There's a true solace and awakening in silence, especially for ambitious women who are constantly tasked with leading households, teams, and companies. When I was recently given the opportunity to experience stillness and tranquility at Tingalay's Retreat, a Caribbean oasis in the West End region of Negril, Jamaica, I was outwardly excited but could feel the twinge of fear and skepticism rising from my gut.
See, I've never been a fan of total silence. It has been an enemy to me for many years now.
I'd always been afraid of total quiet, especially into my early years, because it meant that either I was alone (something I hated to be) or that something treacherous was brewing in our household that hadn't quite yet erupted. I'd developed a habit of always having the TV on or music playing, even when sleeping, and I'd always try to fill up awkward silences in conversations with laughter or a joke.
So, I decided to challenge myself, welcoming silence as a friend and facing my fears of realization and conviction that could come of doing so, with this trip to Tingalaya's. Here's all I learned about the healing power of silence and the importance of taking time to be totally alone and quiet:
1. It's super freeing to sit in silence in an environment that truly accommodates it.
The whole vibe of the 4.5-acre property embraces you like a hug from your favorite person in the world. The expansive grounds feature rich, beautiful plant life and trees, from palms to willows. The cabins are filled with warm tones of oranges, red, greens, and blues---all hues that have been proven to evoke feelings of calm, peace, and safety.
There are thoughtful touches within each space, like antiques made from organic materials, African, Middle Eastern and Jamaican art, a private patio with a hammock, and the absence of TVs, so you actually have no choice but to delight in the energy of it all. The landscaping enveloping each structure offers a bit of privacy perfect for simply enjoying your own company.
After being greeted by the host, Sophia (who welcomes all guests and cooks both American and Jamaican staples for breakfast), and spending just one hour in my cabin, I really didn't miss the sound of some reality TV rerun or a classic film. And I didn't feel the need to take out my laptop to stream Netflix, either. (Yes, there's WIFI, which, for some, compensates for the exclusion of TVs in each space.)
I found that just enjoying the island breeze while listening to the birds and property's dogs conversing to be super freeing and a welcome start to my silent stay. I swung on my private patio swing, did a bit of journaling, and then took a walk, passing by the on-site kitchen (where I was told guests could cook and share their own meals).
2. Silence can facilitate the best damn sleep of my life.
Typically I only sleep well when I've done something physically or mentally grueling (i.e. working out, finishing up a super busy day, or decompressing after a super stressful experience.) Before the trip, I'd also been experiencing insomnia due to the rigors of balancing multiple client deliverables at once while trying to lose a few pounds and meet a fitness goal by a certain date. The worry and anxiety had gotten the best of me, affecting my sleep.
During my stay at Tingalaya's Retreat, I got the best sleep of my life. By the time evening hit, the calming atmosphere I'd enjoyed throughout the day was literally like taking a sleeping pill.
After taking a steamy shower in my ensuite bathroom, which also had antique touches, included lemongrass-scented toiletries, and featured a somewhat open-air vibe, I allowed myself to fully enjoy the massive bed, enveloped in soft cotton sheets and an embroidered quilt. At night, it was eerily quiet (and dark) which added a bit more allure to the experience. I found that if I challenged myself to become one with my surroundings and trusted God in placing and protecting me at that moment, I'd find better peace to sleep, and it worked.
I am no stranger to Negril's West End, having stayed at Airbnbs and hotels there on many occasions. The area is oftentimes filled with the noise of parties and cliff-diving at Rick's Cafe, motorcycles and cars taking tourists to and from Seven Mile Beach, and the everyday sounds of hardworking people just trying to survive and thrive, but this retreat seemed to insulate me from hearing any of it, providing comfort in true stillness and tranquility.
3. Enjoying extensive quiet moments can tremendously boost my confidence in self.
After having a breakfast of callaloo, plantain, fruit, and Blue Mountain coffee (Jamaica's world-renowned brand) alone in their open-air dining room, I decided to take a walk to their man-made beach and cliff area to enjoy the salt-water pool.
I walked around a bit, admiring the pastel-colored cottages (which guests can also book to have a seaside view from their rooms), touring the chic white bar and lounge area (which made me fantasize about the day when my long-distance bae and I finally tie the knot), checking out more of the landscaping filled with the lushness of local flora. I then ventured to the pool, which I had all to myself, to take in the breeze and think about what I'm thankful for.
The whole view of the sea and the rhythmic way it filled up the pool for my enjoyment just reminded me of the wonders of the Earth, the endless possibilities of man, and how important it is to appreciate the good in life through reflection.
