The word retreat can mean a lot of things. A luxury spa vacation, an eco friendly experience, or in Zen Buddhism, it is called sesshin. It is an event normally held over a two to five day retreat with a focus on Zazen (seated practice), service (Buddhist rituals and chanting, and eating (use of oryoki bowls). During sesshin everyone works at a pre assigned task. Some cook, some monitor the temple. Everyone works and participates.
I went to a Beginner focused two day sesshin after practicing zazen, mostly at home, over the past months. Actually almost a year.
My experience at yoga retreats are somewhat documented on my old yoga blog, but since my practice has transformed from a raja yoga focus with classic yoga asana methods, Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga for the most part,to including the Zen method of practice as a spiritual method over the goal of eight types of samadhi as taught by Patanjali. (Goal is the key word. I no longer have goals.) My problem with those methods is that I don’t and haven’t found a full range teacher. Most of my ‘teachers’ have been asana focused. I feel well educated and versed on those topics and their usefullness. Not having a teacher is very limiting. Methods have to be understood and practiced. Using books is only of limited use.
Zazen provided me with a missing link. I just never got that whole limb 6 7 & 8. 3 and 4 weren’t providing me with it. I have been involved with yoga and the evolution of yoga over the past fifteen or so years of the progress from esoteric physical practice into a practice that is now market driven. Most people managing yoga these days are focused on markets, consumer exploitation, more bang for the buck.
And that is probably necessary. Running a small yoga business against the larger forces will drive you out of business. The pie pieces are smaller. Teacher trainings are a dime a dozen. I am removing myself from that chain next year. Over the short period time I have been involved things have changed. Trainees come in with little experience or knowledge in the basics of philosophy and have no real interest in those topics. They have to have SKILLS to complete in a SATURATED market. They have to attain a lot of knowledge to make it out there. Become experts in essential oils, specified movement chains. They have to develop their own focused as far as students.
Or someone else will.
I get all that and totally understand it, but now I just have.
NO INTEREST. I have no interest in the constant chatter/gossip/discussion/disagreement. Don’t use your glutes, don’t practice inversions they are dangerous, unstable pelvises. I had a student tell me their pelvis is unstable from childbirth and their chiropractor told them to take yoga. Like every chiropractor tells every woman who have birthed babies that. And one leg is an inch shorter.
On to sesshin. It was kind of the worst thing I have ever experienced. And I actually went through a Forrest Yoga Advanced Teacher Training. I thought that was the worst thing ever. Even though I sit daily in meditation, the whole second day of this accumulated practice gave me some pain and numbness in my hips that I never felt. I was dizzy from pain. My low back hurt. I knew coming into this there would be discomfort, but this was rather beyond. The service rituals with chanting in Japanese was a relief because I was standing up.
You eat sitting cross legged on the floor. This was fun. I enjoyed the ritual with the oryoki bowls and the temple food was great. But still. Sitting.
We got to do work around the retreat and I worked at cleaning the temple floor which was relief as the pain in my hips and low back was restricting my whole RANGE OF MOTION.
A lovely couple taught a sweet yoga class and moving and breathing, my natural environment was a welcome relief.
It is interesting noting the difference between sitters and my normal yoga students. The sitters reluctant to move and the movers reluctant to sit, even though both is BREATH FOCUSED. It is always about balance.
Coming back to real life today was welcome. Drinking Bloody Mary’s at the Hollander and seeing NIGEL HAYES and few other Badgers after their big win was like a huge embrace of LIFE.
I mean that is what retreat is about, going in so you can get back out.
The biggest change for me is the work on the extinguishment of the ego. It is a kind of death. I spent 60 years invested in differentiating into an esoteric manifestation of nature of the self. Individuation. The weird thing is that you have an investment that never existed anyways. And it won’t. No matter how much marketing, hours invested, training, or work.
So seriously cool. But hard fucking work.