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Mountain Medicine and Teachings from the Alps

September 14, 20235 min read

It was in the Summer of 2016 when I last traveled to Switzerland on retreat. I was newlywed and had just started a new life with my farmer husband in WI. What I had intended to be one of the happiest periods of my life, had actually quickly transitioned into an ongoing living nightmare. With less than one year of our marriage under our belt my husband had been requesting a divorce. 

That began only 4 months into our marriage, over the dinner table one night when he told me that “He married the wrong wife” and that “I wasn't the wife that he wanted to live his dreams with…” It was all downhill spiral from there.


8 Reasons

Normally when I head off to lead a yoga retreat I'm in a good headspace and excited for the journey ahead, but in my last trip to Switzerland - that was not the case. Me heading off to assist my mentor Ken as his Hiking Guide and Assistant Yoga Teacher to a trip to Europe for 3 weeks happened to coincide with my husband's request for a 'trial separation'. I was shocked and devastated. All I wanted more than anything in the world was to continue to fight what I had spent the previous 10 months fighting for - the marriage, the farm, the dreams.

I had no idea what I was facing - I was on absolutely uncharted terrain. As quickly as all of my dreams began to come together in my life they had just as quickly fallen apart. I kept waking up everyday into my own worst nightmare and I was grasping for anything that I could do to make it go away. 

My life was so uncomfortable, all that I wanted to do was fix things and put them back into place. I didn't want a trial separation. I didn't want to leave. All that I wanted was my marriage. 

But it had become clear to me that I had no other choice, so once it finally happened, I had no choice but to completely surrender to what was happening. By the time the trip arrived, getting on a plane to cross the Atlantic, then a train, and then a gondola, in some ways seemed more comfortable than the life than I was currently navigating. The normal discomfort of jet-lag and uncertainty of awkward travel situations seemed to comfort me and be a reprieve from the discomfort of facing my the uncertainty of my life that was crumbling all around me. 

As heartbroken and devastated as I was, by the time that I arrived to Murren  I was ready for the adventure ahead. I did my best to be the “adventure guide” that I'd have been in many settings - for many years before. Instead of spending my days crying on the floor, I picked myself up and propelled myself up the cleanly manicured and magnificent trails of Murren to climb to the highs of the Swiss Alps every day. 

I enthusiastically encouraged others to “go at your own pace” and “just keep going” one foot in front of the other, while hiking up to the uncharted territory ahead - not all that different than what someone could have told me to approach the challenges in my personal life that I had been facing.

Everyday, I woke up early, and challenge myself to do things that I didn't necessarily want to do. I stepped out of my comfort zone, hiked high to new heights to gain broader views and perspectives, and descended into the comfort of the valleys below. 

One of my favorite things about communing in recreation and time spent in the vastness of the natural world is that it helps to soothe the condition of the human experience. 

That week on retreat was a week full deep teachings - and it gave me just the medicine that I needed to keep moving forward in my life - one step at a time - into the uncharted territory of whatever was lying ahead. 

The Pinnacle of my journey during that retreat was going tandem paragliding over the Lauterbrunnen Valley - running and jumping off an 4,000 Meter drop with a large Swiss man and a parachute on my back. 

Sometimes just medicine that you need in life is to just jump off a cliff to relinquish all control. To totally surrender and completely let go. While floating down freely through the sky with only strings and a parachute I experienced the ultimate sense of surrender, and once that happened I completely let go, souring through mid air. I imagined it was the kind of freedom that birds feel while they glide with their wings spread wide. In that moment, that was exactly what I needed to learn - is to jump wide into the space of the unknown.

And this is exactly what this retreat in Switzerland taught me.

 From the highs of the Alps, that week, I was able to see things from a bigger - and broader - perspective. For every mountain that I climbed as hard and challenging as it was to just keep going, it was teaching me just the lessons that I needed to learn. It taught me that I was strong. I was courageous. That I could live through things that I didn't want to. It taught me that sometimes the mountain ahead isn't so bad to climb after-all, and I could have the patience to let things be revealed - go at my own pace and trust myself to get to where I needed to go. 

Through the journeys of the highs and the lows I began to realize and accept that no matter what happened or what I would return to that my life would keep going... and I would be OK.

When I returned to the US in a few weeks, I wasn't prepared to hear my husband say that he wanted a divorce - but on that week-long retreat had prepared to accept anything that I would be returning to - a peak, a valley, or a meadow in between.

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Brockell Briddle

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