Maria Gorska • • 8 min read
Sacred Family: How the Apotheosis Retreat Turned My Life Around
One of our recent Apotheosis attendees, Maria Gorska, felt called to write a post about her experience. This post originally appeared on her blog, Made in Cosmos.
Imagine you woke up one day, and everyone you met, saw, or interacted with was your very best friend. Not a good friend you’re happy to catch up with over coffee to share some laughs and have fun. No, like the best friend ever, the one that’s genuinely excited to see you, hug you, and listen to you, and you’re equally excited to see them, hug them, and listen to them.
How do you think your life would be different then?
For sure, there would be no drama at all. Your best friends would know that you always have good intentions, even if you’re not quite skilled at articulating them. Similarly, you would eagerly seek to uncover what they truly mean, rather than feeling offended by their choice of words. You would come to a mutual understanding in no time, and both learn a lot from the conversation. And you’d have conversations like this all day, with everyone you meet, and expand your horizons with every single one.
Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?
But wait. There’s much more.
You’d feel no need to read the news or argue with strangers on the internet. You’d see them for what they are, bits of tribal signaling and outrage delivered to our monkey brains by companies competing for our attention. You’d take that time back and spend it on what truly matters—building relationships with people who love you and wish you the best.
You’d understand that no one ever changed their mind because of an angry tweet, or a sarcastic comment made by someone online. You’d know this because your friends would come from very different ethnic, political, and religious backgrounds, and you would all have very constructive and compassionate conversations on religion, politics, existential risks, or the meaning of life. You’d feel embarrassed by how eager you were to defend your cherished opinions when you discovered there’s no one to attack them. You would see people—including yourself—changing their minds several times a day. And whenever differences of opinion would remain, you’d respect them, appreciate them, and understand where they are coming from.
Being surrounded by people who love you and support you unconditionally, you would eventually begin to open up. Hearing them speak about their most difficult and traumatic experiences would make it easier for you to talk about yours. Perhaps it would be the first time for you to speak about some crazy shit, that happened so many years ago you hoped you forgot about it. With your best friends by your side, you’d finally let your guard down, let it all out, and cry as much as you need, knowing they all love you, and wish you the best, and won’t judge you no matter what. Quite the contrary, they would be there to hug you more, and listen, and cry some more together.
Feeling appreciated and loved just for who you are, you’d finally find the courage to stretch yourself and grow. You’d see it very clear, the next thing you should do. It would always be the one that frightens you the most.
You’d know that the time has come to start that passion project, leave that abusive relationship, or reach out to that person you admire. And even if your dreams were crazy, impossible, and ridiculous, you’d know your friends would be there to hold your back no matter what. Perhaps it would be the first time for you to give yourself permission to take an audacious risk, and fail, and feel your heart breaking open, and take that risk again.
People would rush to wash your dishes, pay for your drinks, and cheer you up, and you’d feel rushed to do the same for every single one of them.
You wouldn’t need to watch for your valuables, knowing they’re always in good hands.
Everybody would be truly excited to sit next to everybody, knowing they’ll be delighted and uplifted with the conversation that follows.
If this sounds too good to be true, let me tell you a secret.
This is precisely what I experienced during Apotheosis.
As impossible as it sounds, we went from a random group of strangers to best friends forever in less than a week. There were people from all walks of life—plumbers, coders, artists, entrepreneurs—from countries as different as US, Colombia, Israel, Poland, France, and Saudi Arabia. Everyone—yes, every single one—turned out to be an amazing, beautiful, and truly inspiring human being. I have almost 30 new best friends now, all around the globe.
This wouldn’t be possible without our facilitators from HighExistence. These incredible magicians created a unique environment for us to challenge ourselves while feeling perfectly safe and empowered to do so. All the experiences, including meditation, yoga, journaling, plant medicine, or freestyle rapping, were designed to catalyze spiritual growth, in a very inclusive and non-dogmatic way.
See, I was raised in a very religious family. I was always serious about my faith and sought to make sense of it ever since I remember. As a teenager, I was a part of several religious communities that gave me the same sense of empowerment, brotherhood, belonging and love. I’m grateful for those people and those circles, as they helped me grow in many ways and survive some very dark and depressing times.
