Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A week of silence - Is a huge reset button

Meditation and silence has always been a huge element in my yoga practice and philosophy. Afterall, it was only after my first silent meditation retreat that led me on the path to becoming a yoga instructor. So I always fall back on it if I feel I am slipping in my practice. Or just slipping in life in general.


A few weeks ago, I went for my 3rd silent retreat in 3 years, with the same organisation, Bali Usada. In a nutshell, it was so many things. Because I had done it before, I was familiar with the schedule, what the discourses, even the surroundings and the food! But also because I had done it before, maybe I expected it to be not as difficult. I was quite humbled once again. It was hard work.

The retreat was 7 days, 6 nights. Each day starts with a 5am and ends at 9pm and there are 8 of these sit down on floor, no back support, eyes closed, 45-min silent meditation sessions a day. 8. These are interspersed with  2 talks/discourses and 2 simple exercises (blend of chi gong and tai chi) and wonderful 15 min breaks where we could make ourselves ginger tea and walk around the gardens of the lovely Saranam Resort and watch the local farmers tend to their padi fields. And of course, meal breaks. 


But like I said, it was hard work. Sometimes I felt like I was running a 7 day marathon. That thankfully had many breaks. Then again, it's meant to be hard work. Who said anything worthwhile in life was meant to be easy right? The pain in my back, the oh so familiar pain and ache that visited me every session about 2 min into the sitting was a thing I had to deal with. Then the constant wandering mind, reminded me how weak my mind had become living my everyday life. Why can't I just focus on my breath for 45 min? Why does it always want to be a monkey and go where ever it felt like? But of course, there were incredible lovely moments of clarity and bliss that came with it. Some sessions were generally better than others. And we were taught not to expect it all to be amazing. Just like life... we cannot expect everything to always be breezy and happy. 


On the 6th day at noon, we were allowed to break our 'noble silence' and were returned all our mobile phones and gadgety things. Back to 'normal life'. Immediately, my head felt overwhelmed with conversation and the intensity of the exchange of energy and words and activity was quite intoxicating. I had to lie down and breathe just to get over a one-hr lunch with our new friends. The difference was immediately felt. It's really amazing how our beings adjust to quiet and then needs to adjust back to noise. To have found the stillness in us and then feel it being rippled up again was a little disturbing, but I knew, we had to go back to our lives. 

We spent a few days on Nusa Lebongan, this small little island off the main Bali Island and we basked in post-retreat glow for a few days. We woke up at dawn and meditated with the sunrise. We spent the next few days still TV-free. It was a delicious time for my husband and I to talk about our experiences and discuss the future. I found, like all the past retreats I've had, that the weeks and months after were always different. It seemed like that there would be an acceleration in fulfilling life's deep and meaningful intentions. Like, everything fell naturally into place. It was as if, anything was possible. And I think it's got to do with the whole 'cleansing' our minds, our souls, our spirits with our usual nonsense, our usual baggage and self-limitations, and we are for a few weeks and months, more 'open' and we can read the universe's signs for us more clearly, we are simply filled with more potential to be creative, to be imaginative, to be whatever we want ourselves to be. I call it, a huge RESET button. A wonderful time to make intentions.  

I thought this is an important post on this blog. As a yoga teacher, we need to be reasonably filled up with inspiration and good energy to be able to teach and spread it. This retreat is not just for yoga teachers or seasoned meditaters. Its for EVERYONE. My husband and I chanced upon it 3 years ago while travelling around Bali. At that time, we had no experience or knew ANYTHING about meditation. We just did it out of curiosity, and also, we felt we needed direction in life. Boy did it sort things out for us. 

I recommend for all my students and friends and family to go try this. It is not expensive at all, compared to other typical retreats in Bali. It's a wonderful little program. Simple, non-pretentious, honest and just life-changing. They run English-language retreats about only 6 - 8 times a year from a 4 start hotel in the mountains in Bali, away from the touristy area and everythings very comfortable and easy. The schedule is on their website www.balimeditation.com. I thank life everyday for having chanced upon this. Because now I have an anchor to this ship, on this journey of life. 

Balinese healer, spiritual mentor, and good friend, Pak Merta Ada