I believe that when we allow the flow of the Universe to guide us, miracles happen. That’s exactly what I experienced on my solo road trip to Feathered Pipe Ranch in Montana for the Big Sky Bhakti Bliss Yoga retreat with the incredible Nat Kendall.
Let me start at the beginning. About a year ago I stumbled onto the Feathered Pipe Ranch web page as I was recovering from my foot surgery and dreaming about running retreats one day. I joined their mailing list and a few weeks ago, something compelled me to click through on an email from the Ranch. If you know me well, you would know that email is my Achilles heel–I really get no joy from it and avoid it at all possible costs. But there I was, and one click led to another and I found myself perusing the upcoming retreats and was captivated by the name Big Sky Bhakti Bliss so I clicked again. It happened to be scheduled for a week in July that I didn’t have the kids and there was literally nothing on my calendar except for the Full Moon on July 13th. I couldn’t stop thinking about it; I was craving adventure and searching for answers for the next chapter of my life, so even though I had no idea who Nat Kendall was, I bit the bullet and signed up for the last accommodation available, the Sai Condo (more on this magical lodging in posts to come). What started as a weird hunch, led me on the most incredible soul journey, guided by butterflies and bumble bees.
Follow the butterflies
My journey began with a recommendation from a friend to stop at Bonneville Hot Springs on my way up to the Sawtooth mountains for my overnight stay en route to Feathered Pipe Ranch. As I drove along the winding roads of highway 21, windows rolled down, music blasting my soul playlist, I started to notice more and more butterflies. Butterflies are my spirit animal, and as I became increasingly surrounded by them as I approached the hot springs, the first tears of my soul journey started to roll down my cheeks. I was overcome with emotion, aware that I was being affirmed for my spontaneous decision to invest in myself and this yoga retreat. After a short hike into the springs, I stumbled across a kaleidoscope of butterflies that marked my arrival. Yellow butterflies fluttered everywhere that I could see, along with some black, some white and some orange butterflies. For a blissful hour and a half, I bathed in the healing crystal waters as the butterflies danced around me, hawks flew overhead, clouds drifted slowly across the ever-changing blue sky, and my heart soared. It was like peeking inside my soul and I knew that I had come a LONG way on my sacred journey from that place where I first heard about Feathered Pipe Ranch just one year prior. My heart was full as I blissed out in the relaxing waters. It felt as though the Universe was holding me in a warm embrace and so I paused to gave thanks for that moment, acknowledging the joy and the beauty of the journey…not just to Montana, but for all that I have travelled since the undoing of my marriage (and life as I knew it) back in the summer of 2019.
We Are Here
Eventually it was time to journey onwards and I continued along with the company of my musical soul playlist, in search of a place to stay for the night. As I approached the Sunny Gulch Campgrounds, just outside of Redfish Lake, Alicia Key’s velvety voice started to sing “We Are Here”. As I started to sing along with her, I heard the words she was singing, gave a good laugh, then decided that I should pull into the campground with a hopeful heart that I would find a no-reservation spot on this Friday afternoon in the middle of July. Not only did I find a spot, but it had a view of the gorgeous Sawtooth Mountains with a river just a few steps away. Thank you, spirit guides: you know that music is the language of my soul and you let me know that I had arrived. It was a beautiful afternoon of reading by the river, followed by an evening of live music down at the Redfish Lake lodge with a frosty cone. How does it get any better than this? I thought as I drifted off to sleep in the back end of my car, Luna.
The next morning I rose with the sun and set off early for part two of my drive to Feathered Pipe so that I could meander at my own pace, listening to the heartbeat of the Universe. As I drove on and continued to listen to my soul playlist, tears uncontrollably streamed down my face. They were happy tears, sad tears, expansive tears, hurtful tears, angry tears, confused tears, nervous tears, grateful tears; so many inexplicable tears as I travelled along the majestic scenic highway that connects Idaho to Montana, through the birthplace of Sacajawea, along the Lewis and Clark trail. At one point I screamed aloud “What’s the purpose of this journey? What is it that my soul needs to know? What lessons am I here to learn?” Immediately I was smacked in the face by a bug that flew through my open window- the timing was comical! After mildly freaking out, I looked down to my armrest to notice a bumble bee lying there. A bumble bee! It appeared that the impact into the side of my head took his life, or at least momentarily put him in a coma. So now, of course, there was just one question to be asked: what’s the spiritual meaning of a bumble bee?
As I stopped for lunch in the quaint town of Deer Lodge, I got my answer:
From pure-spirit.com:“The bee symbolizes community, brightness and personal power. Follow the bee to discover your new destination”
Damn, I thought. That’s good. It went on to include words such as the sun, the goddess, celebration, community, strong past life connections, power of service and tasting the nectar of life. I don’t think a day went by while at the Big Sky Bhakti Bliss Yoga Retreat where Nat didn’t mention pausing to enjoy the nectar of life. Seriously, those exact words: the nectar of life. He would remind us daily that we had the liberty each day to delight in the wonders of the world around us; nothing has to be a slog if we could approach life with a grateful heart and a playful mindset. “The sun, the goddess, celebration, community, strong past life connections, power of service and tasting the nectar of life” all presented themselves in very tangible ways during my stay at Feathered Pipe Ranch. More to come on that soon.
Every day, after our morning meditation and practice on the outdoor nature deck, I’d venture off to the stupa to write. From that peaceful spot on the ranch, I could feel the warm breeze on my skin, listen to the song of the birds and tune in to my center as I wrote. One day, two bumble bees accompanied me: one on my sandal and the other on my water bottle. I did my best not to freak out, not to allow fear of a sting prevent me from receiving the message from one of the spirit guides of this journey: taste the nectar, Andrea. Bring home the sweetness of life with you! A big part of the next chapter of my life is to create a community, which I believe has already begun with the Sisterhood of the Moon and I am delighted to see what will be next. I don’t have the answers, and it’s best that way. Had I been able to see twenty years into the future from that July evening when I exchanged wedding vows, I never would have made the walk down the aisle. It would have been too much for me to take in and I would have feared the anguish. But I can see now that everything that I have lived and experienced has been a necessary step along my soul’s journey to lead me to where I am today and, perhaps more importantly, who I am today.
As I sign off from this post about the spirit guides who accompanied me on my journey to Feathered Pipe Ranch, I want to leave you with a beautiful little song about the butterfly and a mermaid from Xavier Rudd’s album, Spirit Bird (yes, he wrote a song about a butterfly and a mermaid…be still my heart). This album has been resonating deeply with me lately, and as I drove through the birthplace of Sacajawea and Native American Territory on my way to Montana, my heart cried for the beautiful people who lost their lands and their peaceful way of living with nature. I believe we would all experience more peace and harmony in our lives if we would spend more time outdoors, in community with those we love, giving honor to the Earth, and participating in the activities that ignite our soul with passion. Maybe we cannot live everyday in the Feathered Pipe way, but just for today I invite you to step outside and watch a butterfly dance overhead and taste the nectar of life! And as always, you’re invited to share how it makes you feel in the comments below! 🙂