I recently returned from a ten day yoga and meditation retreat. I prepared for months: saving for the trip, organizing my schedule, packing, and mentally getting ready in every way that I could.
Once there, the change of scenery from city to outdoor was astonishing. The retreat venue was an amazing place in the mountains, overlooking a beautiful lake. Luscious nature abound, deer and squirrels among the few neighbors. There were practically no traffic sounds, and since food, activities, and accommodations were all in one place and balanced within a well-rounded schedule, there was no rushing required to get around.
After ten days of immersion in this environment, of focused practice, pure nature, delicious and healthy food, I was left feeling refreshed and balanced.
It was, as my teacher describes it, like changing the prescription of my glasses. I could see ordinary events in my life with a new sense of light and purpose. I happily left the venue at the end of my retreat, feeling full and spacious.
Then, I jumped onto the next thing on my agenda: ride to the airport, and taking care of my emails and voicemails, before I returned to my daily routine back home.
The ride back to the airport was met with summer vacation, meaning the highways were packed with families riding to summer camps. Trucks and trailers kept the roads slow and heavy. Loud traffic noise was back.
As hours on the road went by and my flight time drew closer, the taste of worry (which had been nowhere to be seen for the last ten days) began to creep up inside. I decided to take care of emails and voicemails, which I concluded would surely “save me some time”. Then I noticed the long overdue voicemail from my bank saying “due to security reasons” they’d had to cancel my credit card for the time being…
It was very hot and the air was sticky.
Finally I got to the airport. Inside there were enormous lines of people, and the screening areas were packed with families and crying babies, shoes taken off way too slowly, blinking screens with flight information everywhere, countless shopping options around. I quickly bought a water bottle and some food, and finally made it to the departure gate on time.
By the time I got to my seat on the plane, I was panting for breath, and feeling shaken: like the out of sorts feeling of leaving yoga class early, before savasana.
We were loudly welcomed by the pilot and crew via the speaker, and were offered the menu of options to do during the flight: expensive in- flight shopping, online games and board games, stacks of magazines, light snacks, full meals, documentary films, tv sports, breaking news channels, a wide range of pay per view movies, and ten music channels to choose from. Plus, I had a book and my knitting gear in my bag as two other possibilities.
As the plane took off, and I debated among all my in-flight options in relation to the hours of flight, I happened to look out the window distractedly.
A vast, amazing clear sky with perfect clouds spread just outside my window.
The view was so spacious and perfect… I let out a huge sigh of relief. My mind became so still and quiet. I wanted no movies or music channels. I didn’t want to take care of to-do lists. I longed to do nothing.
I sat there taking in the view of the sky for hours, letting time go by, and my agenda drop. It was like being home with myself. I fell into a deep sleep soon after.
When I awoke, the memory of the retreat and its accompanying feeling of contentment, was once again fresh inside of me. The sky outside the window had changed hues with the sunset, and was even more beautiful.
I sat up in my seat and took a deep breath, letting the sight outside and the memories of the retreat drench and fill me. All my senses were fully receptive, assimilating the experience. It was like finally taking a long overdue savasana.
As I gave myself time to just be with what had happened in the last ten days, I noticed I had to become so quiet, I had to let go of the inner urge to grasp the memories, I had to release what I had lived and the changes I wanted to make in my life. I needed to let go and trust that, by choosing to do nothing other than to listen, feel, taste, and be completely present with myself in this moment, the experience would stay with me, transform me, and eventually become part of me.
The plane landed on time, and as I took my bags, I smiled to myself. I realized doing nothing other than taking the sky view in, and being present with my breath for a while, was by far the best in-flight option available. And it was free of charge.