I'm just back from a 10-day meditation-yoga retreat with Paul Muller Ortega. Retreat is not exactly an apt word for what we do, which is to dive deep into study and practice. It is intense. It is not a vacation but it is a form of pleasure. Sometimes I daydream about just going on vacation - to Hawaii or something- but when it comes down to it I always seem to spend my time and money on practice. Lucky for me, Chris (beloved husband) is of the same mind, more or less. We are currently looking forward to doing a retreat together this winter. (But we are daydreaming about doing a “real” vacation next summer when we have our 25th anniversary. I wonder if we’ll be able to pull it off).
It is strange how Yoga has pulled me along these last 40 years. I never did
have a conscious plan to go deep with Yoga practices. When I took my first Yoga
class at 17, I am pretty sure that my main concern in life was to try to be
popular (never happened) and to get a boyfriend (also didn't happen in any way
I care to remember).
When I looked around me at the retreat, I mostly saw people like me - pulled
along by Yoga – spending any extra time and money we have (or don’t have) traveling
to see teachers and do deeper practice.
So.....I'm in deep. My husband and best friends are there with me. It's
weird. It's great.
At this last retreat, I saw so many survivors of the Anusara Yoga shipwreck....formerly
Certified or Inspired Anusara teachers - lovely friends who bobbed to the
surface with me and we found ourselves floating together in the middle of a
meditation kula. Doing deep practice together. It's weird. It's great.
Using the traditional metaphor of the “dying of the cloth”, based on cloth
dying techniques from India, the theory of daily practice and retreat practice
goes like this:
Twice a day, you do your practice in order to go deep, steep in the
brilliance of the dye and get re-Sourced. Practice might include chanting,
asana, pranayama and meditation to move the dye - the light of consciousness -
through the koshas (layers) of flesh, breath, heart, mind and spirit.
But meditation is at the root and core and is considered the "crown
jewel" of Yoga. In these twice-daily practices, you take on a more vivid
color by vibrating closer to the Sacredness at the center of everything. Then,
just as is true in cloth dying practices in India, you do the dailyness of your
householder life. This will dry and fade you out but is not a mistake or a
loss. It is, rather, intrinsic to the process of the practice and assures that
the dye of sadhana (practice) will
continue to set more deeply. (House-holding includes all the things we do -
like e-mail, and paying bills and returning calls and cooking food and cleaning
and doing business and taking care of kids and elders and teaching and so on
It is all part of the practice. That's huge you know!?
Dailyness and life in the world and the way it dries us out and fades our
remembrance of the Sacred is not an obstacle or a loss. It is what allows the
dye to set more deeply the next time.
Similarly, twice a year, (ideally), you dip deeper into the dye vat - stay
there longer - by doing a retreat. It’s the annual version of the daily practice:
Practice at dawn and dusk, of both the day and the year.
So! I am just back from a deep dip. The reentry has been very smooth at home
with Chris and in my practice life. It has been a little rough in some outer
areas of life. To switch metaphors from dye vat to car mechanics: It’s like I
just got a tune up and now I am back on the road and I feel like I’m running a
little rough – like maybe I liked it better the way I ran before because it was
“normal”. The “new normal” feels rough.
It’s just re-entry. I am used to it. It will pass quickly.
OK – now I am a tuned up car just out of the dye vat and looking forward to
the year. Garden Street is humming along – with some new teachers coming on
board in the autumn and the “old” teachers continuing to be stellar in their
teaching (and I am not exaggerating). AND! Garden Street is now a 500-hour school.
The advanced study program begins in January. That has been – and is – a BIG
A little further afield, I am going to Seattle a few times this autumn: to
teach at Seattle Yoga Arts with my friends Denise and Rainey……and to take a
workshop with Ayurvedic Poet, Matthew Remski.
I’m really looking forward to all of that.