This time last week I was arriving for a weekend retreat.
I’m sure I’m not alone in struggling to justify time off and be utterly ‘selfish’ and take time to myself. Despite the challenges, I’ve overcome them and attended retreats at least once a year for the last 10 years.
And… its far from being selfish, in fact my friends and family sometimes ask when I’m going on one, because I always return rejuvinated!
I knew I needed a break, but it wasn’t until I started unravelling, easing my tired body and active mind onto my mat that I became fully aware of just how well timed this weekend retreat was.
It’s everything from having two and a half days of being looked after by the teacher, eating beautiful meals I haven’t had to prepare, drifting into rooms that are kept cosy and thoughtfully designed for relaxation to a lot of time spent outside in nature.
Last weekend was really stormy, gale force winds. I loved hearing the winds outside and contrasting that with how warm and peaceful I felt. All that bluster and drama outside and peaceful inner wind (vayus in Yoga) of my breath.
As I lay in the studio looking out of the window at clouds skudding past I really understood the Buddhist teaching of seeing thoughts as like clouds passing. They whipped across the sky, sometimes I could follow a single cloud’s journey, and that felt relaxing, I could be present as it moved from right to left… Other times they all merged into one and turned the sky white, no space for the clarity of a blue sky.
This is what the mind is like; So many thoughts crowd my mind that individual thoughts merge into one overwhelming experience, clouding my mind and judgements. I can’t see clearly. A calm mind might have a few white puffy clouds scattered around, there will be time to look at them, notice them before returning a focus on the clear blue sky.
Retreats are so transformative because it’s in these moments where the teachings, the theory or nice stories you hear in class are actually embodied.
Please give me the pleasure of looking after you on retreat this year. Here’s my weekend retreat schedule. And a lovely track called ‘Clouds Cross Skies’ to listen to as you read about my offerings. The retreats I teach are suitable for beginners, because we are all beginners.
...And if you're not able to join me on retreat, it's my sincere hope you take some of the things I've shared in this article to make your own retreat experience; eat well, rest and spend time in nature.
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Beautiful photo by Sarah Alice Lee.