“At the end of my suffering there was a door” Louise Gluck
I breathe in the sweet uplifting morning air of rosemary and pine as I look out over the sun-kissed mountains. Breakfast is a welcoming meeting point in the day and a way to meet and connect, soon I’ll miss it.
Tomorrow we start our five days of silent retreat, a time to be fully present to ourselves switching off from any speech or conversation. In addition to intensifying the practice some of us are adding in different fasting regimes.
Joy has already started fasting so just joins us for breakfast to drink some water. Water fasting is not something to jump into straight away you need to work up to it slowly starting with a vegan diet and then moving on to soups, broths and juices only otherwise you deal with the strong presenting detoxification effects.
I decided to start intermittent fasting tomorrow, 18 hours with no food every day for 5 days, which means I can have lunch and early dinner but no breakfast. The 18 hours food-free period from the evening meal until lunch the next day gives the body space to regenerate, supporting health and vitality. The benefits of fasting are just so extensive it’s no wonder it’s been written into religious books. I like particularly how much brighter, lighter and happier I feel with less food not to mention the increase in cognitive function and longevity it adds.
This morning I notice Joy’s emotions are close to the surface. It is inevitable such intense practices bring emotions up to the surface. Tears begin to stream; she describes the challenges of living with her boyfriend who has PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Her husband manages it, but she struggles. She lives with both her husband and boyfriend, in the same house. A little therapy session arises at breakfast which is wonderfully healing for her giving her strength, insight and direction.
The bell rings and our yoga class starts shortly. I love the slow pace of this yoga class. Perhaps because I’m always doing tasks so fast it’s nice to experience slow. I recall asking an ordained Buddhist whether mindfulness can still be applied when undertaking tasks quickly or does it always make you slow down? He asked me to test it out.
Joseph has a very considered manner in how he teaches yoga. The postures he chooses are not necessarily challenging but it’s how he holds you there with attention and presence. You cannot be anywhere else. This is a skill in itself and worth developing, watching how one’s attention wanders off. Yoga is said to be the union of body and mind with the practice of exploring and experiencing that interplay between presence and transcendence. This training of awareness needs super refining otherwise that blissful transcendental moment may easily slip away whilst being simply focused on getting that posture perfect.
I can’t help but feel lighter and more alive coming out of the yoga class, but it’s not always like that. Sometimes my body aches or something I feel has shifted and needs more work.
I love that I can deal with problems (or symptoms) within myself, something that has gone out of balance either physically or emotionally, simply by intent, awareness and breath. Shifts are made, something is healed. No one believes it until they experience it for themselves.