Fluenz x FWFG – How to Change a Life in Seven Days, by Kula member Lies Thys of Belgium
If you ask ten people how their history of finding what feels good began, the answer often is similar. I’m no exception. November 23th 2015, I felt stuck in life. On the surface nothing seemed to be wrong, I had a good marriage, three nice children, a job, a house, nothing to complain about. But deep inside something was withered. Once my heart had been hurt, so much that it had become afraid to allow love inside. I felt closed off, restricted by the deep inability to connect to true and deep feelings. And I felt the urge burn. Something needed to change. I read about chakras and how yoga, especially backbends, could open the heart chakra. That sounded like something that could benefit me. So, I opened YouTube and searched for "yoga".
"Hello my friends, this is your official welcome to the 30 days of Yoga With Adriene," a beautiful young lady said to me, with a smile that right away went through that wall of defense my heart had built up so meticulously. There was no other way than to love her. After less than a minute, I knew we were connected somehow.
I never missed a day of yoga since and day by day she helped me to allow love and deep connection in my life and learned me to let go of the fear to be hurt again.
In October 2016, Adriene came to Europe for her roadshow. In London, for the first time, I could give her a big hug and talk a minute or two. I was so exhausted from the trip from Belgium to London, the long walk to the venue, the excitement, the practice… that I barely found words in English. But that didn’t matter. She was genuinely interested in me, where I came from, tried to remember me from the Kula.
The most extraordinary of that day was that it felt so ‘ordinary’. No need to be star struck, it was Adriene, my ‘little sister’ who I met at home every day.
Five days later we practiced together again, in Amsterdam. There was not enough time for a meet and greet but Adriene recognized me and waved. I decided that one day I would go on a retreat with her, like she did in Nicaragua a few months earlier, started my own ‘yoga retreat money box’ where I put some savings aside regularly.
In the autumn of 2018, Adriene returned to Europe and we met again, in Amsterdam. Ten days before I broke a metatarsal, but my cast couldn’t stop me from being there and practice, modifying where needed, surrounded by some dear friends I found through YWA. Again, I had the chance to talk a few minutes, again I knew: ‘One day, I will spend more time with her’.
March 2019 came, and on a Saturday morning, I got an email, forwarded by one of my yoga friends. "Lies, did you see this?" Big letters shouted on the screen: ‘A YOGA & SPANISH Journey in Mexico’. I devoured the email, saw the price, couldn’t possibly think of spending that much money just on me, I thought I didn’t have a connection with Spanish anyway and put it aside. Yet, after a few minutes I started to feel ‘but… what if…’ and not much later, I sat there, in total confusion. Would THIS be my opportunity to share time with Adriene? My money box didn’t contain enough savings yet to cover all the expenses, but there might be possibilities. The timing was good: our children wouldn’t be having their exams yet. Mexico was far, and yes, there were whisperings that someday there would be a retreat in Europe. But imagine I would wait for that and it would take place right in the middle of the final exams of secondary school of my daughter. Or even worse, when she would graduate? It would be impossible to go then and… Besides, being in a group of only twelve people to share this experience. It would be such an intimate setting, it would be amazing…
"You have been saving for this so long," my husband said. "If you consider doing it, then reserve your spot now. You read you have 48 hours to reconsider. If you wait, it might be too late."
So I pushed the button and realized, flabbergasted, I am going to Mexico. I am going to spend a week with Adriene.
Three days later I had my intake call with Sonia, regarding the Spanish learning part of the journey. I didn’t know any Spanish and I actually never would have thought that I ever would take Spanish classes. Why would I anyway, I didn’t have any reason to learn the language.
I was so nervous about the call. The past couple of days I was stuck on that rollercoaster racing from excitement to second thoughts, anticipation, ‘what have I done???’ over and over again. This little chat would be my first step in making it real. Like, REAL real.
