move. smile. release. Uma Spender (previously Jessie Neave) - name in transition - new website coming soon!

Uma Spender (previously Jessie Neave) - name in transition - new website coming soon!

the art of surrender

A month ago I went to Bali to lead 3 separate & entirely different Retreats. First, I had the great pleasure of hosting my first ever Women’s Retreat. I spent the week indulging one of my great passions - the Goddesses of Yoga Mythology. Straight after that, I had the equally great pleasure of co-hosting the first ever Big Hearted Business Creative Retreat with Clare Bowditch & Pip Lincolne - Creativity & Yoga = Joy! Two HUGE firsts - so much to feel nervous & excited about - so much to surrender to. 
In the lead up to my “accidental” Women’s Retreat (the 2 men that were coming cancelled a month before start) I was trying to write out my plans for classes and a persistent voice kept nudging me towards the Goddesses - I heard all the usual other voices saying things like “don’t be silly, no one signed up for a week learning about them”, “it’s not a safe topic - might be mistaken as religious”, “stick to this other fascinating stuff you’re into like the organ & gland bodies” etc etc. But, the inner voice got stronger, and I reasoned that I should let the Goddesses in, just a little bit.
Then it hit me like a tidal wave - I was on the plane when it happened. This was beyond me - I was not actually going to have a choice about it, all I could do was surrender and let what needed to happen during that week just happen. The following week was like surfing a wave for 7 days straight - I was completely in the flow, sometimes I had no idea what was coming next, which was momentarily terrifying, but I learned quickly to trust that the wisdom that the Godesses hold was exactly what the 12 incredible women who were there with me needed...it was pure magic.
The next week was a whole new adventure, a whole new wave, with double the amountof people and a very different focus, but, I was ready for it this time - completely open, my plans & expectations surrendered. Every day within the group there was huge creative awakenings, tears, the forging of epic friendships and plans for future endeavours- like all the powerful and life changing moments you could have in half a life-time concentrated into the miracle of a week. The most delightful thing for me was to find thatmy gorgeous co-hosts, Pip & Clare, are speaking the same message, exactly & absolutely, but speaking in the different languages of song & craft. And if I had to put that message into a few words it’s this: kindness. love. courage. generosity. discipline. surrender.
Then I discovered surrender comes in many forms…next came the Family Yoga Retreat. I decidedwell before embarking on this that it would be misguided to have expectations with something involving 29 people - especially when half of them are kids. Of course I had a vision & intention, but no expectation. I accepted that this was not going to be like the other 2 radically transformational retreats I had just finished. I knew I was likely going to be more tired than elated most of the time. I accepted all of this, and with boundless amounts of love set out to have a really fun week where we integrated real life with the pursuit of spiritual practice (yoga & meditation - or “deep me-time”), all with our children. My personal intention was simple enough in theory - to remain conscious and surrender to the present moment. Of course, things were not simple and the week quickIy spiralled out of my control. I had a few moments of inward terror as I felt my vision fading away but with a steady practice of awareness I was able to watch the feelings as they arrived (they often sound a bit whingey & annoying, maybe something like “this isn’t fair” or “I can’t cope”), and stop them in their tracks. Remembering my conscious choice to surrender empowered me to turn fear driven feelings into bountiful & expansive love. And, even though things were not as I had imagined and so much circumstance was beyond my control, it was exactly as it was always going to be - beautiful chaos.
The truth is that it’s more than fair, and, I can cope. I am blessed beyond measure, and, I am grateful. Somewhere along the way we (in the West, at least) swallowed the idea that life was easy, that everything should be just as we want it, and we are “entitled” to happiness. Part of the joy of surrender is a deep acceptance of things just as they are - not always waiting in expectation & anticipation of the perfect tomorrow/next week/ next year, but being truly grounded in the present moment - connected to all the potential joy in the now.
Surrendering is easy when life offers you miracles, magic & dreams, but surrendering when things are challenging is where the real growth takes place. Mistakes are where all the best lessons lie - the lessons that are truly learned rather than just theorised. When we fail we grow, unimaginably. We develop resilience and the incentive to explore other options - to try harder, to dig deeper. 
Although I’ll probably never attempt to teach intensively for 3 weeks without a break again (what was I thinking?!) I feel so lucky & grateful to have had the opportunity to surrender & shine on 3 extremely different, heart opening and joyful Retreats… and I’m so excited about the next ones!
Looking forward to seeing you on the mat soon
Jess
ps I've recorded a Yoga Nidra for Deep Rest for you - this one is perfect to do before sleep. Enjoy!
pps I am taking a bit of time to re-do my website over the next month or two, apologies in advance for any technical glitches!