Opening My Eyes at The Yes Camp

Since the end of my planting contract I had about a week to unwind and relax. In the next week Steven and I headed to Kelowna to visit our trainer and go through our conditioning program. After a full week of training we drove out to Calgary to visit Stevens surgeon (who only had good news). A soon as we were recovered and energized again we headed full force into our training, nine training sessions a week; four lifting in the gym, two hill climbs on the road bike, and three recovery sessions in the pm.  Training like this is difficult, it puts a lot of strain on your body and you have to learn to listen to what your body needs. At the end of the day and even more so at the end of the week it feels great though to know you’re done and that you have done something great for yourself – that you have been putting your foot in the right direction toward your goals.

This past week though Steven and I had the chance to experience something completely different; something that was positive for our out look on life, that broadened our ideas, and showed us something new. It became a week out of our lives that wasn’t related to our racing lives, of training, traveling, or making money. It was time where we were allowed to be ourselves and discover new things.

At 10:30 am on Sunday my parents dropped us off at the Kelowna Greyhound station where we expected a passenger bus to pick us up. Instead a big yellow school arrived.  A total of six boarded the beast and we ourselves comfortable for the long journey to Cowichan, BC to experience The Yes Camp. I know for certain that both Steven and I were uncertain about where we were being taken and what lay ahead of us. Although I was still open to this new experience, and knew that it would be an opportunity to learn, even so it was only a week.

A very windy ride on the ferry

A very windy ride on the ferry

When I arrived at camp after a ferry ride and another bus ride with forty or so strangers I had no idea about the laughs I would share, the tears I would draw or the connections that I would make with these people.

On the same night that we arrived we started off with some ice breaker games, and then established the “Free Zone”. As a group we agreed upon things that we would leave be-hide us like judgement or exclusion and things that we would embrace every day like love or breaking out of our comfort zones.  In that moment I had no idea how important this task would be in creating an environment where you were allowed to express yourself without judgement of your peers or strangers.

The Free Zone – Photo Credit Morgan Benedict

On the same night we divided into color groups of about nine people and moved to separate buildings where we were to partake in Reflections. The group that I was in gathered in a small wooden cottage. Together we formed a circle around two candles in the dark room. In this place and time we were allowed to express ourselves – any feelings or emotions – the atmosphere became completely judgement free and nothing we said would leave the room. Some nights we were asked questions arising happy memories and other times very strong emotions were released. On more than one occasion these ceremonies brought tears to my eyes – happy ones and sad ones. This is probably one of the strongest parts of The Yes Camp – making it different from other camps. In these times I learnt a lot about myself and about the others around me. It became a very special experience to share with amazing and beautiful people.

The first full day I was unsure as to what I was doing in this place where grugs (group hugs), cuddle puddles (exactly what they sound like), dressing up in ridiculous costumes, random dancing, and talking in strange voices was acceptable. Sometimes it made me feel like a child again, but I knew I could either leave here with regrets or embrace it full on. As the next day went by I realized that it was okay to be this way and that was when I began to grow into camp.

The last night – Photo Credit Morgan Benedict

During this week the forty of us partook in many new experiences. Everyday was long and filled with a lot of activity and a ton of learning. Then at the end of the day I would look back and could hardly realize where the time had gone. Nearing the end of the camp I began to realize the things that I had gained from this short amount of time. I realized this new appreciation I had discovered for the wonderful things in my life: having a positive childhood, growing up in a wonderful community and beautiful town, amazing, loving and passionate parents, and a friend and partner who loves deep down in every which way. Somethings I am sill realizing, like the positive energy and motivation I brought back with me from the people I was able to share these thing with. This camp also made me want to do something positive in the world. I will have to reflect upon this idea. I know that I would like to go back as a camp leader and staff to help grow this magic and continue to make the younger generations realize what they are capable of.

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