Wanderlust: A Mountain of Peace, Purpose and Paths to Explore

Last month, you may have noticed a couple of dozen or more people walking around town a bit more enlightened, relaxed, happy — all radiating positive energy. They may still be wearing their purple wristbands or, more likely, their mala beads.

Why? Because around 30 or so men and women from the Ohio Valley traveled to Wanderlust Snowshoe for three days of yoga, meditation, breathwork, mountain biking, labyrinth walking, trail hiking, camaraderie, wine, music, conversation. We were 30-plus strong among about 3,000 attendees at the festival at West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort — looking for our “true north.” And helping to find our “true north” is the Wanderlust mission.

“True north is not a final destination: it’s a path, a journey, a yearning to explore and connect to your life’s purpose,” explains Wanderlust officials.

Signs help lead the way to Wanderlust sessions — and to your “true north.” Wanderlust Snowshoe is just one of many Wanderlust weekends across North America.

It was my first time at Wanderlust. And I’m ready to pack up my mat for more.

Was it the crisp mountain air? Was it the smiles on faces no matter where your gaze fell? Was it the top-of-their-game yoga instructors and live DJs? Could it have been the breathwork classes that literally took your breath away? Or the quiet, the sunshine, the friendly vendors, the fried Brussels sprouts that everyone raved about? The music? The hammocks swaying in the breeze?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.

I’d heard tales that it would be life-changing, relaxing, peaceful, challenging, positive, blissful, accepting.

And it was. All that and more.

There was time to reflect. Time to set intentions. Time to work on being your best self. Time to work on your warrior one. Time to meditate. Time to laugh with friends — old and new. Time to zip-line. (No, not for me this time.) Time to sip a cup of morning coffee on your porch overlooking the plaza, watching the Wanderlust world waking up and walking by. Time for shopping. (There were great vendors!) Time for healthy, delicious dinners. And time for wine. (There’s always time for wine.) There was even time for “silent disco” dancing. (Google it. It’s a blast.)

There was a lot of time to learn, with more than 200 sessions from which to choose (choosing was the hardest part!) over the three days.

Some of the instructors have literally written the book on their specialties:

  • Like Davidji. Mindful. Mind-blowing. He’s written a couple of bestsellers about stress, peace, meditation and personal transformation. After 20 years in the world of finance, he apprenticed under Deepak Chopra, then served as the COO of the Chopra Center. He’s trained more than 200,000 people to meditate. He trained me to meditate.
    DAVIDJI (Photo by Amy Dobkin)
  • Like Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine, a community of teachers focused on fusing the best of anatomy and western medicine with the traditional practice of yoga. She showed a video in which she blew into the windpipe to expand the lungs of a cadaver, so we could really see how we breathe. A featured expert in numerous publications, she was amazing and commanded the room of more than 200 yogis who attended her classes.
    Tiffany Cruikshank instructs a roomful of yogis.
  • Like Rob Anderson and Emily Lindenmuth, massage therapists, breathwork healers, energy workers. Healing is their passion. Their class, which I lovingly call, “smoke and mirrors,” was one of the most incredible experiences that I can’t even begin to explain — although Rob and Emily describe it as a “powerful and transformative active meditation technique that uses breath to purge the body of pent-up stress and emotional blockages.” Everyone I know who spent time in one of the sessions wondered, “What just happened in there?
  • Like Chelsey Korus, one of yoga’s foremost teachers, featured on PopSugar, Yoga Journal, Shape and one of the top teachers on Yogaglo.
  • Like Caley Alyssa, who teaches yoga and love — how you feel in your body and how you feel in your heart. Her message? “Love yourself, and you’ll experience more connection with others.”
  • Like Ken E. Nwadike Jr., peace activist, video journalist and YouTube personality best known as the Free Hugs Guy, founder of the Free Hugs Project.

After a weekend of all that, you can’t help but be changed. You walk differently in your body and in the world — with a new attitude and a decidedly slower beat.

