Wielding her extra-large cast-iron skillets and a Portugese-knit apron, Chef Mary fed me and twenty of my yoga students for three days. She fed us bergamot-laced salads followed by canary-colored quinoa. She topped delicate jasmine rice with edible garden flowers, lavender and heart-shaped clovers. She chopped onions with a royal finery, lovingly grating ginger and sautéing pumpkin seeds in hot oil and spice.
In between her meals, there was something going on called a yoga retreat.
And, despite the fact that I was teaching, I couldn’t stop feeling this blast of gratitude in my heart. Here was this gorgeous princess-human who had traveled all the way out to Clifton Forge, Virginia to create foods that would heal our bellies and our souls.
I noticed myself really looking forward to her meals.
Why? Because having someone feed you makes you feel good. And today, I feel like it’s such a rarity in my life to actually experience that luxury of being deeply nourished. I suspect that many other women feel the same way.
Mary’s luxurious cooking was not the only thing that really made my heart get full last weekend on the Cow Pasture River. Here are some more insights into deep nourishment, retreating, and being with other creatures in the magic of an off-the-grid-of-your-daily-life weekend.
1. Silence. Going on a retreat, whether it be a yoga retreat or a simple individual retreat, allows you to spend more time in silence than you normally would. My teacher says that “Silence is the one thing that can heal all the voices of our insecurity, fear and doubt.” If intuition and deep feminine wisdom could ride a pony, she would name it Silence.
2. Remembering who you are. Recently, a girlfriend sent me an article written by a woman who described her daily life as a mother. She said it was like trying to wrestle a slippery fish. “Once you got a hold of it,” she says, “then you gotta dress it in a seasonally appropriate outfit.” Within the wildness of the roles we play in our lives (mother, daughter, wife, marathon runner, stockbroker, etc.), we can become so identified with the role, that we forget that we truly are something beyond that. I think this is one of the most beautiful aspects of going into retreat. Who am I if I’m not wrestling a slippery fish?
3. Embodiment. Retreating gives us time to get back in our bodies and out of the brilliant (yet slightly annoying way) that the mind creates endless thought chains. That’s why things like yoga and dance and surfing and any other athletic pursuit are human activities that will just never die. These physical experiences are here to show us how our body is the best of all teachers. Rainer Maria Rilke says that if we want “an unconquerable strength of heart,” we must root our strength “to what is human.” By breathing into our legs, belly and heart, we are instantaneously and miraculously tying back into the present.
4. Community. One of the gals on the retreat said that her favorite part was really getting to spend time with new sweet people. I taught them how to make salt scrubs and body masks. We all sat out in the grass by the river and helped each other get completely covered in the brightest substance on the planet — turmeric. It was like kindergarten for adults. We also got to eat three meals a day together. Some of our meals were in silence. Some were just plain silly. The point is, there we were, twenty friends just kickin’ it, and enjoying being alive together.
5. Routine. Natural rhythms are super-healing. One of the best ways to feel good is to get into a daily groove of waking, meal and bed times. This can help reset digestion and rejuvenate the body/mind.
6. No Routine. Besides these natural routines, as well as a few scheduled yoga and cooking classes, we were free to roam, read, swim and nap. There is something delightfully healing and restorative about no agenda, no meetings, no cell phones and no ambition.
The At Home Retreat
Even if you can’t go on a retreat any time soon, try incorporating these “retreat-esque-moments” into your day:
1. Wake up early. Spend the early-morning hours in total silence. Don’t read email. Don’t check Facebook. Simply be with your fabulous self. Do some self-massage, read a spiritually-uplifting book, do some breath work or take a long walk in nature.
2. After dinner, take a technology break. Turn off the gadgets. Sing to the sunset. Your kids or husband may think you’ve lost your mind. That’s a good sign.
3. Try turning off lights as the sun starts to go down. Our circadian rhythms can be altered by too much artificial lighting. The creature of our body feels naturally snuggly if lights are low, or if candles are lit. Plus, it’s sexy.
4. Ask for a foot massage. My mom used to pay us kids a quarter for a 10 minute foot rub. My brother would make a lot of money. Perhaps your kids can be lovingly coerced in such a fashion?
5. The bathtub is your personal body temple. I find that so many women consider taking an oily, sensual bath a total luxury. If I had a dime for every time I heard the word “guilty” when I mention candle-lit baths…
6. Pandora station – Arvo Pärt Radio. Enough said.
If this sounds yummy, come take retreat! The next one is gonna be the sweetest ever – A New Year’s Event: Envision Life + Yoga in the Turquoise Lagoons of the Mayan Riviera, January 4 – 10, 2013. More info at ParaYogini.com »