4. Silence helps strengthen my ability to think creatively and without limits.
I spent several days going from the quiet of my room to the beach and pool area, and in those times, I brainstormed ideas centered on self-improvement and impact. Those were key things I wanted to focus on in the new year and I'd made a point to be strategic and more deliberate in reaching my goals in those regards.
One particular thing I wanted to do is finally upgrade my social media presence, particularly on Instagram, and since I'd brought my tripod for the trip, I decided to take a few shots of myself, in a bikini---something I'd been avoiding since gaining weight. I thought, 'Janell, the best way to better engage with people is to be yourself, unapologetically, no matter what transitions or changes you're going through. People can relate to that when it's real.' I got a chance to capture true moments of solace and confidence, and I was super-proud walking back to my cabin later that afternoon.
I was also able to come up with the prototype for a special project that I'm excited to finish and release in the next year---a dream that I'd sat on for more than a decade but could no longer do so once I had the time to truly enjoy the benefits of silence for an extended period of time.
My stay at Tingalaya's Retreat did my body and soul an extreme amount of good, and it reaffirmed why others have deemed it the perfect spot to host yoga groups, small family reunions, and solo sabbaticals. It offered me the chance to truly connect with the best parts of myself, unapologetically and uninterrupted---a peaceful place of enlightenment that I plan to revisit for years to come.
For more on Tingalaya's Retreat, visit their website or follow them on Instagram @TingalayasRetreat.
Featured image by Janell Hazelwood/xoNecole
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As much as I talk about sex, this is a topic that I was excited to shed a spotlight on. Why? It’s simple, really. Despite how sexed — and sometimes it really does seem oversexed — that our culture and society may be, virgins are not extinct. Believe it or not, it’s been reported that around 27 percent of guys are still virgins when they first step foot on a college campus (as a freshman) and, globally, approximately 38 percent of people between the ages of 18-24 are still virgins too. And even though it’s not a ton of ‘em, there are still some virgins who are over 40 (I personally know three, although they declined to be interviewed for this article).
And even though it really does seem like, over the past 50-60 years or so, virginity has been looked at as something that should be ridiculed, side-eyed, or even flat-out dismissed, I don’t feel that way at all. Fourteen sex partners and many lessons later, I actually get that there are many perks that come with waiting. Not only that, but I’ve encountered enough virgins in my time to get that, like most things in life, virginity is not a monolith, there are tons of reasons why people choose not to have sex until later in life and, if there’s one thing that you can’t really “do over” (because no, there is no such thing as a “born-again virgin.” You lose your virginity ONCE) is “losing” your virginity (I prefer to say “giving.” You know where it is)— being careful and even uber-cautious about how and when your first time goes down is something that I very much so respect.
You don’t have to take my word for it, though. As someone who gave my “conscious virginity” (I am a survivor of molestation, which is why I put it that way) at 19, I wanted to hear from women of that age and older who still haven’t “partaken of the fruit” just yet. First, to give their journey a voice and second, to remind others who may not be so vocal about their own virginal sexual status that, no matter what social media may be yapping about, when it comes to the topic of virginity, they are certainly not alone — and there is definitely nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.
*Per usual, when it comes to these types of interviews that I conduct, middle names have been used.*
“It’s not like I planned to be this age and still a virgin. When I was in high school, I thought I would be married by now. I’m not, and that’s why I’m still a virgin. Does this mean I’m waiting until marriage? I am. I don’t see the point in giving some man my all without that level of commitment. I personally admire women who can because I don’t have the emotional strength or mental stamina to go through that kind of stress or pain — especially multiple times. I just think there is already enough to worry about in life than if I’m gonna get an STD, get pregnant by someone I don’t want to deal with for the rest of my life, or even if some man is going to call the next day.
"And before y’all even start — yes, I know that marriage comes with risks too. But if a man is willing to pledge his life to me and sign a legal contract to prove it just to get some, I’d rather go that route than some dude I met at a club or a guy who I dated for a couple of months, and it didn’t work out. To each their own, and this is the way that I choose to do it.”
“I’ve always been called an old soul. I don’t think that 22 is old, but it is old, these days, to be a virgin. Some people assume that I’m one for religious reasons. Really, it’s because I’m observant, and my sisters and friends who already gave it up usually had more drama in their lives than anything. I just want my first time to be with someone who, when I look back on it, I don’t have regrets. I’m not looking for the perfect guy, but damn, can he at least not ghost me, give me an orgasm, and keep the moment to himself instead of telling all of his boys? I don’t think that’s too much to ask — and if it is…oh well.”
