May 10, 2010

Notes from a small island*

So I wasn't kidding about yoga retreats—I really did go on one. In silence, for five days, on Marrowstone Island, in northern Washington.

Everyone asks about the silence first. Isn't it hard? For me, strangely, no. Not that I'm the quiet type, as you can attest. But I've lived alone and traveled alone and spent lots of time with myself, and there's no need to talk out loud then. I can hear easily enough.

But you know what
is hard? Getting up at 5:30 a.m. every day to meditate. Meditating: also hard. Incredibly hard, in the same way that the last mile of a race is hard or drinking wheatgrass is hard—you can't wait for it to be over, but you know how good it is for you. According to our teachers, Jo and Jenny, everyone is always a beginner. All we can do is get better at beginning.

I wasn't one of those kids who loved camp. It's 10 a.m., they'd say. Time to swim! Thanks, but I don't really feel like swimming right now. I just got here. How about if I go read instead. You can imagine how that went over. Weeks of summer camp attended by me in the past 31.5 years: one. Five days, really.

I do love routine, though. When I travel, it's what I miss, and I'll go out of my way to create one—if you stop by the same coffee shop every day, no matter where you are, they'll know you by the third day. Familiarity isn't that hard to establish; connections aren't that hard to build. But I think it's only my own routines that I like, at least after the third day.

Still, if you asked (after asking about the silence and was it hard), did I like the retreat? I'd say yes. It stretched my brain and my hip and my concentration and made me want to sleep two days for each time I woke up before dawn.

But it's a gift to give yourself the time to do very little except reflect. Hike. Sit. Climb the stairs. Sit. Listen to the crazy wind storm, watch the rocking chair at golden hour, breathe air that doesn't know how to be urban, count the number of trees that look like dinosaurs and the open shells that look aerodynamic. Let someone else set the schedule, so you don't have to think at all about where to be.

* With apologies to Mr. Bryson.


Prictus said...

I like this picture :)

The BCB said...

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the photos.