Writings

Retreating


I've told you about my first retreat experience, a very intense surprising one and although I wouldn't recommend anyone going as unprepared as I was to a 10 day silent retreat, I still highly appreciate and recommend the experience of being on retreat itself. There is a reason why we've chosen that vehicle as a way of teaching yoga. It is simply useful to let go of our reference frames for a while, and give our full attention to what's brewing on the inside.
Retreating
When we are so busy with managing the many pieces of our life puzzle, we very rarely get a chance to take a longer pause. We do our practice, at home or in our local yoga studio and for an hour or two we get the chance to regulate our breath, to soften our tension and open our hearts a little, but the break is so short, after our hour is up, the phone rings, shopping, food, kids, e-mails duties...thousands of details abduct our minds and it is not always easy to maintain our awareness, and our vague attempts at equanimity and compassion easily drown in the reality of everyday life. To retreat is to extend that hour and see what happens when we give ourselves more time. To investigate what comes next, after the formal practice time is over. During our time on the mat and cushion we shed a few layers that very easily slip back on when we have to face our duties in the roles of life we've chosen to perform, when we retreat we have an opportunity to remain unmasked for a little longer, not bound by any appointments other than more time spent with yourself as yourself. It is truly an eyeopening experience, a transformative one.
Now that we are hosting retreats, and I find myself on the other side of the experience, it is different. Assuming the role of the teacher is a great pleasure for many reasons. You get to witness the change that happens in the retreaters when they are out of their reference frame and are allowed to let go of practicalities. You get to see what's beneath all those masks we wear, you get to know that person just a little bit deeper, slip under their skin and you realise that no matter what is portrayed on the surface, inside, at the bottom of every being there is softness, that's why we feel the need to put on our game faces, why we ercet walls of defense, this softness makes us vulnerable.
In a retreat, after a few days of yoga and rest, this vulnerability very often starts to feel OK, Supported by practice and by the stretches of time when there is no must, I get to see students drop a layer or two and feel so happy when they realise how much more comfortable they feel when their guard is down. And although it may not always be spoken of, I know that to be accepted and respected there, in jogging pants with no make up, wearing their aches, pains soft hearts on their sleeve, is important. It can be a game changer to find out that you are OK the way you are, sans filters and that you don't need to 'become better' in order to be loved. To be the host of such an experience is truly an honor and a priviliege and it reassures me as a student of this life art that yoga is, to know that we're all pretty much the same on the inside, that this experience of being human is a shared one, and that the process of yoga truly works.

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