Recently, I had an opportunity to attend a 10 day Vipassana retreat in Northern Nicaragua. For those unfamiliar with Vipassana, it is a form of silent meditation that is normally taught over a ten day silent retreat. The schedule for the days is long, with meditation beginning at 4:30 in the morning and lasting about 10 hours each day. Wow! On top of that, meals are sparse. As I’m still not feeling 100% myself, I opted to retreat at another time in the future when I am up to such a rigorous schedule.
However, I was inspired by the idea of a retreat, and opted instead to design and implement a yoga and meditation retreat right where I am. “Meet yourself where you are,” is one of the lessons that I continue to re-learn throughout my life. To me, this is a gentle reminder that we don’t need to strive for perfection where we are and in our goals. We don’t need to travel to discover something new about ourselves and our world, and we don’t need to change every aspect of our lives to achieve a new benefit or enlightenment. In other words, life can be a lot simpler than you’re making it out to be!
This concept often comes up when I find myself motivated to change something, yet struggling to implement the change that I’ve identified as useful in my life. Partly, this struggle comes from Newton’s first law of motion – that an object at rest will tend to stay at rest. I’ve found, though, that I’m best able to implement changes in my life when I don’t force them. When I make a small change and I’m able to stick with it, I notice that my body begins to naturally crave other more subtle changes. For example, committing to a yoga practice three times a week was easy when every day seemed like too much. After regularly practicing three times a week, I began to find that my body wanted more yoga, and I was able to find space for the practice naturally in my life and within my body. After introducing a regular practice three or more times weekly, I noticed that my body was craving healthier foods and less unhealthy activities like drinking too much and staying up too late. With even more regular practice, I soon began to fall into a healthy rhythm of rising and sleeping on a more regular basis and living a healthier lifestyle. In this way, each small step built on the one before and paved the way for the next step to come. It was much easier for me to incorporate these differences into my lifestyle than if I attempted to change everything at once.
The Bhagavad Gita addresses this dilemma with the following quote:
“Learn the path of Yoga, which leads from limitation to freedom. It is the eternal path. No step along this path can be lost. No effort is wasted. Even a small amount of progress brings freedom from fear.” (Bhagavad Gita, 2:39)
The Bhagavad Gita is all about finding our dharma, or our highest and truest life path. This can be seen as something quite strict and difficult, but to me, the quote above means that one can go about finding one’s dharma with a measure of gentleness. After all, the definition of asana is to find “Sthira and Sukha” within each pose – the ease and the strength. Given that my body is recovering from a small illness, I have felt moved to be a bit sweeter to myself. I have felt a patience as I notice that my body is in no mood to be pushed to the limit right now – or rather, I’ve noticed that my limits have shifted and drawn a bit closer to the midline.
So with all this in mind – wanting to gently restart my practice and wanting to find the peace and clarity that comes from a meditative retreat, I’ve designed my own at-home yoga retreat that will begin tomorrow. I’ve enlisted a friend to be my retreat buddy, practicing with me from Texas. We begin our practice tomorrow. I’ve included time each day for multiple meditations and asana practices. Each day will start with a silent meditation. I’ve designed a comprehensive kundalini and asana practice to support my main goals for the ten days – healing and manifestation. I’ll be studying the Bhagavad Gita and Poised for Grace in my down time as well as keeping up with my Spanish studies. Finally, I’ve included time each day for writing exercises or other expressions of creativity. I am grateful at this moment to be experiencing an abundance of creativity and inspiration! My hope is to harness all of this energy and use it to naturally come back to my practice and discover which step is next on this road I’m wandering.