I confessed to Sonia: ‘If it wasn’t for Adriene, I never would have considered taking a Spanish immersion.’ Did I hear a sense of disappointment in the brief silence at the other side of the line? I couldn’t blame her. ‘Hey there, I’m coming to your party, but actually not to see you, but just for your friend.’ ;-)
I assured her that, on the other hand, I didn’t want to come to Mexico to learn to ask ‘dos cervezas’, so that I would start right away with the Fluenz online program, that was included in the fee. And thus my Spanish journey started the next morning.
It didn’t take long until I was hooked to my Spanish classes. My ‘morning yoga’ was replaced by ‘morning Spanish’, which I felt a bit guilty about, but of course, I found ways to fit in my yoga anyway and this was a priority now. The program was built up so attractive and fun that I couldn’t wait what would be next. I studied, rehearsed with the online flashcards and I felt a drive, a flow, I hadn’t experienced for a long time. During winter I had felt close to a bore out. In my job, I assist my husband in an administrative way and it’s barely challenging my brain. I didn’t have enough work to do to fill my day, yet found myself procrastinating, spent hours on social media and online newspapers just to notice nothing had changed since five minutes earlier, and I felt myself slip away in boredom and indifference, which extended through the rest of my activities and household as well.
But now, all of a sudden, my hibernation was over and by the end of May, I had reached the end of level three of Fluenz. I had studied 90 lessons in 2,5 months. -Of course the fact I had to learn French at school for eight years, and my vivid Kula connections, which make me have rich conversations in English daily, were definitely an advantage.-
May 26th, 7 PM local time I arrived at the Pug Seal Hotel in Mexico City, after a night in which I barely slept due to the excitement, and 21 hours of traveling. During the twelve hours flight from Madrid -my stopover- to Mexico, I lost all sense of time and my mind just couldn’t grasp the concept of being at the other side of the world. Because the different participants of our group would arrive spread all over the day, it wasn’t possible for the Fluenz x FWFG team to have everyone welcomed right at arrival, but a nice staff member showed me my room.
‘So, this is it?’ my entangled mind wondered. But that first sense of feeling a bit lost vanished with a knock on the door and the ‘Catch a wave’ tote bag I received, filled with FWFG goodies. Little later I heard voices somewhere near and I guessed it might be other people attending the immersion week. I decided to take a look and met a few of my group members, who just came back from having dinner out. We had a brief chat and then went to bed early. Well, early… at home it was 4 AM, I was awake for 23 hours straight. ‘So, this is it,’ I smiled and fell asleep… to find myself wide awake again at 3 AM. Of course, I couldn’t expect my biorhythm to tackle the time difference overnight. I managed to stay in bed until 5.30 but then the anticipation of the day to come took over. I exchanged a few messages with my family, did some yoga in my room and waited for breakfast and meeting the rest of the group.
It didn’t take long to feel at home. In no time we were talking as if we knew each other for years. We met Nelly, who introduced herself to be our ‘mom’ during this week and who made clear in a very definite tone -and with slightly naughty twinkles in her eyes- that she would take care of us and that we HAD to say it if we needed anything. Looking back, this is a feeling that extended throughout the whole week, in every aspect: only the best was good enough for us.
Finally, the moment we were all waiting for arrived: the official kick off of our Fluenz x FWFG experience, the moment we would meet Sonia and Carlos, our teachers, Belen and Erica -one being Sonia’s right hand, the other Adriene’s- and, of course, Adriene herself. We were welcomed by Carlos and Sonia, who told us more about the Fluenz part of our week and introduced us to our teachers and by Adriene, who revealed a bit of what her part in this week would be. And then our group divided in two: six of us met Adriene in our yoga room to have their first yoga session and, together with six others, I got my teacher of the day assigned. Together with Ana, I walked to the place where I would have my first Spanish lesson.
Maybe it’s time to leave the path of chronological storytelling. Otherwise, I might end up writing a novel. :-)
How can I find words to describe this week? First of all: it wasn’t what I expected it to be, but as soon as I arrived in Mexico, all my expectations vanished, and I completely immersed in the experience which turned out to be just totally perfect for me.
