As it happened: Lead with Love France
Yoga, meditation, but also wine tastings and experiential workshops to learn to place love at the heart of all actions: the Lead with Love France Retreat brought together more than 60 participants in Beaune from May 7th to May 12th.
Wednesday May 7th. 3 PM.
In Beaune, this afternoon, the sky is as grey as the pebble stones in the streets of this world famous Burgundy town, nested in the heart of the most prestigious vineyard in the world. It is pouring rain and the temperature is unusually cold for this time of the year. Yet, my heart melts with joy and excitement as I approach the Hospices de Beaune, one of France’s most prestigious historic monuments, where “Lead with Love France” will be taking place.
It is the first time that the Aspen-born organization is coming to Europe for a retreat. The event mixes yoga, meditation, workshops, and… wine tasting. Yoga and wine? One could think it is an oxymoron. But Lead with Love will prove they have actually a lot in common.
As a matter of fact, my friend and I did not wait until the fabulous cocktail party opening the summit to treat ourselves with the local beverage. As soon as we arrived in Beaune, we ordered a glass of Beaune Village with our lunch. Just one, because as we say in French, « everything in life is a question of moderation », and this wine region itself, with its tiny parcels, small production and pricy bottles is a call to choosing quality over quantity.
Behind the idea of mixing yoga and wine in Beaune is my friend Gina Murdock. We met over 20 years ago in Colorado. I was a French foreign student at the same college she attended. Fate brought us together on a trip to Santa Fe, the very first week I had arrived. We’ve been friends ever since.
A writer, yoga and meditation teacher, inspirational speaker and community organizer, Gina founded, a non-profit organization dedicated to shifting culture from fear to love.
Of the many retreats she organized, this one in Beaune is the first to combine her passion for yoga and meditation with her husband’s passion for food and wine.
And it’s a hit! People have come from all around the world to attend: on top of locals and Parisians, there’s Stella, from Tuscany, Yuri, from Zurich, Robbie, from San Diego, and even Lisa, who came all the way from Buenos Aires “especially for Rod Stryker”.
Wait… Rod Stryker? Yes, I didn’t tell you yet! We’ll have the master, the world renowned teacher all to ourselves for the entire retreat! But we’ll talk about that later. Right now, the inaugural cocktail party is going on inside the big, vaulted ceiling covered with ancient tapestries that is going to be our yoga studio for the next three days. Delicious food made out of fresh products from a local farm is served together with rosé wine. All participants are invited to take off their shoes, eat and consciously, meet, chat, and enjoy the moment… One pleasure at a time.
Thursday May 8th. 9:30 AM.
Minutes earlier, the room was resonating with the vibration of the sound bowls ending the morning meditation session. But right now, it’s all very quiet. Over 60 people are lined up in front of Rod Stryker, waiting for him to start his first class. In the US, he’s a celebrity. His classes and trainings are always full. “You don’t realize how lucky we are to have him here in Beaune, so accessible”, says Sabrina, an American yoga instructor now based in the South of France.
Actually, I do realize. With his deep voice, clear words, simple instructions, Rod Stryker takes it to the next level. His classes are so rich, thought-through and dense that they seem like a journey. Yet, there’s nothing complicated about his yoga: anyone could do it, even a complete beginner, provided they speak English.
After the first class, I can feel my third eye like never before. Wait, have I transformed into a cyclops?!
No, I am definitely a human, rooted on Earth, even more so now that I am seated at a long, elegant table lit by candle lights and enjoying a delicious lunch cooked with yummy veggies from the farm. They come from Les Loups Bio, a small local farm dedicated to growing organic vegetables and preserving a way of life where man and nature live in harmony.
The farm owner, Celine, is here to speak about her job. She took over her father’s farm together with her brother a few years ago. Together, they grow and distribute rare seeds in order to encourage the diversity of agricultural crops threatened under the influence of big crop seeds companies.
Authenticity, gratitude, patience, roots and anchoring: really, what she says to us has a lot in common with yoga.
Friday May 9th. 4:30 PM
Yoga is not only a physical training, it is, first and foremost, mental and spiritual. Seated on chairs, we’re listening to Rod Stryker talk about “tantric wisdom”. “Our mind is like a garden, he says. It’s made of good seeds and bad seeds. To become the architect of our own destiny, we have to feed the good seeds by putting our conscious attention into those positive fields”.
Gina could not agree more. The day before, she was leading together with her team, Nicole and Abby, a workshop on how to “lead with love”. « To relieve stress, anxiety and switch from fear to love, there are techniques that can be taught and put into practice with efficient results. Love is a choice”, says Gina. Her team has come up with an 8-steps method aiming at replacing negative judgments we have about ourselves and others with positive affirmations. A pen, a piece of paper, free form writing and a group of people to discuss your findings with: here, we work on love as we would work in a garden, with patience, effort, humility and respect.
Saturday, March 10th. Noon
We’ve talked about love, but what about wine? Well, Diana Seysses is actually here to tell us a bit about it. The Napa native splits time between her family's Cabernet vineyards and Burgundy's Domaine Dujac, where she works as an oenologist together with her husband Jeremy Seysses and brother in law, Alec Seysses. A few years ago, they converted this 15.5 hectares of vines in Morey-Saint-Denis into organic farming. « The vines teach us modesty, she says. We have to take into account the weather, the seasons, and never forget we owe everything to nature and should always protect her. ».
After her talk, a handful of lucky people (the ones who either paid their ticket at the “Suporter level” rate, or are friends with Gina and Jerry) were taken on a tour of Domaine Dujac.
They also got to attend the fabulous Renaissance Revival fundraiser inside the Hospices de Beaune. This event included an incredible array of fine wines from the famed cellar of Jerry Murdock and featured winemakers in conversation about their philosophy on winemaking. People were encouraged to dress up in a Renaissance attire and lots of them actually did. Last but not least: Rod Stryker was DJing! How fun! I felt fantastic dancing to techno music in my puffy dress!
The next day, we met over a delicious breakfast served in town. It was time to say goodbye after those five fabulous days. Five days to slow down, consume consciously, steep ourselves in the deliciousness of life.
Good news: I’ve heard that Lead with Love will be coming back to France next year.
I am really excited about that. Stay tuned if you’d like to join! And don’t forget to water your good seeds. Namaste.
About The Author
A free-lance journalist based in Paris, Claire mainly works for the international news channel France 24 as a line editor and anchor. She loves traveling, chocolate meringues, Italy, singing to her 8-month-old little girl, and of course doing yoga while sipping wine upside down.
© Juliette Coste Photography