The Power of Retreat

I’m just returning from a week-long retreat with Darren Rhodes (of YogaGlo and YogaOasis fame) at a fantastic jungle hideaway called Haramara in Sayulita, Mexico.  I’m amazed once again at the power of this thing we call “retreat.”

To “retreat” is to  take a step back – or even many steps back – from a situation.  On the battlefield, retreat happens when an army recognizes that it is overpowered.  It withdraws from a situation to regroup and reassess its resources.  When we yogis “go on retreat” we may or may not be facing the same losses and challenges as an army.  Nevertheless, we choose to remove ourselves from the battlefield of our daily lives and routines to look objectively at the bigger picture.  Like Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita who basically calls a time out right before battle to review his possible courses of action with the Divine (Krishna), we periodically need to turn into ourselves to look at how far we’ve come and survey the landscape ahead before acting with resolve.

2012 has been a crazy year for so many people – myself included.  As it begins to wind down, I can’t help but be struck by the amount of change I moved through in the last ten months.  I saw the dissolution of Anusara Yoga and the public hanging-out-to-dry of my principal teacher, John Friend.  I lost clarity around my yoga teaching, but then dug deep to reestablish it on different footing.  With sadness I witnessed the unraveling of the Anusara Yoga community network, but worked hard to send runners out to the individuals I love so much within it.  I re-envisioned my management role at the studio I own and set about trying to sell it.  I relinquished most of my public yoga classes and refocused my teaching on intensive workshops.  I shifted a number of relationships, and I broke my first bone.

And that’s just me and my small life.  Around me there are myriad local, national, and global political changes.  Climate and weather variations are getting stranger and stranger.  Nearly every one of my friends has experienced significant upheaval in their personal and professional lives.  Most of all, there seems to be something brewing in everyone’s spiritual life.

While all these little tin soldiers move on the field of battle I know I get caught up in watching the play-by-play and I lose sight of the big picture.  I can’t always get up and out of my office to see what is going on from above…hence the need for retreat.

It was gratifying to check in this past week and notice how much more I trust the process of life and its cycles of creation this year than I have in the past.  I am more settled in to the flow of my path and my place within it, and I’m remarkably content to be here on the planet letting events unfold as they will.  I’m proud to say that I was in the jungle doing yoga and sitting and swimming and eating for a week without thinking at all about where I am going to live next or how my business is going to grow or not in the upcoming years.  That lack of chatter opened space to see and move towards the next step – which for me is, in fact, all about space  (more on that in the next post!).  It’s amazing how obvious the next step is after a period of retreat.  Right, duly noted.

And while I had the opportunity to escape to another country and another ecosystem for my retreat, you don’t necessarily need to go exotic to check-in.  Local retreats – such as the modules of “The Yogic Life” that Neesha Zollinger and I are offering in 2013 – can be just as effective.  Even one-day workshops are great options.  The key is to set some time aside for yourself and somehow mark the boundaries of your retreat – perhaps with a ritual, or by locking up your computer or hiding your phone.   I strongly recommend doing a bunch of yoga – to clear the channels, move some energy around, and rid yourself of thoughts and habits that aren’t serving you.  Then reflect.   Sit and watch the dance of the divine in you.  What wants to happen in you, around you, and through you?  Listen.  Write.  Feel.  Think.  Most of all, be.

Then, with gratitude for the insight you receive, move forward with dignity and grace.  You can’t be on retreat forever, and the reality is, you don’t want to!  I’m diving back in today – teaching all weekend and through the next couple of weeks, making videos for folks to use, writing, creating art, trying to offer what is needed.  And that feels good.

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~ by bridgetannlyons on November 16, 2012.

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