Retreating is a funny word. People often think of running away, hiding, giving up, and defeat. And yet, we also go on retreats to relax, have fun, and enjoy ourselves. To retreat or to go on retreat? It seems like an odd question, one that isn't part of our every day lives. But, in reality, it's a question we're constantly faced with: to fear or embrace? To surrender to someone else or to surrender to our own needs? It's so hard to remember, but we always have the choice.
I went on a yoga retreat this past weekend in beautiful wilderness where I got to spend time with lovely people and a fantastic teacher, do about 10 hours of yoga, watch my husband deepen his practice, and remember to feel the strength in my own. I relaxed. I had fun. I enjoyed myself.
But, I also panicked a little here and there. Surrendering to my body's needs and giving it a chance to grow, recover, and balance was hard. Mainly because I have trained myself for several years to ignore everything my body tells me. Foot hurts? Keep running! Stress fracture from running too much? Swim every day! Tired from so much time on crutches and in the water? Don't give up teaching fitness classes! Perhaps you can imagine how my crazy mind gets slightly more insane when it is put out of its comfort zone. When I listen to my body instead of ignoring it, I sometimes get uncomfortable with what it tells me.
But it is a lesson that I desperately want to learn. When I think of that higher, brighter, best version of myself, I visualize a loving person who shows compassion to everyone around her, but, most of all, to herself. Practicing compassion on the mat is becoming easier and easier. I don't feel the need to bind every time I do a twist, or to do a long exhausting practice when I'm already feeling overly tired. Showing compassion toward myself in the rest of my life is way freaking hard, though.
So I went on retreat and focused on practicing that compassion. I practiced and practiced and practiced. When I went for a run in 100 degree heat, I stopped after 15 minutes because it was too hot. Compassion, right? Sure, maybe the best-me wouldn't have forced herself outside in the first place, but it's better than before (I promise, it is). Baby steps into my heart. Baby steps into surrender. Baby steps retreating.