Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Community, transformation, and connection were found in unexpected places ...

Earlier today, I was looking at pictures from the various Eternal Health Yoga retreats that I have led over the past 6 years. Wow, those were some amazing times! The out-of-the-ordinary specialness of being on retreat is deeply sacred; because we are outside of our normal space it feels as though all of time and space has been changed and created to accommodate our individual needs. As I recall the different retreat groups, I remember that sweet feeling of arriving as individuals, from different places with lots of different life experiences, and from this, forming a spiritual community. Within the sacred space of your spiritual community, you can safely process whatever it is you need to process, learn what you need to learn and transform into the next awesome phase of your life! 

Over the past six years I have led a variety of retreats, some for just a weekend, and others longer (seven to ten days). Regardless of the length of the retreat, we created community. Individuals, who arrive with their own expectations, come to a deep realization of their connection with one another. It happens every time; it is quite beautiful! I remember the first retreat I led; it was in Maya Tulum, Mexico. There was a small group of yoga students with me who did not all know each other and didn’t quite know what to expect. But the ocean, the sand, the amazing moon, and the beautiful yoga space all worked together to allow us to be extremely present with ourselves and one another. We snorkeled, sunbathed, meditated, and enjoyed amazing meals together. It was a fantastic trip for everyone :  )
The Yoga Holiday to England was also quite incredible! We travelled the country, stopping at various places to explore, practice, and connect. We found sacred space even amidst the bustle of city happenings in London, Canterbury, Edinburgh, York, and others. Yoga practice outside on the green of Canterbury Cathedral, at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, Stonehenge, and Edinburgh; mmmm … yoga really is for everyone everywhere! Practicing among ruins and ancient sacred spaces added an element of serenity. I remember feeling very humbled as we chanted outside the Cathedral and walked around sacred stones. Again, community, transformation, and connection were found in unexpected places.
Each retreat is different from the one before and the one after; each has its own unique flavor that is reflective of the group that creates it. By getting away from day to day living you have an opportunity to focus on your practice and on your experiences while they are happening. Sharing those experiences brings an intensity of joy and delight.  We have rock climbed at Red River Gorge, walked the labyrinth in New Harmony Indiana, dripped in the sweat lodge, and chanted Kirtan around a campfire. All retreats are infused with life-affirming rituals, deepening asana practice, pranayama and meditation. But it is the nuanced setting, the temporary community, and the safety that it represents that allows positive change to occur.  For those who dare to retreat, you will be changed; the community allows you a safe space in which to work, learn, and grow with and alongside other who are as fearless, (and fearful), as you.
I am feeling the urge to create “retreat” again; many students have been asking lately and I look forward to the manifestation of my hope to share this experience with some of you this year. I know it is true that yoga is yoga no matter when or where you practice, but based on my experience, the powerful process of being away from your everyday life, allows a deepening that is difficult to achieve in so little time while still at home. I look forward to sharing this experience soon. Namaste

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