Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… including you.
These past few months have been a constant struggle to find balance between work and relaxation. When juggling multiple jobs, self-care is oftentimes the first item to get dismissed on days when there simply aren’t enough hours. Why take time to practice yoga, meditate, or de-stress when that precious hour could be used to get “real” work done?
This kind of mindset is where our modern society fails us; emphasis is put on working hard for our achievements yet we tend to forget that much like Newton’s third law of physics, with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, with every stressful event there should be an equal and opposite moment of restoration. Whether it be alone time, meditation, a yoga class, or even a retreat is up to you, but it is essential to make the time for your overall well-being and even productivity. When these daily doses of relaxation are missed, the stress and tension builds up and ultimately you begin to lose motivation as your will-power is depleted. No matter how diligent you are, eventually you will burn out. That is exactly what happened to me leading up to the Spring into Summer retreat – a July yoga and music escape in the soothing landscape of the Green Mountain State.
One of my favorite quotes by Anne Lamott is, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… including you.” Needless to say, in the middle of a jam-packed summer full of deadlines, exams, and non-stop work, when the time came to head to Vermont I was more than ready to escape the hectic city life and take the weekend for myself to reset and restore.
In preparation for the retreat, Karma Longtin, one of the yogis co-hosting the weekend getaway, had asked us to set a goal for the trip. I decided that my focus would be to take Anne Lamott’s advice and to unplug for a few days. Instead of stressing about work, I would focus on mindfulness by surrendering to the present moment and observing all my surroundings. My intention was set and I knew the upcoming days would be solely to let loose, live in the present, and temporarily forget about the world I was leaving behind.
When the day came to start our journey to Plymouth, Vermont, I was surprised at how I was finally able to forget about my prior obligations and surrender to the current moment to begin my mindfulness practice. It was a foggy and chilly day. Mountains lined either side of the road, and I took them all in as far as the eye could see, observing how they expanded across the horizon and faded into the distance. In the midst of the calm and stable mountains, I have always found a wonderful place to pause and reflect.
Good Commons, the retreat venue in Plymouth, was only a few short hours away from Boston. Upon entering the quaint white wooden historic building that awaited us at the end of a steep mountain road, I was immediately greeted with a warm, welcoming hug by the owner and founder, Tesha. Hot chaga mushroom tea with lavender, and squash topped with babaghanoush were set out in preparation for our arrival. The delectable smell of the tea filled the room, hinting at the experiences to come and inviting me to make myself at home. Little did I know, that Tesha and her sous-chef Marissa’s excellent specialty cooking would be one of the main highlights of the trip.
Once everyone arrived, we gathered for our first yoga class which was aimed to get our bodies moving and work out any kinks that may have developed on our way to the retreat. The teachers, Rachel Barringer and Karma , beautifully complemented each other. Karma has over a decade of teaching experience and leads a comforting, restorative style class with hands-on assists that you wish would last forever. In perfect contrast, Rachel works to challenge you and uses her wide range of expertise in yoga, circus training, aerialism and contortion to help build strength and teach you proper form.
The pace very much felt like a slow-flow style, and Karma continued to add use of our big, pillowy bolsters, which was heavenly. We began in a supported child’s pose, resting the bolster underneath our chests, then we moved our bodies through a few sun salutations, flowed our way back to the floor, and returned to stillness right where we had begun. Once we landed ourselves in savasana, to my surprise the sound of the cello filled the room as Rachel played us further into deep and calm state of awareness. I had read in the retreat description that there would be music, but not what type or how it would be incorporated. Coincidentally, the cello happens to be one of my favorite instruments, emitting such a soothing vibration that can put anyone at ease. Before I knew it, warm tears began to fill my eyes. In that moment of stillness, I expressed gratitude, felt at peace while being serenaded by the deep melody of the cello, and I realized how much I had needed this retreat. I longed to be here in a non-judgement zone with like-minded attendees, to have cooking taken care of and to be fed healthy foods and healthy thoughts, to have two extremely talented teachers guide me through a wonderful practice, and to be still and soothed with such beautifully relaxing music.
As this was my first yoga retreat, I had a few reservations before coming. One of them was being concerned I would be too exhausted after practicing twice per day the entire weekend. However, it was quite the opposite. Unexpectedly, two daily classes were not rigorous, but revitalizing. Each class worked on new areas, brought in fresh insight and perspective, and each active pose was balanced with a restorative one to ensure the muscles would not build tension or overwork.
Although it is difficult to pick a favorite moment, the last night of the trip was a high contender. After another delicious meal that was followed by a gluten free and dairy free peanut butter banana cheesecake, with a pecan and date crust, we all headed outside to huddle around the bonfire. We shared some highlights from the trip as we toasted marshmallows over the warm, orange flames and indulged in our always-delicious s’mores.
To end the night, we took a dip in the hot tub and gazed at the incredible number of glistening stars that filled the sky, which could only be visible from the countryside. I took a moment to reflect on all that had occurred, all that I had learned, and all that we had shared these past few days. I then brought myself back to the present as I laughed and connected with others around me for one of the last times.
The next morning, we joined for one final yoga class that focused on handstands and getting comfortable moving upside down. We joyfully hopped our way around class, which was a wonderful way to energize us all, prepare us to return home, and share one last memory together. After our delicious brunch full of perfectly baked French toast, a baked egg casserole, and hash browns, we packed our bags, said our goodbyes and headed our separate directions. We each began our journeys home, returning to our daily lives feeling clear-headed and rejuvenated.
During the ride back to Boston, I once more found myself caught up in the mountains that framed either side of the road. Only this time, there was no fog and the cool weather had gone with it. Instead, the sky was bright, blue, and full of plump white clouds. The sun beat down through the window and warmed my skin. I couldn’t help but think that I had come full circle. Only this time, not only was I seeing the world in a new light, but the world seemed to look back at me differently too. I was energized, my will-power had been restored, and I felt relaxed and ready for all that would come my way.
To learn more about Good Commons and their retreat facilities, please visit their website at www.goodcommons.com.