Stretch Heal Grow: Rainbows and Unicorns

Last August I had to have an emergency root canal. It was in the morning on the day I was supposed to drive up to Muskoka for Stretch Heal Grow.
Jasmin: Are you sure you are going to be able to come up today?
Me: Yup. It’s just a root canal. How bad could it be?
Jasmin: It’s not good S. You can just come tomorrow morning. Leo and I can handle it.
Me: I am coming. See you later!

I got in my car at 3pm, in the pouring rain with my mouth still frozen and drove the three hours to Trillium Resort and Spa. The night before the retreat was always a treat. It was a time for the team to connect and it was a time to bear witness to the magic of Jasmin.
On the subject of magic, I should set the scene of this retreat for you: Imagine a picture-perfect spot in nature, on a picture-perfect lake (it’s called Devine Lake – I swear), with the cutest little cabins and cottages, a spa, yummy food, trails in the woods and a waterfall (not joking). There was no possible way a root canal was going to prevent me from waking up and drinking my coffee with Jasmin on the dock, before the magic happens.

I arrived just in time for dinner and made my way through the muck and puddles to the lodge to meet Jasmin and Leo, the yoga teacher. Somewhere between my pasta and molten chocolate lava cake the biggest, brightest rainbow appeared right outside our window over Devine Lake. Right in our view. All three of us sat silently breathing it in. It was the most beautiful rainbow I had ever seen. No matter how many times I see a rainbow in my lifetime, I am always floored. Completely shocked by the sheer beauty of it and puzzled by its existence. This time was different…I had the feeling this rainbow was meant to be right there for our eyes only. To set the intention for Stretch Heal Grow and to send our leader a sign that this retreat was bigger than her. That the universe was going to care about it for the next three days, and always.

Jasmin: This is a good omen ladies.
Yes. An omen…a magical sign.
I had no idea that this would be Jasmin’s last retreat but looking back it all makes some sense – even though her death makes no sense at all. It was the fifth SHG and we were expecting 23 women to attend this retreat. 23 lucky women and those who attended and are reading this know exactly what I mean by lucky- perhaps a life-changing experience… There is NOTHING lucky about breast cancer, but there is something so special about SHG:

  • An opportunity to connect with other women going through what you are going through. Check.
  • An opportunity to get away from your life for a few days and focus on yourself. Check.
  • An opportunity to explore the benefits of yoga and mindfulness. Check.
  • An opportunity to work through some of the complicated feelings you are having about your life and cancer. Check.
  • An opportunity to meet a real-life unicorn and experience some magic. CHECK.

Jasmin was like a unicorn…
A heraldic representation of this animal, in the form of a horse with a lion’s tail and with a long, straight, and spirally twisted horn. A messenger of sorts, a proclaimer and person that announces. According to unicorn mythology, unicorns straddle the visible and invisible world. They have the power to transform themselves. Symbolically they represent being open to infinite possibilities that surround us (even when we can’t see them) and the wisdom to take advantage of them.

Jasmin transformed herself in the face of cancer. Her spiritual practice of yoga and meditation allowed her to stay open, loving and to find some peace in the darkness. She believed that you can face pain and tragedy AND grow to be the best version of yourself. Don’t get me wrong – I know for a fact that she put a ton of “work” into this practice, but the result was magic.

One was captivated in her presence. I witnessed this over and over again working with her on Stretch Heal Grow and getting to know her as a friend. People gravitated towards her… it was like they wanted to bask in her spirit and her magic. They seemed to desperately want something she had… to unlock the secret to finding yourself again in the midst of pain and sorrow. She compassionately gave people the power to believe anything is possible.

At some point during the retreat last summer I looked in Jasmin’s eyes and knew she was suffering. She was more tired than usual and she was running off of pure adrenalin. I knew in my heart it might be the last time I would witness the magic with my own eyes. But I also knew in that moment that ALL of us who were touched by her, knew her and loved her – we carry her secret.

What is required when we are faced with adversity is a leap of faith or a sense of something bigger than ourselves and opening up our heart to infinite possibilities. Sometimes, we can’t see what possibilities surround us, or that they exist – but they are there. There is a power we need to channel in order to believe in them and see them or feel them. This power allows us to hold space for others even when we are suffering ourselves and it helps us to light up the world. Just like Jasmin. It’s precisely what she wanted.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Gordon

SHG will feel bittersweet for sure this year, but it also marks the beginning of Jasmin’s beautiful legacy for young women coping with cancer. They will be big shoes to fill, but we have many dedicated feet and more women facing breast cancer who need a little magic in their lives. –Shawna Rich-Ginsberg

Want to help send a young woman with breast cancer on the next Stretch Heal Grow? Donate HERE.

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