That time I dropped my phone in a compostable toilet at Danielle LaPorte’s Heart-Centered Retreat.
I have a bunch of chocolate at my desk right now. It’s gonna help me get through telling this tale.
So, about 6 months ago, I was on a plane to California, preparing myself for the meeting of a lifetime.
I was going to meet Danielle LaPorte in an intimate setting. A heart-centered gathering of around 30 high-vibe women. Pinch me!
This woman’s work and writing, especially The Desire Map Program, changed the trajectory of my life.
She showed me how to create a life I love.
She helped me rediscover my voice and remember who the f@&% I am.
She’s a poet, artist, writer- a warrior for the heart and for the planet. A truth-telling business badass.
Feeling super sparkly and spiritual, I meditated on the plane ride.
I imagined all the things we’d talk about. I pictured totally connecting as one of her Desire Map Facilitators. Just the week prior, I submitted an application to be on her team!
I was ready.
Ready to impress.
The retreat location is a hidden gem deep in Topanga Canyon, called Commune, co-founded by Schuyler Grant and Jeff Krasno. It’s a zero-waste, carbon-neutral, eco-friendly, gorgeous place that’s perfect for spiritual retreats of all kinds.
Getting there was challenging as I’m highly sensitive. LAX overwhelmed me and my Uber driver got lost on the way to the retreat. My nerves were frazzled.
But as soon as I walked up to the entrance and crossed the threshold under the Tibetan prayer flags, I was entranced.
The struggle to get there faded as Danielle and her right-hand woman, Renee, came out to greet me and the other attendees that had arrived. It was like meeting a version of Galadriel that didn’t mind using the occasional f-bomb to get her point across.
Danielle gave us a tour of the place and I did my best to hide the fact that I was totally fan-girling.
She showed us where the toilets and showers were but asked that we use the eco-friendly compostable toilets as much as possible as their water system was not meant to support that many people at once. She described how awesome the compostable, waterless toilets were and they even use them at Burning Man to alleviate the massive waste issue.
She described the delicate balance of the land and how they honored it at every turn. No chemicals. Perfect harmony.
We met the incredible caretakers of the property, Scarlett and Jay, and then Danielle had us take time to unpack, relax and settle in before regrouping in a few hours.
I needed to transition from a stressful travel vibe to the high-vibe of this place nestled on the hillside.
Being fully present for that evening was my highest priority.
I set up my side of the amazing little A-frame I was staying in (I felt like a kid at summer camp!) and headed back down to the canyon lookout for some meditation.
The walk down is steep, so I put my phone in my back pocket as I made my way down the stairs.
The stupid phone.
If I had just trusted myself to soak it all in and remember the scenery.
If I had just been able to disconnect from the outside world.
To be fully present.
If I had not wanted lots of photos for Insta posts later…
Ugh. If only.
On the way to the lookout, I saw a compostable toilet.
Perfect! I can pee before meditating.
I walk in, close the door and unbutton my pants to sit and then I hear-
BANG! ka-clank, ka-clank
“Uh…what was that?? Is this thing gonna fall over?” I wonder.
I stand up and look around and then…it sinks in…that terrible, heavy feeling. The feeling that shows up when you’re saying, “No, no, no, NO!!!”
I just dropped my phone down a compostable toilet- aka, a structure hovering over a pile of refuse.
I looked down and there it was. The case flipped open and the phone’s red light blinking like it was saying, “Yeah, here I am- dumb ass!”
I bent down to see if I could reach it. Nope. No way. I needed a grabby-thingy!
Then I thought I could just leave it and pretend like it never happened, but that was RIDICULOUS. Everything was on my phone including my plane tickets, passwords, bank info, videos and photos I hadn’t uploaded anywhere yet.
Not to mention that leaving it would totally wreck the perfect balance of the zero-waste, carbon-neutral, zero-emissions, zero-chemical, zero plastic magical Shangri-La I had just trounced upon!
Oh. My. God.
I have to ask for help.
Is this really my life right now?
Am I questioning the meaning of life in this hot compostable toilet right now????
Are you kidding me?
I still have to pee, but I don’t want to pee on my phone, so I button up my pants and run up to the normal toilet up at the top of the hill. Then, I make the walk of shame back down to the main house to ask for help.
