My Yoga Teacher Training with Red Lotus has officially come to an end. Our 14 week program ended with a “Silent Retreat” at Capuchin Retreat Center in Washington Michigan from December 12-14.
It's funny, because when you first tell people you are going on a silent retreat, 99% of the time, their first reaction is "I would NEVER be able to do that".
Let me tell you… Not only is it POSSIBLE, but it is WELL WORTH it.
If you follow my blog, you know that last month, I was singing a different tune when it came to extended periods of silence. I attempted a “Day of Silence” at home, that did not go very well. Not going into details, but if you need to refresh your memory, here you go: http://melissabrode.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/silence-is-hard/
I took the day off of work on Friday, to finish packing and allow myself the opportunity to mentally prepare. Honestly, I was nervous. How on Earth am I supposed to spend two days without talking or communicating with people (verbally, physically, and even no eye contact!)? Not only that… no music, TV, computers, phones, etc.
So I did what any “Type-A” individual would do… packed a ton of things to do, so there was NO way I could possibly get bored:
- 3 Books
- Mandala coloring pages and a fresh box of colored pencils
- Knitting supplies (I don’t know how to knit… but if I got desperate, I could teach myself right?)
- Camera- in case I decided to go exploring on the trails
After saying goodbye to my boys, I made my way to the Retreat Center around 1 on Friday afternoon.
The silence ceremony didn’t take place until around 8 on Friday, so I was able to arrive early and have some time to familiarize myself with my weekend “home” and hang out with my friends in the TT program.
The remainder of this post is a collection of my journal entries and current reflections from the weekend. Enjoy.
December 12, 2014 Silent Retreat Day 1: Pre Silence
So- What do I expect to get out of this weekend?
Honestly, I have no idea. I do know that I have never gone a full day (probably not even a full hour) without talking or making some sort of verbal noise in my (almost) 25 years of life! So not being able to communicate with others (speech, eye contact, etc.) will be VERY interesting.
I think the best way to approach this weekend is to relax and have NO expectations at all. Everything that is meant to happen will happen, and that is the best part!
Brian said the best thing on Thursday night—don’t have an agenda. Just go with what your intuition is telling you that you need. If that means go out and take photos… great. If that means sit on your ass all day…that’s great too!
So that is my plan… to NOT have a plan! (for the first time in my life)
2:30pm: Slow Flow Yoga Red Lotus and Santosha Yoga partnered for this retreat. This afternoon, I had the opportunity to practice Slow Flow with Theresa. It was just what my body needed. It is so nice being able to be truly present- knowing that I literally have nowhere else to be right now. When I practice at the studio or at home- I do have a strong mind body connection- but my mind tends to wander towards my obligations and responsibilities off the mat. Today- it was just me and my breath.
My intention for my practice today: LEARN. To prepare for all of the things that I am going to learn about myself this weekend.
3:45pm: PHONE SHUT DOWN
I officially shut down my phone. Time to enjoy some time TECH FREE for a change! It was surprisingly liberating to power down the iPhone and stash it away for the weekend! I took a meditation practice called "Meditation on the Koshas" with Theresa. The Koshas or sheaths, are layers of our being that make up the totality of who we are body, mind and spirit. There are five of these sheaths that organize our being into different levels through which we can attain optimal health and happiness: Physical Body, Energy Body, Mental/Emotional Body, Wisdom Body and Bliss Body.
We have officially entered silence, and I am not going to lie, it is great. There is something really interesting and tranquil about being a large group of people- feeling their energy but not communicating at all.
Woke up around 6 am… typical. No alarms, no distractions (dogs), but my internal alarm clock is programmed to have me be an early riser.
I am sitting by a HUGE fireplace in my pjs on an EXTREMELY comfortably couch doing a lot of reflecting on what has happened since I last wrote. Here is how last night went:
We all gathered for dinner around 6:30 last night, still able to talk. The food was really good! Obviously there were mostly vegetarian/vegan options, but they had fish too. I enjoyed salmon, black beans & rice, mixed vegetables, and a salad bar. They also had these roasted tofu bites… that were really good too :)
After dinner we had orientation and the officially silence ceremony… followed by a “smudging” ceremony. Smudging is a Native American ritual where sage and other dried herbs are burned and the smoke is fanned over the body to cleanse a person , place or an object of negative energies, spirits or influences.
Following the ceremony, we did Yoga Nidra. This practice consists of 30 minutes of VERY light yoga and an hour of savasana. Brian plays bells, gongs, and other instruments and the whole experience in AMAZING. We all brought blankets, pillows and wear comfortable clothes, and literally make a “nest” to snuggle up in to take a deep savasana. I was out like a light after 30 seconds.
After that, I was so relaxed I went back to my room and went to sleep. It was about 10pm. I remember having a bunch of wild dreams about the retreat. Basically involving me trying to remain in silence, and people trying to distract me and get me to break my silence- Ivana was in my dream! I woke up thinking that it really happened!
I woke up ready to start my day around 6, I got coffee, a bowl of oatmeal and a banana and came to relax.