Some of the Wheeling contingent walk the Wanderlust labyrinth at night. (Photo by Amy Dobkin)

You are thrilled to see someone at the grocery store who experienced Wanderlust, too. If you’re a veteran Wanderluster, you are so excited that the newbies loved it. If it was your first time, you are thankful those who went before you said, “DO NOT MISS THIS. YOU’VE GOT TO GO.” And you’re even more thankful you listened.

You do more yoga. You try to keep up with your meditation practice. You smile more. You accept. You are grateful.

You breathe easier. You just breathe. All thanks to Wanderlust.

I think I may have found my true north.

• After nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Phyllis Sigal has joined Weelunk as managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.

OTHERS REFLECT: Making Connections. Unplugging. Opening hearts. Hitting pause. And oh, that mountaintop.

Joelle Connors, external affairs manager, American Electric Power

Meditation has positively affected all areas of my life including personal, professional, financial, emotional, mental and physical. I attribute recent weight loss to this. Many people comment that I’m “glowing” and ask what I’ve been doing or how I achieved this. The answer is simple: learning to meditate at Wanderlust. If you think you can’t meditate because your mind is too busy, then you’re exactly the person who should learn. That is what it is for.

The coolest thing about Wanderlust is that everyone’s experience is personal yet there is a collective experience of community.

Joelle Conners challenges herself with AIReal Yoga.

Laura Hitchman, yoga instructor, life coach

This was my first year to attend Wanderlust Snowshoe, or Wanderlust period. I had agreed to stay in town for the weekend and all the Happy Goat Yoga classes, but at the last minute decided to invest! I had absolutely no expectations for the festival, so my mind and my eyes were open to all possibility that existed on that mountain. … What I had thought was that I would have fun going to classes and playing in nature, but what I didn’t expect were the countless new friendships and connections with impactful teachers/speakers/influencers.

As a life-long student, my experience in the classes left me in tears numerous times because my body needed a release. I needed to connect to my soul, my heart — and the teachers at Wanderlust gave me that space. Instead of backing away from heart-opening poses like wheel, I went for it and felt the energy leave my body. The sweet, salty taste of the tears I left on my cheeks for everyone to see. It was raw, honest and no one judged me or questioned it because yogis have this language. They just get it; no need to pry or make a deal of it. It’s remarkable the human connection that can be built without words.

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As a teacher, I was inspired and motivated to continue to hone in on my craft, to share the deeper message behind why we get on our mats and to give my students the opportunity to make their practice their own. Everything about this event was magical! Simply magical, from the location, to the teachers, to my new friends, to the food, the lectures and the vendors. The energy on that mountain filled me at my very core, and all I want to do is create and share that same energy here with our community in Wheeling! I left the festival feeling lighter, happier, healthy and a whole lotta sore, but I’m not complaining.

My favorite thing about Wanderlust is that you could go to this festival alone and meet new friends just like that. Yogis are welcoming and happy to embrace you for who you are so you feel comfortable and at ease the entire time. Everyone is there in unity.

Laura Hitchman, right, with Emily Shortall.

Kathy Szafran, president and CEO of Crittenton Services

Wanderlust was very calm and tranquil this year. The weather was perfect!! I focused on yoga medicine and meditation with Davidji. We decided one night to stay in and have facials.

Cindy Becker, Jane Lambie, Lori Poe and Kathy Szafran enjoy a facial night.

Lea Ridenhour, vice president of trust and investment services, WesBanco

It was wonderful to be there with my husband (Eriks Janelsins) and do some things together and some things independently. I failed to follow my own advice and scheduled myself to the point of physical exhaustion, in a good way. By my last class on the first day, my arms were shot. I tried some different things that were outside my comfort zone. Slackline (not for me) and yoga medicine class (fascinating) were great.

I remember turning to Eriks and saying, “There are no a**holes in yoga,” which is true. Everyone there comes with an open heart and open mind or are least making an effort to get there.

I found my mala* — or it found me. If you read about mala selection, you’ll see references to perhaps being drawn to a certain one. You see it, and that’s the one. When I read about the individual stones that make up mine … labradorite, moonstone, pearl and larimar … it was perfect for me. (*meditation beads.)

And it was wonderful to have a huge Wheeling yoga contingent there … to be able to see that our little haven of wonderful is part of something so much larger. And the quiet … the relative escape from electronics and work email. That’s a plus.

