January 2001 I went to India and trained as a Yoga teacher. The hardest, roughest, toughest, most grueling, painful, and downright miserable month of my life also marked a turning point – when I began to take responsibility for myself, find my path, and really live.
Since then, I’ve taken and led many retreats. I can’t imagine going more than a year or two without one now.
My body needs it.
So does yours.
Modern life is fast and super-stressful. We get sucked into the mundane before we can say ‘must-be-mindful’. Spat out again on the other side of a lost year, all those unresolved resolutions shored up in our subconscious, we end up waging war with ourselves, not realizing that the real enemy is the system that we allow ourselves to get caught up in – thinking that we need it.
We don’t need it – it needs us. We don’t need anything. And that’s what you realize – deeply – when you go on a retreat.
You realize that you’re fine just as you are.
No WiFi, no cell phones, no media blare – nothing but nature.
And of course, there’s the Yoga (or Tai Chi), the fresh, healthy food, the conscious relaxation, the sense of being surrounded by like-minded people (you know, community), the deep breathing, and the space and time to simply enjoy.
These are things that human beings need daily, and that most people are starved of.
The moment it hit me that retreats are actually important – was when I finished leading my first one. It was mid-Summer, on a Croatian Island, and we’d started the week (35 of us) holding hands standing in a circle, as I chanted a sacred mantra for auspicious beginnings.
At the end of the week we stood in a circle holding hands and I chanted a sacred mantra for auspicious endings, and then we walked out from under the canopy that covered us.
Everyone outside was standing looking up at the sky, open mouthed, pointing, in awe.
There was a perfect circular rainbow halo around the sun:
Pretty auspicious huh?!
I’d never seen anything like it before in my life – and it felt like (accuse me of having a God-complex if you will!) a divine omen, an (almost) neon flashing sign stating loud and clear:
“Yes, you’re on the right path, keep up the good work”
So I keep on taking and leading retreats. I believe that we need to break out of the system occasionally, remind ourselves of what’s important and what’s not.
And in the same way that we all know we need a weekend once a week, I hope that one day we’ll all retreat once a year (just like we get our cars serviced routinely). To step out of the mundane and remind ourselves that life is sacred, magical and mysterious, and to actively celebrate and participate in that awareness.
I’m running a retreat in August this year, on the Croatian island of Iž. Have a look at the beautiful video of Iž below, and if you’d like more information, go here.
And if not this year, then next. And if not one of my retreats, then someone else’s – you owe it to yourself and to the world around you to stay connected to the joy and wonder and magic deep inside of yourself.
Don’t get caught up in life. Live it – fully, heartedly, meaningfully. And if you’re not sure how, find out.
Our time here is precious, and all too fleeting.
Spread the love now – share this with the world.
Resource: The Sivananda Yoga Organization offers year-round retreats in all of it’s nine Ashrams around the world. They’re cheap, the teaching is of a routinely high standard, and food is excellent. It’s not for everyone – it’s a ‘no-frills’ experience. But if you really want to retreat – in the true sense of the word – then I thoroughly recommend it.