portable microphone as she walked, making eye contact with each of us. “Do you remember the TV advertisement for Memorex, in which Ella Fitzgerald broke a glass with her voice?” she asked. I remembered that commercial—I think in the 80s. Choquette continued, “Just like Ella shattered that goblet, there is a higher vibration. And as each of us becomes awakened to that shift of energy, we can break through and enter a new consciousness.”
I didn’t understand what she was saying. And, furthermore, I felt like bailing. But I knew she’d see me walk out and I was too embarrassed to do it. Why did I sign up? If only I had enough nerve to leave. Choquette patted the back of her head and said, “The back of the brain is the ego—all the bad tapes. We’re told that’s reality, but when you live your life in the back of the brain, you have no creativity. Our planet has 78% of us living as sheep. The creativity is in the portal of the frontal lobe.” She pointed to her forehead. “But only 22% of us live there. The answer is choice, and it begins with breath. Now, everyone, breathe in and as you breathe out say ‘Ahhhhhh,’ just like a sigh.”
We took a collective breath and sighed out “Ahhhhhh.”
“Come on peeps! You can do better than that.”
“Ahhhhhhhh,” we sighed louder. I immediately felt more relaxed.
“That’s better,” she said. “Our goal is to wake up and liberate ourselves from our fear-based living. And do you know how you do that?” She answered her own question: “Breathe!”
“Aaaaahhhhhhh,” we chanted again.
“You feel the difference?” she beamed. “You are not your ego. You are your Spirit. And by breathing, we awaken our Spirit. We are all unique expressions of a single Spirit, so you don’t need any other outsider’s approval. There’s just us, peeps! You are made of light, love and grace. And once you recognize your Spirit, you can live it. Breathe!”
“Ahhhhhhhh,” we chanted again, with such enthusiasm I could actually feel my body vibrating.
“Close your eyes and scan your body to find the tension,” she directed. For many, it was the lower back. One woman said it was her throat. For me, it was my neck and shoulders, not surprising because I sit at a computer all day long. “Once you find the tension, you can find the cause,” Choquette continued, “and learn how to let go of the tension. Now peeps, breathe.”
“Ahhhhhhhhh,” we said in unison.
“I can’t hear you!” she called out.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” we shouted. It felt wonderful.
She then introduced a guitarist, Mark, who sat on a stool, strumming background music. “Mark is going to chant with you.” Mark turned up his mic, then strummed and chanted. Soon, we echoed back what he was saying, even though it was some sort of American Indian language and I didn’t understand what it meant. Our voices echoed in the room and I felt very relaxed and peaceful. I thought about how impatient I am all the time—and how I almost didn’t give the workshop a chance.
“Chanting and music are vibratory fuels,” Choquette added, “music steadies us and keeps us happy. It connects us to the flow, brings us into the present, and opens our heart. So now Mark is going to sing, and we are all going to move. Move your arms, move your legs. Dance around the room. Be free.”
“Stand up,” Mark sang and we all stood and began to sway shyly, mostly staying in place. “Move!” called Choquette, and we moved with the music. Feeling joyous, and suddenly less-restrained, I danced all the way around the room.
When the song was over, we sat. “Okay,” Choquette said, “Now observe that place where you keep your tension.” I rolled my shoulders and moved my neck. They were much looser. Was that all it took, a little chanting and moving? Choquette then broke us into groups of four. We moved our chairs into small clusters as she smiled and said, “Tell the other three people exactly what you’re afraid of. Don’t be shy.”
I looked at the women in my group. One woman spoke up, and said she was afraid of failure; another said her fear was of not being perfect, the third admitted she was afraid she’d never find a soul mate. I said I was always doing stuff and was afraid I’d never be able to relax and slow down. Choquette then said to the group, “Okay, ask yourself: If I didn’t have this fear, what would my life be like?”
She didn’t wait for an answer, and instead asked us to stand. We obediently rose. “Running and walking and dancing are ‘Spirited’ experiences, and laughter is the voice of the Spirit. When you laugh, your spirit sings. If you lose your sense of humor, you lose contact with your spirit. So Mark is going to play another song, and this time we’re going to sing the chorus with him and move at the same time.
By now, we were all looser and moved freely around the room. I sang loudly, not timidly as before. No wonder the workshop was called “The Answer is Simple: Love Yourself, Live Your Spirit,” because the answer was simple. She was trying to teach us how to enjoy life. “Start by simply noticing life around you,” she said. “Look around your environment and notice something you’ve overlooked or have never seen before. And breathe.”“Ahhhhhhhh” we sighed.
Outside, a few branches danced gently in the breeze and a couple of leaves brushed against the window. The sun made dappled patterns through the window to the floor. I hadn’t noticed this before. Maybe that’s what my life would be like if I’d ever give myself enough time to just look.
After this session, we had a two-hour break. I took my lunch on a tray to the flower garden and sat watching a butterfly move from flower to flower. Then I walked down to the lake where a few people lay on lounge chairs or in hammocks beneath shady trees. There was a row of kayaks lined up at the edge of the lake, so I pushed one into the water and paddled towards the opposite shore.
I’ve always been an active person and never miss the chance to do the most physically energetic pursuits. I never sit still. Here I was on the lake, paddling as fast as I could. Why? I asked myself. I couldn’t find a reason. Then, a voice inside my head—maybe it was my Spirit—said, ‘You don’t have to do this!’ I paddled back towards shore, dragged the kayak onto the bank, and plopped down into a hammock.
Above my head, the leaves seemed to smile at me. I stared up at the greenery, the sky, and the clouds. This was the first time I had ever allowed myself permission to do absolutely nothing. How peaceful it seemed. How content I felt. And I realized right then that the answer was simple. I took in as much air as I could and sighed it out, Ahhhhhhhhhh.
Margie Goldsmith an award-winning writer who has been to 114 countries and written about them all, still cannot believe that the answer WAS that simple. Now, ever since her Omega weekend, when she feels stress coming on, she breathes it out with a loud Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh.
Sonia Choquette will teach at Omega again August 6-8, 2010.