“Every blade of grass has its angel that whispers, ‘grow, grow.’ ”
— The Talmud
I am almost 40. That milestone age calls for some risk-taking and stretching of oneself outside the comfort zone.
It started with the yoga assisting. I signed up to learn how to assist people through their yoga class with the intention of just learning more about yoga and never assisting anybody. Instead, I am now touching dripping wet sweaty people all over their bodies in yoga class. I am giving foot massages in shavasana, and correcting warrior postures. I never thought I would do it, but there is a strange euphoria in doing something I never imagined that I would do. There is also reward in making other people feel good.
Recently, my husband and I were asked by our yoga instructors to go with three total strangers and two camera men to a cabin in the woods for a mini yoga retreat that will be filmed and turned into a short documentary.
Outside my comfort zone.
Yoga is so much more than the physical practice of holding asanas (poses). This yoga retreat was more about the spiritual work of living your best life than it was about the vinyasa flow.
After first arriving to this serene cabin in Lake Tahoe, we were asked to offer something up to the group. I offered my non-judgmental ear and my husband offered his humor. We were sitting outside and the sun was just starting to warm our bodies, and it was so quiet that we could hear wind blowing through the trees. I can’t remember the last time I heard nothing but the sound of wind.
During the filmed 24-hour retreat we did yoga, hiked, read, wrote in a journal, danced for 30 minutes with our eyes closed, stared into someone else’s eyes for 10 minutes, took a vow of silence, had intense circle discussions and took a dip in the hot tub.
There were FIVE important things that I learned during this brief yoga retreat that I will carry with me throughout my life:
1. Let It Go
Nobody will ever be able to hear these three words again without breaking out into song, but for me it held a real deep meaning during the retreat that had nothing to do with the movie Frozen.
It turns out I’ve been holding on to a lot of useless shit this past year. Time to let it go.
One of the assignments during the retreat was to think about three things: 1. something in life that we are clinging on to 2. something in life that we are resisting, and 3. something in which we need to let go. At the end of the trip we sat in a circle and shared these ideas. Some real, raw emotions came up for me. I held back tears when I talked about #3, what I need to let go of in my life. We wrote these thoughts down on a piece of paper, wrapped that paper around a stick and burned it in a fire in the woods.
And just like that I had taken my first step to letting go and moving forward.
2. Silence Is Golden. . . And Hilarious
There isn’t much silence in my house. My “normal” is listening to four people talk at the top of their lungs in order to get a word in edgewise.
So I welcomed the portion of the retreat where we were asked to be silent for several hours. We were told there would be no speaking and minimal eye contact with anyone in the house from the time we woke up until around 9:30am.
Existing in a room full of people but not speaking to them was strange and uncomfortable, but also freeing. Manners and niceties were unnecessary, so I was left with me and my thoughts for the morning. I read my book and drank my coffee in peace. Nobody asked me to do anything for them.
It is amazing, though, how funny everything becomes when you are in a room full of people and no one can speak. I thought I would lose it when Chris climbed on a chair, caught a spider (and he hates spiders!) and placed it in a cup. Then I really did lose it when I looked over at my yoga teacher Michael and saw him trying to hold it together while he was trying to eat his breakfast in silence with a camera two inches from his face. Laughter ensued by a few of us, but we quickly got back into character.
Maybe I can get my kids to take a vow of silence. It would last for an entire 30 seconds. I’ve tried.
3. Mindful Eating
Part of the point of the silent exercise was for us to really enjoy and appreciate the food we were given for breakfast. We were instructed to really think about each and every ingredient and what went into the creation of our meal. Our fare was egg and potato casserole, yogurt with toppings, muffins and croissants. We were greeted at the table with instructions on how to enjoy our food, which included eating slowly and placing our fork down between each bite.
This exercise in silent mindful eating made me realize that, in my world, eating is a stressful race to the bottom of the plate. At home I am so concerned with whether my kids are eating their food that I hardly ever enjoy mine.
That is going to change.
In the 24-hours I also rediscovered how hilarious my husband is, remembering that is a big part of why I married him. It isn’t that he hasn’t been funny throughout the years; this getaway just reminded me of how much I appreciate his sense of humor. Chris kept us all laughing at this retreat.
At the end of the day, it just feels amazing to laugh.
5. People Connection
What made it such a wonderful 24-hours were the people. Tristina and Michael, our fearless yoga leaders, are wonderful human beings and so gifted at the art of yoga and people connection. The three other guests invited on this getaway were total strangers when we arrived. The camera men were there with a camera in short-range of our face the whole time, but made the experience feel natural and comfortable. By the end of the 24-hours, I felt a very real bond to each one of them.
I hope our paths cross again.
I’m a little nervous to see myself on camera. I wonder what clips John will choose? Will he show the clip of me doing the crazy dance we all did in the middle of the cabin? Will he include the shot of me falling out of my forearm stand in the most ungraceful of ways? The time I was holding back the ugly cry during a circle time session – will that be shown? Will the camera add 10 pounds? Will everyone see the zit on my face?
I will let it all go– fire to smoke to ashes — and proceed confidently in the direction of happiness.
What do you need to let go of?
Until next time, the mothership is signing off.