“The question I get asked all of the time is if I’m saving it for marriage. I am. I used to say that I was waiting until I got engaged or at least fell in love, but I have friends who did that, and months after they had sex, the guys were gone. I know that marriage doesn’t guarantee anything, but I have some other friends who were virgins on their wedding night, and their lives just seem to be less intense.
“Not having sex has shown the true colors and real agendas of a lot of guys, so while it does get lonely, being this way makes it easier to see who is serious about a relationship and who just wants to get their d — k wet. Virginity can be the ultimate male marriage material predictor. At least it’s been that way for me.”
“I almost gave it up to my first love, and ‘he’ didn’t happen until college. The break-up damn near turned me into a basket case, so that proved to me that I’m not really for a sexual relationship. I think the best way to explain it is, until I know that I can emotionally handle giving myself to someone and it possibly not working out, I need to stay just where I’m at…and I’m just not there yet.”
“The timing of this is crazy because I almost lost my virginity last weekend. It’s a long story, but I was going to give it to a guy friend because I want my first time to be with someone who I trust. We didn’t go through with it because he said that he didn’t want to chance me regretting it and it ruining our friendship. I think it’s interesting that it seems that men value a woman’s virginity more than women do these days. Anyway, all I know is it won’t be just some random guy. If I don’t trust you with my heart, you will never be able to have my body. My standard will definitely be someone who was my friend first.”
“I’ve been too busy to give up my virginity. Sounds crazy, but it’s still the truth. I’ve always been very career-driven, so after getting my master’s, I decided to do a lot of traveling and then buy a home. It’s probably been over the past few months that my sexual status has even crossed my mind because dating just hasn’t been a priority.
“I guess you can say that having a full life is why I’m a virgin. When I can fit a man into my schedule, and I find him just as stimulating as what I currently have going on, I can almost assure you that my sexual status will change. Until then…stamps on the passport are my orgasms.”
“I’ve had plenty of oral sex — not giving, receiving. Some people say that, technically, I’m not a virgin anymore, but I guess I’ll speak for the women who fall into my special situation. The reason why I’ve never gone down on a guy is because I want that to be reserved for the one [who] I first have intercourse with. The reason why several have gone down on me? You know how guys are — they see virginity as a challenge and will go the distance to be the first. If they wanna try, who am I to stop them?
"As far as what I’m waiting on…I don’t really see it as ‘waiting.' I am open to it. I just haven’t been with someone who seems like he is who I should give it to. I think that the guy who never brings sex up will probably be the one who piques my interest. I’m already a challenge. I think I’m looking for someone who is one, too.”
“I’m a virgin because I’m focused. There are too many women at my school who are so distracted because of what some guy is doing or didn’t do — and I don’t have the time. I want to be able to have my master’s degree before my 23rd birthday, and I’m on the way to making that happen. I haven’t told anyone this, but the present I want to give myself is losing my virginity for graduation. I think an orgasm for all of my hard work makes sense. I know who I want the guy to be, too. He doesn’t know. Hope he doesn’t blow it. I’ll try to keep you posted.”
“All of the holy books value virginity, and that’s why you will never be able to convince me that there is not a serious spiritual breakdown in our society. What used to be respected is now a so-called social construct, and to me, that sounds like so many people are so hyper-sexed with no real reason or purpose that they want to take the ‘misery loves company’ approach — that because they weren’t taught to value virtue and virginity, they want as many other people as possible to follow suit. That will never be me. Until I meet the man who is deserving of being the first and only to enter into my body and spirit, I will remain a virgin and very proud of it.”
“I honestly don’t know why I’m still a virgin. Remember how you told me [Shellie] that after the first couple of years of abstinence, you got pickier and pickier? That’s the way I’ve been all of my life. I’m sure that sex is amazing, but it’s also complicated, physically kind of messy, and exposes you to a world of stuff that you don’t have to think about when you’re a virgin. I’m not scared to have sex, but I’m not in a rush. Look at me — I’m sure I’ll open these legs up one day, but I’m not checking off the calendar or anything. When I have room to explore the good and bad of sex, I’ll be more aggressive about it.”
There you have it — proof that there are at least ten virgins on the planet who aren’t still in high school. And what I like about each of them is there is both a confidence and focus outside of their sexual status that serves as a great reminder that sex is a part of who we are yet…it’s certainly not everything. And you know what? It never was designed to be.
So yes, kudos to them for having a personal type of conviction, for whatever the reason, and standing by it.
Virgins or not, it’s a reminder that we all should be firm in our standards about…something.
Amen? 1000 percent.
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