Monday, October 15, 2018

Interrupt Your Life, Take Refuge and Grow

Retreat. The act of withdrawing from a certain position; to pull back; to find refuge. Regardless of what a retreat offers you, whether it be to relax, to restore, to nourish, to study, or to just be. Retreating from our current position of life, from the day to day routine, allows us to pull back the covers, to see from a different perspective the life that we are retreating from and to find refuge in the inherent boundless space of the heart, so that we can more clearly align with our souls purpose and serve from this place. 

Let's get clear here first. Often this word conjures up some negative reactions. As, to withdraw from a situation, conversation, event, group, experience, or job can be viewed as avoidance, escapism, copping-out. Which could certainly be true if that is a reaction to stress, overwhelm or even trauma. And if so, first and foremost question to ask is, "Am I safe?" If safety is not an issue, perhaps the more poignant question is, "Am I avoiding or checking out on something I actually need to be paying attention to?" Depending on the situation, withdrawing temporarily might still help to gain perspective. 

It is completely normal, natural and at times healthy to develop habitual patterns. There is certainty, and therefore comfort, in the known. And structure, or routine, can be supportive in the sense that our energy is manageable, our nervous system can recalibrate from the exposure to everyday stressors. However, when we stay in one particular pattern for too long, we might be limiting ourselves and be passing by some hidden potential that has been waiting to be ignited or called upon. This is especially true if we actually feel stuck; if we have been working hard and not experiencing the intended results of our actions and not seeing any change. Maybe its time to take a break from the routine, or change it up in a small way. This can create space not just for a different perspective but it can also open up creative potential. Disrupting a pattern yields to new possibilities. To withdraw or retreat can be a gentle interruption of daily routine, and in so doing, what was unseen or hidden in the shadow of potentiality is brought to light.

Going on a retreat is the ultimate refuge. Refuge from the monotony of life, from work life, family life, city life, from stress, environmental and societal threats and so on. A retreat provides the space in which we are no longer at the mercy of the responsibilities, distractions and stress that come with our everyday living. It is by far a privilege, a blessing, a gift to be able to do such a thing. That is why it is important to understand the value of retreating; and to ultimately apply and integrate the experience to our everyday life. A refuge is considered a place of safety, a place of shelter and protection from external threats, be it environmental, societal, cultural or economical. Specifically, a retreat offers a unique opportunity to have all the basic needs (food, shelter, warmth) taken care of, such that you can explore the interior space of the Self, the spiritual heart, without needing to cook, clean and get the kids to bed. Here we can operate less from our ego and more from the heart. The closer we can connect with the energy of the heart, the more we connect with our true Self, our dharma. Taking refuge in the heart does not require one to go on a weeklong retreat, it can happen in a daily 5 minute meditation. However, a extended retreat provides good conditions to interrupt an old pattern and create a new desirable one. 

If a retreat experience is not integrated and applied to your life upon return, that would simply be an extravagant vacation. Interestingly, the antonym of retreat is "advance"; to move forward. So, going on retreat, we have interrupted the pattern, looking at life from a different viewpoint, connected to the spiritual heart in refuge. Now, it is time to maintain that connection the best that we can and bring it back to our family, our friends, colleagues, students, to our art and work in the world. It's nearly impossible to maintain this state of being all the time. So be must be gentle with ourselves. As we weave ourselves back into our lives, what is one or two things from the retreat that can be immediately practiced and added to our daily routine? In addition, to avoid falling back into an old pattern, it might be helpful to make small easy changes at home. Such as, change the furniture arrangement, change something about your morning or nighttime routine, take a different route to work, etc. 

When we return to our lives, we see with new eyes, a new perspective and more connected to the innate energy of well being, there is no choice but to advance and grow and thrive in all that we do! 

Monday, April 23, 2018


What does it mean to be connected, to feel connected?

I have unknowingly been seeking an answer to this question all my life. Now, I approach it with more curious awareness then from a place of lack, desperation and confusion. I am diving deep into it. 

I am curious of how we are able to connect in a world that is technologically driven, a world that fosters independence over collaboration, a world that is increasingly divisive despite our efforts and claims of being united and inclusive.

I'm exploring this not because I want to fix what is broken; thats too much a burden to bear. Although the idealist in me, believes there is still time to turn the sinking ship around. I am curious, because at the root of many of our problems is a loss of human connection and loss of self-worth; and we are desperately seeking just that.

I am remembering all the times when I felt disconnected, abandoned and alone. Growing up with uncertainty and insecurity, new kid at school, dumped by my first boyfriend, that first night I arrived to India all alone (happened to be New Years Eve), the days following spent in the ashram, and all the days in between where I did not belong to groups, circles, programs that I desperately wanted to be a part of.  Even when I was a part of one of those programs, surrounded by mostly kind and loving people, I felt alone.

It turns out, being in the presence of a group of seemingly likeminded people, feelings of disconnection and not belonging still arise. In some cases, even more so. The longing to connect persists; and the feeling of wholeness remains just out of reach, loneliness and depression only dig their heels in deeper. I believe the sense of disconnection relates to lack of purpose. Misalignment. Latent dharma.

So, what constitutes true connection?

I am remembering all the times when I have felt truly whole and connected. When I worked as a field biologist in the mountains hiking for 10 hours a day, mostly alone; island hopping on a boat in Indonesia; yoga teacher trainings, classes and workshops; meeting my husband; the one rare moment at the ashram; holding my baby; in meditation whether it be seated, walking, surfing; listening to my friends' pain and holding her while she cries; in my garden. So many moments of connection.

This is what I know so far. Being able to truly connect, whether it be to Self or to another person or group of people, is not based on shared values, belief systems, culture or race, age or gender. It happens when we are vulnerable, in the experience of pain and joy and freedom. When we are aligned with the truth of our heart.

For me it has been a journey inward. Into the depths of my heart and soul. I go there through yoga, through nature, and through the raw truth of pain and joy. When I reflect on all those varied moments of true connection, there is a common thread of being able to let go of the shit that gets in the way of real eminent presence.

To be continued....