Lea Ridenhour discovered that slackline was “not for me.”

Cindy Fluharty, attorney, Jackson & Kelly

Having seen Facebook postings last year from several friends who attended, I asked myself why was I not there!? How did I not know about this! …

Hit the pause button — I think that’s my takeaway. I realize I have a pretty good grounding and am not searching for answers. I know myself, and I have a pretty good grasp of my place in the universe. Daily life, however, keeps me from connecting with that larger universal energy much more than it should. So Wanderlust Snowshoe gave me permission to pause, to reflect, to connect with something grander than my everyday public life. And what a setting! Who knew there was this oasis on the mountaintop! Shame on me for not having taken advantage of it before.

Along with pausing, I got to connect. And connecting didn’t always mean speaking. Much was said between us without uttering a word, and sometimes, we were plain dumbstruck from speaking as we were trying to process, soak it in. Connecting with other like-minded souls from Wheeling was a tremendous gift, knowing there are others close by who feel a need to pause, to connect, to remember what holds their stars apart and their universe together. That question from Davidji (What holds your stars apart, and your universe together?) is what reverberates in my head, and was the most beautiful question I’ve been asked in a long time.

Cindy Fluharty and Phyllis Sigal strike a pose on the mountaintop.

Jessie Tierney, Wheeling Jesuit University physical therapy student, yoga teacher  

It was really special to spend the weekend up on the mountain. I was happily surprised by how many familiar Wheeling faces I saw, and that just speaks to the strength of the yoga community that Lindsay (Schooler) has cultivated through Happy Goat Yoga Studio. The strongest theme I felt throughout the weekend was community — the importance of taking care of ourselves as individuals so that we can better serve those around us, and also the ability to really trust and let go, to be held and nourished by community. I felt so loved and supported by both friends and strangers alike at the festival, and I think that is the true meaning of yoga — union.

The weekend gave us all the uninterrupted opportunity to practice opening our hearts to receive love and to give love. I am so grateful that I was afforded the opportunity to attend.

Jessie Tierney at the Wanderlust Bucket Drum Circle with Druminyasa.

Sarah Wood, customer engagement manager at Reinhart Foods, yoga teacher

I attended Wanderlust last year for the first time and had an incredible time but this year surpassed it for so many reasons. For me, Wanderlust is partly about the education that I receive to grow my practice to share with others when I teach. To be able to come together with so many like-minded individuals with one loving mindset at the heart of us all is so recharging. The ability to reconnect with the core of my being and find that peace of mind is so crucial in today’s world. I just wish there was a way to connect beyond my teaching the love that was shown up on that mountain with more people every single day. The yoga community here in Wheeling is incredible and I am so lucky to be a part of it and to show others acceptance and self-love.

Yoga teacher Sarah Wood, left, with Lindsay Schooler, owner of Wheeling’s Happy Goat Yoga Studio.

Amy Dobkin, community relations manager, Southwestern Energy

Meditation is a big part of my life, and I was excited for the opportunity to use Wanderlust to deepen my practice and to practice yoga with a larger group. I knew that I would love the event, but never could have anticipated how deeply therapeutic and restorative it would be. My schedule was heavily weighted in meditation and breathwork, and through these classes, I was able to focus on letting go of the baggage — the regrets, the guilt, the grief — the stuff that weighs me down. The outcomes were so impactful. I was able to experience such deep personal reflection and release.

Also, simply being at Snowshoe forced me to unplug, and that alone is priceless. The experience was transformative and grounding, and I left the mountain with a lighter heart.

Some of the Wheeling crew, from left, Phyllis Sigal, Jennie Wolfe (Alexandria, Va.), Cindy Fluharty, Amy Dobkin and Joelle Connors.

Liz Hofreuter, head of school, Wheeling Country Day

Wanderlust is a gift we give ourselves— we take a step out of our lives and slow that pace down until we remember the peace in our hearts by being present in the moment. I only wish we could carry it with us in all the weeks that follow.

Liz Hofreuter, right, with Claire Norman, a kindergarten teacher at Wheeling Country Day School.