Kate Lilienthal is from California, where at this moment she sits outside in the cool evening air wishing she was meditating instead of poaching off a neighbor's wireless. This fall, Kate and her husband, Mark, will move with their three young children from Shanghai, China to Singapore. In Shanghai, Kate published an English-language parenting magazine called Shanghai Family.

Women and the Feminine Principle in Shanghai, June 2010

My brother-in-law asked me to describe Anna's recent meditation retreat in China with one word.  My first response was 'deep,' but that seemed, well, shallow. I moved on to 'scary'. This word indeed rang true, but it didn't capture the whole. I eventually settled on 'full.'  The two-day workshop filled me from the inside out with a playful joy not experienced since childhood, like a kid splashing cool water on a hot summer day.

The retreat, called Women and the Feminine Principal, was held recently in Shanghai. Going into the weekend, I had no idea what that title meant. It was my first experience working with energy, and I had no idea what that meant, either. All I knew was that I was exhausted and frustrated by the constant uncertainty in the life I share with my husband, and I sought the promise of tools to manage relentless change.

Here's what else I knew: The Egyptian pyramids are commonly estimated to have been built about 4,000 B.C. So when Anna began the class with a discussion of the Ancients, and referenced the pyramids as 35,000 years old, warning bells clanged. I'm from California, the proud home of burned out hippies, crystals, and hot tubs-often all three together - and I'd heard enough vacant new age philosophies to have developed a fair skepticism.

I questioned Anna repeatedly on what she presented, and as the lesson continued, I felt increasingly duped. Oh no, I thought, you can take the hippies out of California, but you can't take California out of the hippies, never mind better clothes and a contemporary hair style. Here I am again, same place, 6,000 miles away.

But then we moved into our first meditation. I'd mediated before, but never with a guide. As Anna led that initial meditation, followed by others, the soft images and sensations that floated from my mind's eye didn't follow rational thought, or, for that matter, really any thought at all. They came of their own and I followed them-to some new places and others that were as familiar as if I'd been there yesterday, except that yesterday I was six years old.

And that was it. That six-year old moment, talking with my mother in a quiet garden next to a well. My chest vibrated, salty tears squeezed from clenched eyes.  In a thunderous wave of consciousness, I heard the answer to a question that for 40 years has defined my fears, actions, decisions and love relationships.