To step away from the responsibilities and complications of our every day living and breathe into another part of our lives can bring with it that much needed ahhhhhh, comfort, and, often enough, discomfort too.
We are used to a full and fast-paced this is often overwhelming.
Recently, I left my day-to-day life to travel to India for 3 weeks. Upon pulling in after traveling for 2 days, I stopped to check in at the front desk of my resort – at 3 am local time – anxious to get to bed and rest. And what did I find? I was greeted with a necklace of local flowers and a coconut and asked to sit and relax for a moment. I could see there were a few others that had just arrived as well, in front of me. C’mon C’mon C’mon, What’s taking so long? That’s how my inner dialogue went. Maybe they’re new, I thought. Maybe if I stand up they’ll be inspired to speed the check in process up, I bargained. What came next was a string of really slow and, yeah, annoying folks moving at a speed my nervous system didn’t recognize. At All. Didn’t they all know they were going to die one day, maybe soon? Shouldn’t we hurry up and get somewhere?
Now, even though I practice yoga. In meditation form, pranayama form, asana form–and, really the whole form of the eight-limbed path for conscious living. However, the fast speed of my everyday life is quite intoxicating and even addicting. Adrenals pump out hormones validating the ego for being here and taking up quite a bit of space. The mind gets so full that it doesn’t have to pause and feel…well, anything.
Except: busy… “How are you?” “Busy.” How are you?” “Busy.”
Ironically of course, I was on my way to retreat, to get away, to rest, to rejuvenate in this SLLLLLLOOOOOWWWW resort. I understood these people were not necessarily slow. I was just busy. Fast and busy, with my body, mind, and internal systems struggling to keep pace. As I allowed myself to arrive into this sacred space, which was sacred because it was just that–SPACE –I met myself again.
I took deep, deep rest. Much, much needed rest. In the form of sleep. Receiving long body treatments. Sitting by the pool. Longer, unrushed mealtime with beautiful souls. Walks in nature. Quiet, unstructured time. After a few days, I could feel: space, enoughness, the earth underneath me, clarity in that log jam of my brain.
An untethering of the forces of “busy”. It didn’t take much except the choice to come, which I always notice is one of the hardest to make. To step out of the current of doing, to step toward a place that cultivates an opening of the aperture.
Retreat. Usually we think of it as a retreat from–almost waiving the white flag and possibly losing, to retreat from the usual busyness, from speed and spin, from the noise that we rely on to keep us from feeling too much.
But what if we think of it instead as a retreat TO? A retreat to winning, to regaining something that is already right here: our own breath, space, quiet. These things are with us always, even though sometimes we have to step away to remember them.
If we’re really blessed, it’s also a retreat to someplace of natural beauty, a place that can inspire awe by reminding us of our connection to the natural world. While it isn’t absolutely essential to have natural splendor, rolling hills and elder trees, or a blanket of stars to retreat to–it doesn’t hurt, either. The natural world can shock us back INTO our senses and reopen the connection to the world around us that gets invisibly cloaked when we move so fast and keep it so full in our work life, city life, parenting life. Natural beauty can reopen our connection to our own inner natural rhythms. We can watch some of the filters fall away as we relax into the air around us, watch ourselves breathe it in, watch ourselves breathe it out.
Is it possible to experience this sense of spaciousness, to remember to slow it down and take it all in in the midst of the daily shuffle, the duties, the various ways we check out? I think so. I experience it. Yet I must say, a moment to step away–to retreat to the natural world and also within to our own nature–can help reset the busy button. It can calm a nervous system down enough to make clearer choices when we return to all that awaits us outside the green rolling hills, the meditation room, the consciously prepared food, the yoga practice space.