Sunny-Side Up Shares “Embracing the Feminine”

cleanse, cultural connection, empowering celebration, Joy, positivity, retreat, Sonal Shah, spiritual reconnection, Sunny side Up, women’s circle

Dear Sister,

My eyes softly open to blackness. Well, I should mention, they are covered with a sleeping mask! I hear birds chirping and the gentle rustle of leaves blowing in the wind. My nose perks up at the clean and grounded scent of mother nature in all its glory.  I slip off said sleeping mask and take in my environment. It is 5 a.m. and I am off the grid in my tent at an all women’s camping adventure in Cave Junction, Oregon.

This is a different kind of vacation.

 cleanse, cultural connection, empowering celebration, Joy, positivity, retreat, Sonal Shah, spiritual reconnection, Sunny side Up, women’s circleStripped of comfort and convenience, we are in our most primitive state. Insects swarm my tent and my legs when I sit on the earth. Cell phones are obsolete, let alone any kind of electricity or technology.  We travel the land on foot with baskets, sip brewed herbal teas, and wash our dishes in buckets.  It has been days since I’ve seen a trash can or recycling bin so I’d better not create any kind of waste!

Raindrops shower us as we embrace the freezing temperatures around a fire started by four women using sticks. In this connection to my ancestors and to the earth, I find myself more connected to myself and to my sisters around me.

This is an empowering celebration of cultures past, a remembering and practicing of basic human skills to ensure the survival of the body and the soul. Together as a community, we remember the simple pleasures of a life lived in balance and harmony with nature.

When 500 women gather in a raw state of open heartedness, nothing exists except the present moment.  Without the frenzy of pulling out our phones or even our journals to take notes to capture every single moment, we are in purity.  The luxury of distraction doesn’t exist here as there is nothing to grab other than oneself, another, or the surrounding energy.

Among the presence of ancient wisdom, I am performing ceremonies and meditative rituals that are invitations to go within myself and see what is there: the pain, the beauty, the ugly, the hurt, the love.

I sit. I am with it.  Eventually, I have to accept it.  I mean, there is nowhere else to go! My eyes well up and I fight the urge for a moment before I release.  Within minutes, I am barefoot sobbing at the foot of a tree grasping the ground.

 cleanse, cultural connection, empowering celebration, Joy, positivity, retreat, Sonal Shah, spiritual reconnection, Sunny side Up, women’s circleFinally, after what I like to call an “emotional excavation,” I look up at this giant, magnificent tree.  I feel depleted, but somehow open.  It is as if someone went into my insides and scooped all the “ickiness” out with a shovel.

I see the women and world around me, and I know sounds are happening, but I don’t hear anything.  I notice a pregnant woman, whose presence simply inspires me. I see an elderly woman who I just want to hug. Humility engulfs this land of people from all walks of life and there is no competition or hierarchy.

Regardless of who we are or what we do, we proceed to hold hands.  I am permeated with safety and gratitude.

Words cannot adequately do justice to the depth of this authentically beautiful and healing five-day experience.  As I process what is happening, I am forever shifted.  The women, children, and elders with me are in their most vulnerable states, so in an effort to honor that sacredness and seal this trip in my heart, I wonder how I will carry this transformation with me as I integrate back into my tribe, my world, and myself?  Going into this magical, intense, clearing, beautiful, incredible gathering, I had no idea what to expect and it exceeded my non-expectations. My muck is gone.  At least for now.

In this turning point, I breathe.

 cleanse, cultural connection, empowering celebration, Joy, positivity, retreat, Sonal Shah, spiritual reconnection, Sunny side Up, women’s circleMy spiritual self ran a marathon, and it was a race where each person won.  Therein the path lied exploration to and through the self. Everyone’s journey through is unique and truly what one makes of it. Sounds a lot like life itself, right?

Going back to La La Land, I am so appreciative of simply sitting in a car.  How did I ever even take the mere act of sitting for granted before? I bask in the sun’s natural glow.

As a human being, I recognize and take ownership of mistakes I have made in the past. I cannot let them hold me back anymore.  It is my duty and responsibility to move forward and embrace the feminine spirit in myself and in others.  We really do need to support one another, especially in these wild times!

This forgiveness is, at the very least it’s a new beginning.  I lean into trust and compassion for myself and for those around me as I am moved, softened, and activated.  So much still scares me, but right now I feel a pride-less desire for creative expression. After all, it is my duty to put into action the dreams of my lineage.

Till next time, sister!

Love,

Sonal

Sonal Shah

Frequently dubbed a ray of sunshine, Sonal Shah is obsessed with making people laugh. Unabashedly charismatic and shamefully insecure, Sonal is an Indian-American actress, comedienne, and vegetarian. A Hollywood Hill-ite with roots from a big family in Chicago bursting with culture and tradition, her definition of success is raising the frequency of the planet by loving yourself and others in a constantly evolving journey. Sonal celebrates living life to the fullest. A warrior of amour, perpetual learner, and (self)certified badass, she seeks to inspire and be inspired by creative, authentic dreamers.

Sonal is an alumnus of Second City Chicago and has appeared on such shows as Scrubs, New Girl, Spaced Out, The PTA, and Transparent. Currently, she recurs on animated shows, The Powerpuff Girls and Costume Quest (which has made her niece and nephew very happy.) She earned her BA in Theatre from Loyola University of Chicago and studied with The Moscow Art Theatre School at Harvard University, The Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade, and Improv Olympic. Sonal was selected to perform in the NBC Diversity Showcase and teaches acting at John Rosenfeld Studios. Also a standup, she has hosted such events as the Asian American Institute for Congressional Studies Gala where she welcomed President Barack Obama.

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Sonal Shah

Frequently dubbed a ray of sunshine, Sonal Shah is obsessed with making people laugh...

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