Fall Retreat at the Yoga Ashram
I wanted to share with you all, how incredibly renewed I feel after a yoga retreat weekend. No cell phone, no wifi, Colorado Rocky Mountains at 8,600 feet above sea level, hours a day doing yoga, gourmet Rudi’s vegetarian diet, hot-tub soaks and gentle walks through the fall leaves. Hatha Yoga is a type of gentle body and breath based yoga movement that is typically slow-paced with a focus on proper alignment and connection with ourselves. I started my spiritual path in junior college studying Hatha Yoga, and traded that to immerse myself into Tibetan Buddhism, and here we are full circle.
I think that I can safely say that it’s been an intensely rough couple of years for all of us. As if full on Trump traumatic stress disorder wasn’t enough well we had: fires in our county where our friends had to evacuate from the mountains and stay with us, my daughter and I both had covid and I was hospitalized with pneumonia, we’ve been isolated in quarantine, my daughter became intensely depressed, I became grief-stricken and heartbroken, I lost a close family-like sangha friend, we almost lost our very democracy and I have some close personal friends in congress that almost lost their lives that fateful night on January 6th, I lost my Buddhist sangha after the misconduct exposures of #metoo and it seems like they will not recover, we took a huge economic loss globally and basically- life as we knew it has forever changed. In the past two years, I’ve tried to process all of this karma. That seems to be how I am, I seem to soak all dark things like a heart sponge, squeeze out, rinse into stillness, recharge and repeat. I was crying bathtubs full of tears; staying open and hopeful at every turn, and just when I’d think there would be no more, a wellspring of more tears came, and came and often still come.
Hope and forward thinking has become my very religion. I still find great solace in the essence of my now secular meditation practice, sans the doctrine, Lamaism and religiosity. I can heal by purging grief, connecting with inner stillness, nature, the sun, my supportive friends and my ever-cheerful furry love cats. I wanted to share with you all how deeply grateful I am and transformed I felt after a short weekend at Shoshoni Retreat Center in Rollinsville, Colorado.
Body Based Spirituality
Now, I’m not going to jump ship and leave the essence of all of my Buddhist practice and now become a love and lighter– but I will say, that I do think having gone through almost all of the complete training of the three yanas in Buddhism and tantric Buddhism, that I became… intensely cerebral. Contrary to the Buddha’s clear instructions, there’s a huge amount of doctrine to learn and study. A lot of encoded lists, gilded idolatry, a lot of retreat in silent meditation and sitting still. What I’ve noticed over the past two years of that, is that there wasn’t a huge emphasis on the body, movement, diet and physical health, and with all of this outer guru devotion, taking more and more teachings and empowerments, I think I forgot the basic invitation to look at what is really within us.
My yogi friend in Crestone says that a lot of Buddhist practice, even in the esoteric Third Turning, is filled with a lot of mental calisthenics, and we practice like a disembodied head on a stick. It’s not until much later in the path, that I was offered teachings on how to meditate with the body and the breath and use the body as a yogic tool for spiritual accomplishment. However these tantric yogas were designed for Indo-Tibetans with a much different culture and constitution. The tantric yogas are so powerful, that oftentimes, they have exacerbated anxiety for me, resulting in bouts of kundalini syndrome.
What I found during this gentle Hatha Yoga weekend was that I feel like it might’ve been better for me to start with the body and the breath at the inception of the path and not have so much conceptual doctrine in my brain. It’s almost that in order to open and really heal as the Zen analogy of the hollow bamboo tube, I have to clear the mind from everything that I learned: every complicated conceptual list, doctrine, images of some afterlife, complex vows, fears of spiritual retribution- none of this is helpful to me now. I let it all go, washing my entire mind, body and spirit like as if a river is passing though me. That feels great and is long overdue.
This community that offers retreat and renewal weekends has been very kind to me over the years. They consider themselves both Buddhist and Hindu so I felt really at home. We would wake up at 5:30 am and meditate like perform a simple Medicine Buddha mantra. Then- sacred art, light meals and yoga throughout the day. Every morning they gather and perform a shamanistic fire ceremony to welcome the day. They have a Buddhist/Hindu lavish Lakshmi goddess shrine also, that was of course, my favorite spot!
I am working again with these asanas, you can see some sun salutations below and an attempt at Warrior II, cropping out the legs as I couldn’t quite yet make a 90 degree angle. During the weekend, I cried out some deep dormant traumas, and by the end of the weekend, I was free of anxiety and felt warmth and bliss in my body and life, unplugged from the social media matrix and rather plugged back into the real, regenerative Source. If you have time, I encourage everyone to reconnect to their inner yogi or yogini somehow, it’s time to bring out the best within us, especially in these darker times. Most towns have some type of yoga classes or retreats nearby, they can be invaluable. I would always hold discrimination when joining a community or devoting to any guru these days, but indeed there is a powerhouse of divinity within us!
Take good care of your body, heart and mind everyone, all radiance and love to you always!
RETREAT PHOTO GALLERY:
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