[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ccording to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the word retreat is defined as “an act or process of withdrawing, especially from what is difficult, dangerous or disagreeable”. When you think about life in general it tends to be difficult. I don’t know too many people who think life is EASY. Most people I know work hard to survive, have been through struggles and pain and have manage at some point in their life to overcome challenges. Yes, some people have it easier than others but in general life is not always easy.
One of my bucket list items for years has been to go on a yoga retreat. I remember seeing a “yoga bucket list” and a few of the items I had “checked off”. 30 day challenges (yoga for 30 days straight), learn a new pose, enroll in yoga teacher training, these were all items I had accomplished. The one that was outstanding that I wanted to do at some point was go on a yoga retreat – head out of town and do nothing but practice yoga and meditate for a few days. It took me years and years to actually put myself through yoga teacher training so I assumed this would be one of those situations. It would be something I really wanted to do but it would take me years to do it.
A few of my fellow teachers at the studio I teach at put on a retreat every summer in Flordia. They kept asking if my husband and I were going. I wanted to but we had lots going on. I was trying to find a new job, we already had a big trip planned at the end of the summer, everything seems to come up at once so I was leaning more towards no. That’s when my husband really pushed me. The retreat landed in between our birthdays and we knew if we start planning a family this could potentially be my last opportunity for something like this in awhile. He told me to book it. There is no time like the present right?
Going into the retreat I didn’t really know what to expect. We were definitely “withdrawing” from our real life. While we were staying at a nice beach resort this was not your typical “vacation”. The schedule was busy. Our days would start at 7 or 7:30. We would be practicing a few times a day plus workshops. I knew it would be intense and challenging but I knew it would be a great experience and worth it. It was a different type of “vacation”. It wasn’t a lay on the beach all day and drink tropical drinks “vacation” but it was an escape from your normal life retreat.
Going into it I was most excited about the morning meditations. Yes, this sounds absolutely crazy. I was MOST excited on my DAYS OFF to wake up at 7 or 7:30 and sit on a beach with my eyes closed. It was however, the hardest and most rewarding part of the retreat. As a yoga teacher I often hear “I don’t go to yoga because I can’t shut my mind off”. None of us can! What I learned early on when I went through teacher training is we will never shut off our minds. We can never truly control our thoughts or what pops into our head. It’s not about that. What meditation teaches us is when the negative thoughts come up we let them go. We may not be able to control our thoughts but we can control how we react to them and how long we spend coming back to them. Through this you truly learn to be less reactive and more at peace.
Did I mention that not only did my husband tell me to book it but he came with? Not as someone that just shacked up in my hotel while I went and did beach yoga and crazy hippie stuff like eat veggie burgers and meditate on the beach, but as a participant in the retreat. It was such a wonderful experience having him with me. Even though in meditation or practicing yoga your focus is shifted inwards and there isn’t a ton of interaction it was great having him by my side. Not being in the actual yoga studio brought out a playful side of everyone. People would partner up and help each other through out the classes. People tried things they wouldn’t normally do in class because they had a closer knit support system. We truly had an amazing sense of community on our retreat. Having my husband next to me was different than when we normally go to a class together on the weekend. It was a deeper connection and was so much more than I would have experienced alone.
I tried my best to remain mostly shut off. Often times I left my cell phone up in my room. I only checked my work email once. I didn’t really go on social media. I find that now days people don’t know how to be bored or relax. The second we have a down moment we are on our phones on Facebook or looking up something. It was so nice instead to watch the sunset, to stare out into the ocean, to have meaningful conversations with people face to face instead of mindless text messages. Everything just seemed to be performed on a deeper level.
I am not saying everyone should meditate. I am not saying that everyone should take a yoga retreat. What I am saying is our lives are all crazy and hectic. We all need the opportunities to escape and withdraw from what is difficult. We need to be able to hit the reset button in our lives several times. We need to be able to spend time in silence and stillness and sit with ourselves and be ok. After we finished for the weekend I really left lighter. I feel happier and that I truly released negativity that I had been holding on to. Even if it’s just 5 minutes a day, make it a point to withdraw. Take time to yourself to have a mini-retreat. Maybe that means getting up from your desk at work and taking a 5 minute walk to clear your head, maybe that means getting home 10 minutes before anyone else in your house does so you can sit on the couch to do (gasp) NOTHING, maybe it means shutting your phone off an hour before you go to bed, whatever it means for you make it a point to do this. Make an effort to truly “retreat” from your every day life. I promise you it will help change your outlook and help you recharge. It doesn’t have to be a beach yoga vacation to be an escape.