The ANTACARA experience: Find your frontiers

What if you had 5 days to be in a magical location to explore and focus on yourself, and your potential? Antacara means “frontier” in Sanskrit. The experiences they host are a personal development journey towards your life’s frontiers.

Have you ever noticed the older we get we lose our sense of exploration and play? Our days get dictated by the grind and path we think we’re supposed to be on rather than the one we feel itching inside. We often feel stuck, and it tends to take something extreme like health issues related to burnout or a complete breakdown to wake up. What if there was another way? What if we could discover these things before it’s too late?

In my own journey I’ve experienced burnout and health related issues due to stress (I’ve written about what living in France has taught me about that), and on the flip side have learn about priorities and intention from losing my mom to cancer. Finding my own path is something I’ve intentionally been working on for a long time now, but that doesn’t mean I’ve reached my destination. And just because I’ve been working on this part of myself doesn’t mean the work is done. Others explored their relationship with motherhood, life after corporate hustle, and what is the next step.

In late May I took the train down to Avignon for my first ANTACARA experience. I headed to Domaine de Rhodes, which would serve as our home base. Sure the weather was beautiful, but right away I just had the feeling of what a special place this was. Run by a French couple who were career changers themselves, they’ve created a place that’s equally parts welcoming, and full of surprises, with art around the grounds. While most of the sleeping options were fairly standard for France—in the main house, or some private houses—I was the lucky one who got to sleep in a gypsy caravan!

When I arrived I met the facilitators: Jillian Reilly (the founder with a background global social development), Ben Carmel (an instructional designer), and Karden Rabin (a bodyworker who looks at somatics and holistic health). They were sitting on the couches under the tree—a place that would become our home base.

Later that day the other participants arrived and we met there for a drink. When someone is open to participating in an experience like this it was crazy the sense of instant connect we had, and the ways our very different stories had parallels. Then throw in the shared experience we were all about to go through and this was only the beginning.

After drinks we headed inside for our “disorientation dinner” that would set the stage for what’s to come. We learned the greek workd kataplinktiko, which means “other wonder”, a theme that would stay with us for the week. We’d also meet the wonderfully quirky Frenchwoman, Céline, who would prepare all our meals from the heart (meet her and you’ll understand).

The ANTACARA approach acknowledges we’re all on an ever evolving journey. What the ANTACARA experience does is focus on discovery and growth through experience. The simple act of moving our bodies and getting out can do wonders for each of us. It turns out our neural pathways are making connects too as we explore!

I won’t tell you everything we did because that’s the joy of the experience, and they get adapted by the season, and like us, will keep evolving over time. Some people may go into something like this expecting a structured itinerary, but for a few days you get to trust those running the experience, focusing instead on the lived experience. I hand’t felt that peaceful and zen in a long time.

Usually each day started with a morning activity before breakfast. I appreciated this because it helped me create new habits with my phone and how I start my day. Then we’d have breakfast in the main house which was prepared by the hotel owners. Each day tended to involve a morning activity that involved exploration beyond the walls of the domaine, and afternoon sessions were time for more work and reflection (often on giant bean bags).

The challenges presented to us didn’t involve crazy things like walking on coals. At times there was such a beautiful simplicity to what we were asked to do that often led to the biggest insights. Sometimes we were given permission to wander openly, while other times there was a destination and a goal. It may involve trying something new. (For me it was visiting a gin distillery and seeing pears grown in glasses! Yes, we got to taste too.).

The 5-days involved looking back to our past, to the now, and ahead to the future. Each of us—participants and facilitators—came away with very different insights about ourselves, and that’s what made it magical. There’s the reminder there’s not a perfect 10-step formula that applies to everyone, but we’re each explorers on our own journeys. We all have a tendency to overcomplicate things, but “what if it were easy?” And what if the act of taking a walk could be the catalyst to clarity?

I feel like I left the week with new friends too. Having had the lived experience together, we’re also there to support each other as we move forward. The experience doesn’t end the moment we leave the domaine. It stays with us, and there are follow-up group and 1:1 coaching calls. This is not something you have to do alone.

I described where I was headed to my friends as a retreat just because that was the easiest word to describe it. But when you’re doing something new and different the reality is that there’s not always an easy way to describe it. However, when several friends responded “I could use something like that” I knew what it was called didn’t matter. I will definitely embrace my “explorer’s mindset” moving forward.

Every week I write a newsletter called “Connect the Dots” which looks at different things that have inspired me and made me think.

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