It has taken me a few days to digest the experiences at my yoga retreat. It was so much more than yoga, and capturing it all in writing will probably not do it justice, but I will give it a try.
Henry David Thoreau once said “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Much like Thoreau, I went to the woods to rediscover how to live more fully, to care about myself, to enjoy and experience joy and take with me through life some new and unique memories and perspectives.
It was a tall order. When people ask me, “am I a changed person now?” I say no, I am still me, with some new ideas on how to live life more fully.
I became anxious as Thursday came around and the reality of me leaving my family and comfort zone all by myself for 4 days was near. Since the trip was gluten-free (gluten is found in wheat, rhy and barley), I decided to meet my sister on the way down to Carmel for a gluten binge; oh yes, I got myself a big veggie panini and pasta salad and I ate it all. This bread and pasta had to last me a full four days in the woods.
Our homework assignment for the trip was to learn the eight limbs of yoga. I had absolutely no idea what these eight limbs were and I had procrastinated on learning my homework. So, I downloaded a book specifically about the eight limbs of yoga onto my iPhone and listened to it on my drive down to Carmel. This man was explaining the eight limbs of yoga in the most boring and monotone voice, and it was a bit painful, but by the end of the drive I had a better idea of what the eight limbs of yoga were.
I arrived at the campground and immediately pitched my own tent in a prime spot (thanks cousin) overlooking the green mountains. Within 1/2 an hour of my arrival at the Bhakti Yoga Retreat, I had already committed a liberating act by erecting my own tent.
Cousin Ryan presented us with binders that gave us a history of yoga, explanations of the eight limbs of yoga, different chants that we would sing throughout the retreat, and journal questions on exploring our life’s legacy. We also got this awesome T-shirt with the First Annual Bhakti Yoga Retreat written on it.
The first night, and every night thereafter, we had circle time by the pseudo camp fire. True campfires were not permitted so we relied on a small fire pit that was brought in to create ambience and warmth during circle time. Now, I have been in a lot of circle times in the last six years, but it always involved singing kids songs, banging on small instruments and clapping hands. This was an adult circle time and it was intense, thought-provoking stuff. There were 15 of us who attended the retreat and in circle time we talked about ourselves, listened to others, explored our life’s legacy and supported each other through our own journeys. There were definitely tears shed during circle time over the course of three nights.
Before I move on, I would like to mention that while I believed I was doing a great job packing for camping, here are the items I forgot that haunted me throughout my trip:
*blankets ( I had my sleeping bag but I needed blankets for circle time)
* a backpack
* a coat
* a scarf
* warmer clothes in general
* and on my first night I managed to break my lantern while trying to open it. This is after Chris taught me how to open it, and just how simple it is to work. Humph.
It has been a while since I camped. I have learned from my mistakes for sure.
Anyway, the next day we started with a beautiful hike in Point Lobos, Monterey. It was spectacular. I hiked by myself for the most part so I could really take in the scenery and be alone with my thoughts. On this hike we were instructed to take some time and write down in our journal answers to specific deep questions such as “If you could identify something that was missing in your life at the time, what would it be?”
My legs were already fatigued from the hike, but after lunch we headed to our yoga room for three hours of yoga. I am glad I didn’t know it was going to be three hours of yoga before I went in or my mind may have defeated me before I even began. We started yoga off with some chanting:
Hey Ganga, Hey Ganga, Hey Ganga Ma!
Amma, amma, amma, amma, Hey Ganga Ma!
Then we got into the most difficult yoga class I have ever taken in my life. My cousin and his wonderful teachers know how to teach yoga! It was invigorating. I did positions I didn’t even know my body could do. I had sweat literally pouring off my body, and I am not a sweater people. I looked behind me and my fellow tribe members literally had big puddles of sweat underneath them. I felt so alive after a day of hiking along the ocean and intense yoga.
On Saturday of the retreat we woke up, I ate my soy yogurt, homemade trail mix, fruit and hard-boiled egg and drank my green tea and headed out with the group to Big Sur. I rode with my Aunt Jill which was a nice time for us to bond and catch up on life. We spent the day hiking to magical places. I think Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The central coast is such a special place because of land trusts that have preserved and protected the beaches and coastline. We had lunch at Nepenthe overlooking the water, and it was the most beautiful sunny day. We hiked along the ocean and then we hiked in the woods. In the woods we stopped by a small stream where we were told to meditate for 10 minutes. I thought that 10 minutes sitting cross-legged on the ground with sticks piercing my behind was going to feel like eternity, but once I was in my meditation, time flew by. The sound of the water rushing by was nature’s sound machine. I think I could have sat there by the river’s edge all day enjoying in the peace. Nobody was crying, demanding something of me, clinging to me, and I wasn’t chasing after any little people trying to do naughty things. I was just sitting by the river with my relaxed body and my thoughts. Then we were asked to journal and write down what we felt within the senses of our body – touch, taste, hear, see and smell.
I met some really wonderful fellow tribe people on my retreat. There were mothers, young people, older people, students, free-spirits and adventurers. I noticed that I was among people who truly enjoyed life. No matter how young or old they were, they lived a life of passion, marveling in the simple pleasures of life such as a big butterfly sitting on a leaf; it was admirable. I wondered if I had ever been this kind of person or whether I could in the future. I decided one of my life’s legacies that I would take home from my yoga retreat was to revel in the simple beauties of life. To stop and admire the butterfly. As it applies to my life right now, maybe I take the time just to really look at each of my kid’s smiling faces each day and relish in my great fortune that they were given to me to nurture. I am ready for more life’s adventures. I am ready for more yoga. At next year’s yoga retreat, I want to be more in-shape and maybe even as good at yoga as the other tribe members – who were awesome yogi’s I might add.
We ended our retreat with some poolside yoga. It was the warmest day we had during the retreat and we did over an hour of yoga in the sun with the cool Carmel breeze brushing over our skin.
During the yoga retreat I was asked by many people if I miss my kids. I said that I did not miss my kids because that would defeat the purpose of my trip. As Chris put it before I left, there will be plenty of time to be with the kids when I get back – go enjoy myself. So, that is what I did. As I drove home, I couldn’t wait to see the kids before they went to bed. They screamed and yelled when they saw me. They bellowed out “momma” with glee. They attacked my body. One of my life’s legacy that I brought home from the yoga retreat is that I must find that fine balance between creating time and passions for myself and taking care of my family with love and patience. This is every mom’s challenge. This is my challenge. Thank you Ryan, Natasha and Aumi, and thank you tribal peers, for helping me find the simple joys in life, the powerful beauty of nature, and the awesome possibilities yoga has to offer. Thank to the best most supportive husband in the world for making this trip possible.
1-2-3 Bhakti Tribe Rocks!
Until next time, the mothership is signing off.