Holding the Space: Katherine Austin as India

March 31, 2014
Katherine Austin Wooley


When you go on retreat, especially one to India, all the way on the other side of the globe, it matters who your retreat leader is.

Is this person strong enough to hold the space for whatever may follow? Is this a person you're comfortable turning to if you eat the wrong food or get homesick or better yet, have the time of your life and just want to process the transformation?

Because when you go on retreat - whether Up North, to Song of the Morning for a yoga and meditation journey like the one set to take place this coming Memorial Day weekend, or all the way to India, for Katherine's recent (and next year!) India Yoga Retreat - you want to make sure you're in great hands.

In the beginning of our recent journey to India, Katherine mentioned something about "holding the space." At first, I didn't know what she meant. Then I began to see.

People were elated, having incredible revelations and explorations. People were down at times, too, in such a different culture, so far away from home and the familiar routine of our western lives. All of the emotions swirling about could mean at times we make perfect sense and at times, we become a bit challenging to be around.

Because you know, when you travel, all your stuff comes up - your anxieties and fears, your wishes and dreams. Some people even look at their lives, with the gift of distance, and discover they want to change everything, and change it fast.

Woah. That's a lot to take on. And Katherine does it beautifully.

Outside the window of the train...

When we first arrived to Rishikesh, after a long train ride from Amritsar, which was a constant sensory overload, I felt like I was at my limit. I have to admit, I had a little tantrum (happily, I think my only one on the trip!). I turned to Katherine and announced that I would leave two days early to go to a very expensive, very chic spa in the mountains frequented by Oprah.

Katherine looked at me with a smile and said, "Whatever you need to do."

Of course, I didn't go. I couldn't imagine leaving even an hour early. And when it came time to leave, my eyes welled up. Parting was indeed very sweet sorrow.

My outburst was prompted by my own emotional processing, and thank God Katherine was right there to let me have my wave of emotion - and let it pass. Had she responded with her own emotions, feeling threatened or controlling, it just would have made everything worse. That is the key to being a great retreat leader: holding the space so others can go through their own transformations.

Here are some great quotes from others on the trip, about Katherine as the consummate retreat leader. (Have you booked yourself on next year's India journey yet? Go to it! It's going to sell out!)

From Mitchell Shek:

"I have been on many different trips to many exotic places. This was without question, the most authentic and well-run trip I have ever been on. With all the different connections and activities, there were zero problems. However, I think what made the trip so enjoyable was the spontaneity that was allowed because of the experience of our host Katherine. Because of her confidence and experience, she was able to be flexible with our activities. If something was interesting, we did it. We hiked in the Himalayas, whitewater-rafted down the Ganges and went to the Beatles ashram. All of this was done on a moment's notice and for very little money. I would never have taken this trip without a strong leader who knew the 'lay of the land.' Her patience and knowledge of the area, took what was already a great trip to the next level. Best Trip Ever!!! Can't wait to go back."

From Pat Halloran:

"Katherine planned a wonderful India experience for us. We were able to experience many different facets of the country while proceeding at our own pace spiritually. Everyone seemed to have different needs on this trip and while some people's needs seemed more pressing to them, Katherine was able to hold a sacred space for each of us. It was wonderful to come together as strangers and leave feeling a deep sense of connection."

From Stephen George:

"I have been practicing yoga since the mid-1970's and have been teaching yoga since 2009. For me, yoga is no longer a 'stretch and flex' activity. Yoga is a mind-body experience that takes us off the mat and into life-changing experiences that transcend our normal routines. Yoga is about learning to face our daily challenges and making the correct decisions to deal with these challenges. This trip to India was the most challenging yoga class of my 40+ years of practicing and teaching yoga. Katherine Austin put this trip together in such a way that every day was a new challenge to our senses and perceptions. She put together a woven, purposeful tapestry of the colors, sights, sounds and spirituality of India so that we could experience her beauty and mystique from the inside-out. What a fantastic, transcending experience! Finally...every detail of this trip was organized and well-thought-out. The schedule was perfect and every detail was covered - from hotels and shuttles to planes and trains. The people in our group were able to enjoy all the nuances of what India has to offer without worrying about the details. Many thanks to Katherine and to all my new friends with whom this trip was shared."

Read More

Writing + Yoga in Northern Michigan this July

April 14, 2014
The goal of yoga is to connect your physical self with your soul. Union. To yoke the two together. And in class at Karma Yoga, we see that happen day by...

Yoga: Keep Coming Back

April 7, 2014
You want to take your first yoga class; you're scared, excited and nervous all in one.  You've heard for years that yoga is good for you.  It reduces...

Riding The Waves of Life Ganges Style

April 3, 2014
It was a Monday morning, the last leg of our adventure.  I woke up with a good head cold that was not going to let me ignore it.  I guess I was paying...