I never ever could have guessed that learning Spanish would bring me so much pure and intense joy. To my own surprise, I had whole conversations in Spanish with my teachers, who, by the way, were real gems. They were a clear example of ‘only the best is good enough’. No teacher was ‘just a teacher’. Nikola was a philosopher as well, Aurelia was a poet,… everyone had that personal way of approaching the language, that unique matter of teaching and every class became an exchange of knowledge and ideas, completely modeled to my needs.
Most of my daily sessions started with the presentation that was prepared just for me, based on my progress, but one of them, for instance, ended with my attempt to explain in Spanish, with hands and feet and a lot of laughter, how I went to Manchester last year, where I did a University of Magic themed escape room with my oldest daughter… (If it might be to your interest: ‘cauldron’ translates to ‘caldero’.)
Together with Erica, another beautiful soul, Adriene lead us through the FWFG part of our week. In the mornings, from six to eight, we were free to use the yoga room to meditate. On Tuesday and Thursday, Erica lead a yoga session for everyone who wanted to join. Due to my biorhythm that tried to stick to a European time schedule, I woke up very early every morning, so I cherished that time in our yoga room. In daily life, I find so little time to meditate, here in Mexico time was abundant and the room was so inviting to sit there in all peace with a few other early birds. One day I found myself alone and after some meditation, I found my own flow, calm and gentle.
Of course, there was yoga with Adriene as well. On Monday and Wednesday, we had a session in our small group of seven, once in the afternoon, the other time in the morning, so familiar, so intimate. She told us she looked forward to these moments as well, so opposite to the mass classes she usually leads. I think everybody was moved at the end of the second class when she rubbed our feet with lavender oil. Could we feel closer, more connected?
After one of the classes, I had the chance to ask her the only alignment question I really struggled with since I do yoga, and that she never would be able to answer from the little screen next to my mat at home. ‘I think I already see it,’ she said immediately when I showed how my upper arms popped inwards when I stretched back in puppy pose. With a few gestures, sitting next to me, she made me feel how widening my arms makes a huge difference.
But Find What Feels Good wasn’t just yoga. On Friday morning we had to be prepared for a surprise, Adriene and Erica told us. I woke up very emotional that day and the sound bath healing that was waiting for us, released even more emotions. I laid on my mat and cried freely, no one would notice anyway, and if they would, I already warned them in our WhatsApp group: ‘Guys, I think my brain got it wrong, I’m having a Found What Feels Good Cry-day’ – instead of the ‘Find What Feels Good Friday’, which would be our theme of the day.
"Abre tu corazon, abre tus sentimientos," the guest lady sang at a certain moment and I realized that exactly this was my struggle. In this ‘bubble of love’, as one of my new friends called it, I longed for nothing more than opening my heart and emotions, to surrender to love, yet I was terrified to lose this feeling of connection, or worse, to be hurt again. Allowing myself to feel all this love made me so vulnerable.
At the end of the session, we were invited to share how we experienced it. "Not now," my mind said, "you’ll cry. Just let it pass. I’ll keep you strong." But I surrendered to my heart, shared my fears, and even though of course this didn’t suddenly resolve everything, my heartfelt relieved and lighter, able to enjoy again.
Our week in Mexico not only contained Spanish and yoga. The Fluenz team made sure we would taste a little of the Mexican food, culture, history, politics, heritage… And again, only the best was good enough.
We had two magnificent guest speakers, who gave a lecture about Mexican history -one about culture, one about politics-. They narrated in Spanish, after every few sentences followed by a superb translation by Carlos.
Sonia arranged a private visit to the anthropological museum, where were guided through two of the twenty two rooms of the museum, containing an impressive collection of Aztec and Mayan art.
We visited the museum of modern art and went to Frida Kahlo’s house, where we learned about the life and art of this wonderful artist.
And on Wednesday evening, Sonia and Adriene invited us for a delicious seven course dinner at Pujol, one of the best restaurants in the world.
Yes, this week was a blissful holiday as well. One week without children and husband, seven days without responsibilities nor taking care. No cooking, no groceries, just be and enjoy, every single second. On Tuesday, I cried out of happiness and gratitude. I felt enormously rich to be able to experience this.