I looked to the caretakers of the land to have mercy on me.
I found Scarlett and told her my story and she took me to Jay to see what options we had. If he could create some kind of grabby-thingy, then maybe there was a chance for rescue.
I went to go hang out alone by the chicken coop as I waited for news. I didn’t really feel like running into anyone at that point.
I can barely type these words! Gah!
As I waited, I hoped I could just rip off the case and have it be no big deal.
Jay, the most ingenious, kind soul EVER, rigged up something to grab and flick my phone next to the outhouse, in the bushes. I was so grateful! Then Renee gathered the ONLY pair of plastic rubber gloves on-site as well as lots of paper towels and eco-friendly cleaner.
I wont gross you out with details. All I’ll say is that ripping off the case was just the beginning.
As I sweat in the heat and scrubbed my phone, I could hear laughing. New people arriving and meeting each other. I was behind the outdoor showers PRAYING no one would walk by and ask me what the hell I was doing.
I’d like to say I meditated right through it all or used powerful breathing exercises to stay calm.
Not even a little bit.
I was so worked up that I really thought I’d just call Uber back up the hill and go home. I wondered how much it would cost to change my ticket and then realized I couldn’t hop on my phone to find that out.
Then I was really pissed.
I went from magical to manic in .5 seconds. Great.
I finally gave into the whole thing. I paid good money for this retreat and if I was going to enjoy it, I had to find a way through this.
“You can’t just spiritually bypass your shit phone, Sonja. Deal with it.” I thought.
After that, I named my phone Shit Phone.
After an hour or so, all the paper towels were used and the “Moisture Detected” sensor went off. I powered off my phone and once again had to face asking for help.
I needed a bowl of rice.
Renee brought me her personal bottle of hand sanitizer (Hallelujah!!!!) and I took off my gloves to wash my hands about 500 times. Then I changed my clothes and washed my hands 500 more times, just to be safe.
I put sanitizer all over my phone too. My skin allergies went nuts and so I had to coat my face in Cortizone-10.
Renee then helped me obtain a bowl of rice from our Ayurvedic chef.
At least 5 people knew what happened.
I knew Danielle had to know.
She totally knew, come on!
I went to meet up with the group and just kind of stayed on the outskirts of the conversation, shell shocked by my own personal shit show.
At dinner, Danielle asked me about my phone and we laughed about it. She said it was like my phone was its own entity. Her kindness and humor touched my heart.
She nailed it.
Of course, she nailed it.
She saw Shit Phone for what it really was.
A way for my mask to come down.
A way to finally crack open.
My phone became a tangible metaphor for: “No more ignoring your past, Sonja. There’s no easy way out. If you’re going to grow into who you’re supposed to be, you’ve gotta remember who you are. Do the freaking work. Oh, and it’s gonna suck.”
And as Shit Phone laid in its bowl of rice, a silent witness to my breakdowns during soul-baring exercises, it reminded me to stay present. Free of distractions.
I cried during yoga, meditation, the sound bath, the Qi Gong session…I hadn’t cried that much since I was little. I wanted to talk to Danielle, but every time I opened my mouth, I could only say a few words as I was processing years and years of grief.
On the last day, Shit Phone suddenly worked again. The stench was gone. I powered it up and was able to make my first call.
I went to the retreat to learn more about desire mapping and to impress Team D.
But the universe had other plans.
Danielle and Renee showed up for all of us with an immense amount of love.
They opened the door for us to show up for ourselves and for each other in a big way.
Shit Phone made sure I could pay attention the whole time. It made sure I savored those stars at night and fell asleep to the breeze coming through our open window and farmhouse door.
I recaptured something I had lost from my childhood.
In most articles, the author usually gives a Top 5 tips or Top 5 Takeaways, so as to not disappoint most readers, here we go:
Shit Phones show up for a reason. They remind us to:
Face your shit.
Take yourself a bit less seriously.
Accept the fact that people are willing to give you WAY more grace than you’re willing to give yourself.
To those who think they’ll never have to face their own version of Shit Phone…well…tough shit.
It’ll show up when you least expect it.
When you need it most.