I spent this last week-end away from my family at a retreat in Prince Edward County. I had some trepidation going into this. I had not yet been away from my still nursing toddler before. I had not been to this retreat before. I had no idea where I was going. I was afraid of sharing a room with someone as I would be pumping milk.
I registered, paid my money, asked about private pumping places and got some directions. I even offered to drive three other women that I knew who were going. It was lovely. The drive was great, I got to know three women who I had briefly spoken in class so much better than I did before. I may have even made some long term friends from the feelings of it. We did not get lost, in fact the drive was very straight forward and so scenic and beautiful. We were there before we knew it. We were shown our rooms and I was so lucky to have a large room with a double bed to myself. I guess pumping has its perks.
It was different to retreats that I had attended before. This was way less regimented. There was snacks between meals. The yoga sessions, and discussions were all optional. I of course exercised my option to attend, after all that is what I was there for. The beds and rooms were cozy and comfortable. Not cots or bunk beds lined up with a thin sheet for bedding. The food was lovely, fresh fruit, oatmeal, pasta, curry and homemade desserts.
The other main difference was that the facilitator and "staff" did not all become inaccessible between sessions. This was so nice. They were there to eat with us, and there during free time to chat about whatever. I even took a bike ride with our teacher which was lovely.
The yoga was fabulous. This was the one known thing about this trip. I have been taking classes with Kat for some time and she was one of my teachers in training. I knew it would be great, but the environment made it that much better. Kat is someone that I would call "shiny". She glows from the inside out and this did not change in a retreat setting. The discussions were also fantastic and although I did not always have anything to say or ask I enjoyed listening. We even practiced laughter yoga, which I had not done before. We basically were on our mats laughing hysterically for about 10 minutes. It does sound silly, but we were in that kind of a mood and it worked. It was really heart opening and energizing to just sit and giggle, contagious in fact.
You would think that a mother of three who is away on a retreat would want to take an opportunity like this to sleep. I did take a short 20 minute nap on the first day but that was it. I actually took the time to get out of bed at 6:30am each morning. Go down to the yoga studio and meditate for half and hour to forty five minutes before the others woke up. As a mom of three I don't often get to meditate in the morning and often practice my meditations at night. I relished in the opportunity to be able to do this in the morning and sit and have a long leisurely meditation. The retreat would have been worth it if I had only done this. Well, maybe not... but it was a great part of it!
The other portion I LOVED was silence from 10pm until 10am. Yes we were sleeping during a lot of this but we were also awake in the morning for several hours. I even went for a walk with one of my friends in silence and enjoyed some morning air, which was lovely. People can communicate without speaking. I enjoyed the silence so much that I think I may try a silent "vipassana" retreat next time. I did discover that I had a few demon's to slay through this. Lots of voices in my head lots of thoughts to examine. This really is something I would like to explore further. I did however have a hard time coming out of it, even though it was such a short time.
One of the attendees asked me how I keep up my yoga and meditation practice as a mom with three young children. I simply said that the practice changes when you have children. You learn to become more present in the moment. Not so focused on what I wished I had of done or what I still have to do. It is also a very large exercise in ahimsa, in being kind to myself. My meditation practice is not at an ideal time. I meditate a night rather than in the morning. My practice is often short as I get interrupted. My body is often tired and I am physically not always where I want to be. One of my teachers once said that "being a mom is a spiritual practice in itself sometimes". I really believe that and try to accept that. I also told this woman that I take it where I can get it, like being up at 6:30am at a retreat when everyone else is sleeping. She had noticed that I was up and meditating early, wondered why I wasn't sleeping. It made sense to her when I told her I needed to seize these moments to appreciate my practice.
I think I have written enough. For those who my be reading who have never been on a retreat before, I encourage you to try it. Relax, rejuvenate and enjoy. Be present in all it has to offer you!
P.S. For the retreat centre I atteneded: http://www.sahayoga.com/
For my teacher that I respect so much: http://www.makataliving.com/