But what I lacked in these communities was a sense of openness. It was always us – our loving little tribe – versus them – the vast and cruel world. Ideas and practices coming from other traditions were considered suspicious at best, and evil at worst. The official, approved dogma would always come from top-down, and there wasn’t the slightest hint that maybe, just maybe, we might not have all the answers yet.
I thought the feeling of tightly bound community comes prepackaged with a fixed set of answers to every question. The HighExistence tribe has proven me wrong. Our facilitators understood it well that everyone’s journey is different, and what works for one person may not necessarily resonate with another. They’ve set up a space where we could explore methods and techniques from different spiritual traditions, without pushing us to do what didn’t feel right. Nobody ever preached or spoke from a position of unquestionable authority. They were all seekers like us, who happened to have had more experience, and now shared the experiences that helped them with everyone else.
To say it was life-changing would be an understatement.
I had my mind completely blown several times that week. I kept a journal that served me as a proof of all the work I’ve done. On Tuesday I thought the things I wrote the night before were very deep and profound. On Wednesday I was ashamed of how naive and deluded I’d been. Then the next day I found that I’m judging myself for feeling the need to be special, seeking the attention of others, and also for judging myself. Only on the very last day, I accepted the fact that I don’t really know who I am anymore, and that this is called learning, and that it’s a highly desirable thing.
If every morning you wake up wiser than you were the night before, you suddenly stop making a fuss about your beliefs. You know they’ve changed multiple times already, and it served you well each time, so you no longer incorporate them as a part of your identity. And then, as you no longer feel attached to what you’re thinking right now, no longer try to get a hold of it, or treat it like the most precious insight that must be remembered and cherished, there’s suddenly a whole lot of space for new insights to arise.
These new insights can quite often surprise you with their wisdom. But you let them go too, to make room for even more, and more, and more.
Once I accepted that the future me is for sure going to know much more than I do right now, it was like a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. Suddenly I didn’t have to rehearse what I was about to say next, and I could give my full attention to whoever was speaking, knowing the right words would come to me at the right time. I knew I was learning new things as they spoke, and that the future me would have much deeper insights if I listened now, carefully—even if I didn’t know yet what these insights would be.
When the guys asked me if they can record an interview about my experience, I didn’t hesitate, although speaking on the camera frightens me even when I do it in my mother tongue. “Do you need some time to prepare?” — “Guess I’m not going to be any more ready than I am right now”—I said, and went there, and spoke from my heart, without getting stuck even once like I normally do. Now that I’ve let go of trying to come across as smart, I could finally let the smart words flow through me, and let myself be amazed at what came out of it.
It’s not easy to recreate such an environment at home. But that’s not going to stop me from trying.
After an unbelievable week of carefully crafted peak experiences, the journey back home was neither delightful nor easy. I came back to my apartment halfway through renovation, where half of my things are misplaced, the other half are gone, and everything is covered with hard-to-wash-off fine dust. Our car broke down and we’re stuck without a functioning kitchen for an indefinite amount of time. An emergency at work had me put off my ambitious plans and focus on putting out random fires first.
But amidst all this chaos and overwhelm, there’s now a core piece of me that feels peaceful and calm. It’s okay with the fact that I can’t even figure out where my headphones or running shorts are, let alone handle the tax office chasing me for the whole month that I was abroad due to some discrepancies in one of my previous tax files. It seemed completely unfazed with how little energy I had for a few days after coming back, and how little I achieved in that time. It’s even unmoved when I feel frustrated, upset and fed up with all of the above, and express my frustration in pretty childish ways.
High Existence or low existence, something within me knows that there’s always a lesson to learn in everything that happens. And that the best way to learn it is to stop turning away from whatever seems difficult, tune in, and just listen.
I wish I could stay with Apotheosis forever. I wish I was always surrounded by such a supportive crowd. I wish I could always progress as fast as I did over these few days. But I also know it’s time to take what I learned and share it with my friends, family, coworkers, and even complete strangers.
And if we all do that, then maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a little bit closer to a place where everyone around is your very best friend. And as it changes people, even a little bit at a time, it will spread further and further, like a ripple on a pond.