On Saturday both the Fluenz part and FWFG came to an apotheosis. After a short final Spanish class, we had our third yoga class with Adriene, with all our group and even some people of the Fluenz team who joined us. Our mats were spread out in the hotel garden, for a beautiful moment of connection.
Afterwards, we gathered all together at the same purple couches where only a few days earlier our journey started and each of us read a text we wrote in Spanish, to share what we learned during the week, to feel our progress.
After our final goodbyes with Adriene and the Fluenz team, the four others and I had to prepare quickly for a visit to the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon in Teotihuacan, which would take the rest of the afternoon. Some others went to visit a market, one of us already had to catch her plane. After our last dinner at a local restaurant, one goodbye followed after another. Most of us stayed until Sunday, but slowly but surely one by one my new friends departed home, until only me and Marina, my only fellow European, remained. And while we were waiting for our car to the airport, we saw new faces arrive, not at ease yet, unknowing which adventure was waiting for them. The second week of Fluenz x FWFG already was about to start.
I wasn’t mad that it would take me until 6 PM on Monday -European time- before I would have to return to the ‘here and now’ of my daily life. I absolutely needed the traveling time to process at least a bit of what this magical week had meant for me.
In our first yoga session, Adriene asked us to introduce ourselves and to tell ‘why we were here’. She immediately corrected herself: ‘why we thought we were here’. Often, she told us, only afterward we see the real value of an experience, the true meaning. I told the group my story about how I felt this connection with Adriene from the moment I first saw her and how this week would be a dream come true, being able to spend time with her. And yes, even now, more than a month later, I cherish our little chats, the hugs, her words. They are engraved in my memories forever. But already on my airplane back home, I realized Adriene was right. How much I love her, she wasn’t the main reason I had to be in Mexico. She just showed me the way to something else I had to experience: the passion of learning.
Self care isn’t just about the body, the heart, the soul. There’s a brain that wants to be nourished as well. I realized that not only my soul needed something in my life to be passionate about, but my mind as well. And learning a new language, connecting to a whole new world of words and expressions, master grammar, recognize structures, find analogies, was my perfect match. And it still is. From now on, I have two favorite teachers on the internet.
My world has extended tremendously. I have a Kula friend to whom I can write my messages in Spanish now, I started reading a book of Isabelle Allende in the language it was written, and yesterday I finished level four of my Fluenz course. Soon I will take an online class with one of my teachers of the immersion week. I’m already looking forward to a new vivid conversation.
Every now and then I cry. Those are the moments my thoughts wander the path of melancholy. ‘This week will never come back. I’ve met so many amazing people… and I’ll probably never meet them again.’ Then I feel my heart shrink together and my throat cramping. ‘See,’ the wound inside tells me, ‘this happens when you surrender to love. It all ends, you always have to say goodbye.’
‘Lo que construimos se acabó’, Natalia Lafourcade sings, ‘esta historia terminó, no existe.’ What we built is over. This story has ended, it doesn’t exist anymore.
But then I remember that unconditional love doesn’t follow laws of time nor space, that you don’t need to share a room to feel connected. And I return to gratitude, see images of Mexico before my inner eye, reconnect to our love bubble, and I know: this experience will never be more than a heartbeat away.
48 hours after landing in Belgium, I had to take my flute exam. I suffered a major jet lag, but luckily, early evenings were not THAT bad and I still had a secret weapon, the ‘Clear Mind’ spray that we got in our goodie bag.
Together with my teacher, I had to play a duet, a sonata by Mozart. I barely slept the days before and honestly didn’t know if my fingers wouldn’t trip due to fatigue. But then the moment came I had to enter the stage. And while playing the flute, I described the audience what a week I just experienced. My flute sang about passion, joy, and love, about silence and laughter, about the Mexican landscapes and food, new friends and renewed connection.
After the exam, on my way back home, my teacher texted me: ‘The school director decided to grant you 90%. Of course, I agreed.’ Later he told me that the director said: ‘At a certain point, I just forgot I was listening to a teacher and his student, I got completely carried away by the music.’