I’ve just left behind my dogs, kids and husband, along with lists, labels and a logistical labyrinth of childcare arrangements to hop a plane to San Diego.
I’ve also just read 116 pages of a book without stopping—I don’t recall the last time I read 100 pages straight—and I got to hit the town for a late dinner with Marinita, an honest-to-God soul sister. Tomorrow I will see more beloved friends, including a beautiful new baby. I also get to see flowers, the color green and the Pacific Ocean. I should feel light and airy, ready to party, right?
But no. In the back of my mind is the real reason I’m on this plane right now: I’m here to meditate. Deeply, devotedly and for extended periods of time. Starting Friday afternoon, I’ll join other like-minded yogis and submit to the gentle guidance of the monks and nuns who will conduct the retreat I booked a couple months ago.
Sounds good, right? Meditation retreat. I mean, duh, yeah, it’ll be freaking awesome. When I leave. From the time I check into the retreat to the time I check out, though, it’s spiritual bootcamp.
Ok, I’ll say it: I’m straight-up anxious about this thing. I did it once before six years ago when I was pregnant with Charlie, so I know. There’s no spa, no yoga classes, no massage therapists and no champagne cocktails. There’s not even any talking. It’s potent and it’s wonderful. I’m equal parts apprehension and knowing. This is something I need to do. Like a tune-up for the soul.
However it unfolds, it will be powerful, beautiful, restorative, energizing and essential. But it might suck.
Like a deep-tissue massage or a grueling myofascial session with my chiropractor, Dr. Dan Mossell, it’s not a pleasurable experience when I’m in it, but I keep going back for more because of how I feel when I leave. That’s kinda how a silent meditation retreat is. Hard-ass work, at least for a girl like me, to get quiet enough to tap into the Godforce, but once you’re in the flow, there’s no better feeling on the planet.
And so, with that lit-up, billion-watt soul high in my sights, I’ll check into a modest room on the grounds of the hermitage where my guru wrote Autobiography of a Yogi. The hermitage and gardens, which are glorious enough to beckon the immaculate Johnny Depp (my friend Joanie ran into him there once), are situated on a cliff overlooking the ocean and Swamis, an aptly named surf break. I’ll be served delicious Indian vegetarian meals three times a day, sleep in a simple dorm room, possibly share a bathroom with a stranger and follow a strict program of meditation that begins at 6:30 a.m. and continues till bedtime, with a couple breaks thrown in, all in silence.
I’m agreeing to forego the use of words, unplug the treadmill of my thoughts, still my body for loooong periods of time, turn my consciousness over to God and welcome whatever comes up without judgment or attachment.
Holy crap, that’s scary.
In theory, I do this on a daily basis. I sit on the bench in my little meditation nook and I do the practices I’ve learned from the teachings that resonate with me. I sit for anywhere from two minutes to an hour doing the techniques, including Kriya yoga. However, I get up whenever the heck I feel like it. If my mind wanders, I let it wander instead of guiding it back to the practices. If my head gets flooded with thoughts and to-dos, I take a break and write them down. If my body feels restless, I get up and do something else. When it comes to meditating, discipline is not my best party trick.
At the retreat, I’ll stay at the party no matter how badly I may want to leave. Either that or face the awkwardness of storming out of the low-lit chapel five minutes into a two-hour session struggling to breathe because I’m so exasperated by my own restlessness. (the last time I did one of these retreats, this is exactly what almost happened.)
Not that anyone would judge me for freaking out in the wilderness of an overactive mind—all sincere spiritual seekers have been there—but I’d just rather not make a scene, mmkay?
Say a little prayer for me as I go into this retreat? If you’re so inclined, send me good thoughts as I attempt to ride into the superconscious this weekend. If you would, pray that I experience the lasting peace that comes from deep, prolonged meditation and that I may emerge saturated in the ever-new joy of God’s love, with plenty of overflow to share with all my dear ones. Which includes you, obvi.