Tuesday. Has it really been a month since my last post? I blog all the time in my head but life has been very busy.
If I had to give a short description of the different retreat centers I’ve been to, Kripalu is a yoga “university” — it’s primary focus is the study of yoga though they also focus on Ayurvedic principles. You can take other classes there as well but yoga is it’s focus. I would say Omega is more the “new age” retreat for workshops. Sure I’ve been there for Pema but they are far from just about meditation and yoga there you can go to study everything from drumming to dream analysis to even running, all in a weekend.
Well a new place just opened up and it is called Copper Beach Institute and it is right near my house. I’m so excited I can’t even tell you. They are emphatically not religious (though they are using the campus of the Catholic Holy Family Retreat Center) and they hope to provide a wide range of speakers for their retreats. I spent this last weekend there as a commuter, you can sleep there in the monastery as well. On the final morning I managed to make it enter-car-door to exit-car-door in 17 minutes. (Yeah, I still time how long it takes me to do things…) You can take the triathlete out of the triathlon…
I went to listen to Sharon Salzberg. I loved every single minute of her speaking. I’ve seen her before in NYC and I thought she was okay but I wasn’t really blown away. But this time everything she was saying was resonating so deeply with me. Her big message is loving kindness meditation. Meditation is a vehicle to get you to calm your mind and then that’s when you can explore loving kindness — for you, the people you love, the people you don’t love, for the world. I can’t help but think my last year of more intensive study with my Dharma sisters really prepped me to be more receptive to her talk.
The only downside of the weekend was I had a terrible cold that is going around her in CT like wildfire. Everyone is getting it. So I couldn’t do the yoga but I did manage to walk the labyrinth (I’ll talk more about my labyrinth in another post). The campus is absolutely gorgeous. You can go there for Catholic retreats as well. They also have a new art gallery on the premises. I didn’t get a chance to see that but I’m going back for a Kundalini Yoga retreat in November. They have talks on all different subjects from work to art but I think the one underlying theme is mindfulness. Here is a link to their guest retreats (they have other programs on the website too) Copper Beach And p.s. I have guest rooms for anyone wishing to do the commuter route.
About a week ago a few friends and I started our second round of the 8-week WholeLifeChallenge. For eight weeks you commit to eliminating certain foods, working out every day (whatever that means to you), stretching everyday, taking your vitamin supplement (whatever that means to you), drinking water and committing to the challenge of the week (every week they give you a different one). You also have to post a short (tweet length) reflection on what you are thinking. Then you deduct points for anything you didn’t do and you have a team to support you. I lost ten pounds the last time I did it and managed to keep it off. So I’m shooting for a repeat of that. I managed to keep some of the habits from last time too so that would be nice as well.
I do workout every day anyway, usually by taking Higgins up in the woods and we either run or walk somewhere between 1 and 3 miles up the mountain and down. And I had been biking this summer twice a week and swimming in the lake once a week up until about a month ago. But now really need a bit of change. When I asked my inner self what do you want to do? It said yoga and swimming (and keep the afternoon workouts with Higgins too). So I found an awesome Masters Swimming group and sent in my application yesterday to start swimming with them at lunch next week. The gal who told me about it from the Hartford Triathlon group said she has been going at lunch and there are always two coaches and not that many people and it is the deal of the century.
The other thing I wanted to start doing more regularly was yoga. I did a Yin Yoga class last week and it was amazing. The next day I was running like a kid up and down the mountain with Higgins. Yin yoga is kind of the opposite of the yoga you do in a a regular Vinassa Flow class. In Yin yoga you stay in one position for a long time like 5 to 20 minutes!! (we were only doing 3-5 minutes for each pose and that seemed long enough!). Where Vinassa Flow yoga works on lengthening and strengthening your muscles, Yin yoga works on opening your joints and on your mind — how you sit with it. As the instructor was saying “see how far you can sit at your edge without moving.” For me it is about 10 seconds, lol, I’ll work on that. I’m not sure how I feel about that — if you are uncomfortable I say move, don’t sit with it. Although I will say we did a cobra pose and I stayed in that for the whole time in delicious agony. Do you know that feeling where it hurts so good you know it is the right thing to do?
And last night I went to the best yoga class of my life. It was amazing. It was a yoga and meditation class with seriously the best yoga instructor I have ever had. She happened to be from India but she is very American. She has an amazing spirit around her. We started with 10 minutes of guided meditation. Then she slowly moved us through one pose after another working toward a long love session with pigeon (my most hated yoga position). But as she explained there are a whole series of poses preparing us for pigeon. We didn’t just plop down into it. It wasn’t quite as fast a regular Flow class but it wasn’t slow either. The part I loved is how she would through the room saying “Beautiful, you are all beautiful.” And here I would be in some deep lunge that I couldn’t really hold and I was shaking with my arms pointed to the ceiling and she walks by saying “Beautiful” somehow I managed to hold it for one more minute (and believe me, I KNOW I was far from beautiful but in that moment I was willing to hear it).
I was definitely shaky and there were a lot of things I couldn’t do and probably never will (like squat down on your toes and hold it, then roll forward onto your knees and then back onto your toes) what? Yeah, no. But it was fine. During that one I just stayed on my knees and stretched my toes, who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be able to do it. At the end of class we did savasana (dead man’s pose) like most yoga classes do, but after that, we sat up and did another guided meditation. It was amazing. Then at the end she walked around with cards and everyone had to randomly pick one. It was a motivation card and told you what you needed to work on. You’ll never believe what my card said. “Food, you need to work on being mindful with your food.” That’s my paraphrase but I really wanted to crack up.
All I could think was “please can I just do this class every day for the rest of my life?” She only teaches Monday and Wednesday nights. I already signed up for Wednesday. Tonight I’m doing another Yin/restorative yoga class. I have unlimited classes for 30 days. I’m in love with this little yoga studio.
So that’s where I am on my journey right now. I have to say I’m loving everything about where I am right now. As much as there is a lot of hard work and stress I can’t help but feel an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and life really is beautiful.
“It is never too late to turn on the light. Your ability to break an unhealthy habit or turn off an old tape doesn’t depend on how long it has been running; a shift in perspective doesn’t depend on how long you’ve held on to the old view.
When you flip the switch in that attic, it doesn’t matter whether its been dark for ten minutes, ten years or ten decades.
The light still illuminates the room and banishes the murkiness, letting you see the things you couldn’t see before.
Its never too late to take a moment to look.”
― Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation