I may be the least zen person I know. Especially on maternity leave (unfortunately, this time doesn’t bring out the best version of yours truly). I am quick to anger. I experience intense road rage. And I can be a spicy tamale with my husband on the regular (what a dream zone for him).
As I’m in constant need of zen, a few months ago I registered myself for an Eco Yoga Retreat with local guide and forest bathing guru, Ronna Schneberger (you may have read her past post on the blog). The day consisted of a 5 KM walk to our mountain-view yoga studio, one hour of yoga, lunch, and the 5 KM return. I ended in a state of mountain-charged, yoga-stretched bliss, but I sure as hell didn’t start out that way.
I arrived after a beautifully peaceful drive sans children. I was informed via text (by my own request) that my son was not napping, but my husband told me to “enjoy the day”. Sure, I thought. Easy peasy. So I turned off the phone and checked in with Ronna. The gang was ready; up the gondola we went to Sunshine Meadows. I chatted with my friend and a few of the other registrants. I was excited.
We started our hike by sharing our favourite nature experience. We shared our experiences with yoga. We shared a little more. You know me, I love sharing, but part of me was angling to get my hike on; to bust a nordic pole; to shake my booty that spends most of the time sitting on the couch. I also craved silence.
We stopped for a bio break and group meditation (meditation followed the pee break – no squatting and deep breathing required). Everyone shared how grounded they were already feeling. All I could hear was the f***ing mosquitos and my endless train of thought. I was itching, literally and figuratively, to get back on the trail. I realized that silence wasn’t working for me either.
Then came the walking meditation. In silence. We were asked to tune in to our senses – one sense at a time. Then our breath. And we were encouraged to walk S L O W; to give at least ten feet to the person in front of us. To say I was dying a slow-walking induced death is an understatement. For those close to me, you know I move into life head-on and walk at a brisk-ass pace. You know I abhor slow walkers in Costco and rage when people won’t move aside. I get anxiety if I feel I’m holding other people up. Seriously – I’ve got issues (but we know this).
We then received a third meditation, one by Thich Nhat Hanh. We were asked to look at an object (e.g. flower) during the inhale and smile at the object on our exhale. But before we started moving again, my girlfriend turned around and we both acknowledged how bloody hard walking at this pace was. It made me feel better. It allowed me to forgive myself for wanting to move fast and move into the beauty of walking slower.
We crested the ridge where we would do yoga and I entered into the bliss zone (note the picture). Thank the sweet sun gods, I thought to myself, I was actually going to enjoy the day as opposed to resisting my slow-walk purgatory.
The yoga session rocked (I was literally surrounded by badass mountains and stood directly on shale during my downward dogs). I exhaled. I stretched. I let go. I started to truly smile from the inside out. I was moving into relaxation.
I share this experience because too many of us are moving at break-neck speed and don’t even realize it. We allow ourselves 10-20 minutes for quiet time, but we need more than that. That doesn’t even allow us a chance to experience our breath. It took me almost an entire morning to let go and stop thinking about my to-do list. Yes, I’m a Type-A, intense personality so perhaps it wouldn’t take others as long to let the happy in. But for many, it may take longer. WE NEED MORE TIME TO SLOW DOWN.
I am also sharing it because I want to normalize feelings of discomfort with relaxation. It seems ridiculous to be uncomfortable with relaxing, but a lot of us are. One of the attendees had an incredible insight: finding balance while moving slow is hard because we are so used to finding balance while moving fast. Um, yes. Nailed it.
While you may not be able to attend a yoga retreat, I do strongly encourage you to find another way to slow the bloody hell down. As one of my fave dudes, Dr. Jordan Peterson (you can hate me for loving him, but I’ll keep on loving him) states, “life is hard”. And this is a basic tenet of Buddhist philosophy: life is suffering. So let’s carve out a moment to acknowledge it and find ways to make it a little easier.