It’s funny, a week ago, I had a conversation with Jonathan, my friend/teacher from Red Lotus, about how we are both morning people and rarely ever sleep in. Guess who the only two people at the fire are right now? Yep… me and Jonathan. Although we cannot talk or look at each other, it’s nice to have a friend in the room.
Lord, show me what I need to see, teach me what I need to learn, and Guide me along the way.
That prayer came to me while I was walking the trail this morning. Being alone, the sun still hadn’t come up yet. I was just enjoying the silence and brisk air. I felt like I was in the presence of God.
At 7:30 I practiced vinyasa, and used part of the prayer as my mantra:
SHOW. TEACH. GUIDE.
Those words along with my breath and the silence of the room really worked for me.
Practicing without music or “words of wisdom” from the teacher is surprisingly insightful. Yes- they talk to take us through the sequence, but other than that, no sound. It is powerful to hear everyone around you- just being present. I felt the energy of everyone through the rhythmic breathing, and I think it is safe to say I was not the only one fueling my practice with this energy.
After class, I took a long hot shower- threw on my comfy clothes and came here to relax. No makeup, no style, my hair is still wet... No Judgment. I truly feel like I am having a major “busyness” detox. Right now I am laying on a couch, in a room lit by a beautiful Christmas tree surrounded by a group of people relaxing, reading, sleeping, writing, crafting, etc. I have nowhere else to be, so with that being said… I am going to enjoy my book: A Spiritual Renegades Guide to the Good Life- Lama Marut.
I just finished lunch. I thought having meals in silence would be awkward. For some reason, it is not (for me anyways). In teacher training, we talk about Yoga meals, and I try to practice them regularly. A Yoga Meal is simply eating mindfully without distractions. Taking the time to enjoy each bite, to slow down your eating, and appreciate the nourishment you are receiving through the food.
This afternoon I had an hour-long massage and then practiced Tibetan Heart Yoga with the group.
Everything moves at such a relaxed pace here. People walk slowly, eat slowly, and just MOVE slowly. Because there is no urgency, no reason to rush. I feel like my whole body, mind and spirit is getting a detox- a much overdue detox. I thought it was going to be so difficult to maintain silence for this long, but to be honest, I love everything about it.
Silence has given me the opportunity to be in tune with my senses and emotions... able to think clearly and whole heartedly about everything.
It is nice to be in a room full of people (I’m back by the fire) and not see one single person staring down at a glowing screen in front of their face. No worrying about texting, emails… everyone just looks content and happy with where they are. I already think this weekend has been going by too fast!
I am quickly realizing the value of quiet time, rest and relaxation. I also realized how much I DO NOT miss my phone and the feeling of being constantly connected to the world.
I started noticing lately how often I refresh my inboxes and social media sites to see if anything new has come up for me to check. I don’t really understand why. As if it is going to change my day/attitude if I get a new email or notification. I want to make a conscious effort to limit my technology time at home. There are so many other things I can be doing with my spare time!
I have been doing a lot of soul searching, since it has just been me and my thoughts over the past (almost) 24 hours. I have come up with some realizations, some things to give up, and some things to work on if I want to have the fulfilling life I deserve.
THINGS TO LET GO OF:
- Being so critical about myself
- Denying myself some of life's simple pleasures
- Feeling the need to justify every single thing that I do- I really don’t think people care that much about why I do what I do.
- Beating myself up if a plan or part of my routine gets changed or broken- it's more fun to just go with the flow
THINGS TO START DOING:
- Listen to my body- it knows when enough is enough, or when it needs more
- Honor my thoughts and trust my intuition.
- Treat myself to life's simple pleasures
- Show MYSELF some love and appreciation- I do it for everyone else, why not do it for me?
- Don’t be too proud to ask for help or seek advice- Life is hard, it's ok to reach out.
I guess those lists kind of go hand in hand with one another…
I need to lighten up- be present, and enjoy life for what it is.
In the book I am reading, Lama Marut says to "live as if everything is a miracle" - and it is. We can't let the past dictate how we live today. You can't change your past, but you can change your interpretation of the events that led to today.
It is pretty obvious that my past is the direct cause of some of my actions and thoughts today. For so long, my past has been seen as a battle and hardship. But since those times are behind me, and I continue to work on being the best version of myself- I will look at those battles as learning opportunities…that set me on the path to where I am now.
Back to Reality:
Yesterday when I got home, I felt calm and relaxed. Brian wasn’t kidding when he said we would have to ease ourselves back in to the real world. I felt like I was moving around slowly and unrushed… and still felt no urgency to go out and do anything.
Joe and I talked and relaxed all afternoon.
We hung out in the front room with the dogs enjoying each other's company(Christmas Tree was on, incense was lit, the floor was covered in blankets and pillows… it was awesome). We went through a play-by-play of our weekends... one story leading to the next. It means a lot to have someone truly express interest and curiosity about activities I am pursuing.
The weekend in silence exceeded my expectations in every way imaginable. Being in silence gave me some true insight into myself and what is important in life. I feel honored and truly blessed to have been able to share the experience with such a great group of brave people.