“You need to come here and get a break. Everything is optional. You could just sit in your room the whole time if you wanted to. There’s a hot tub and a sauna there.”
The prospect of a hot tub was tempting.
My dear college friend lives and works at the Shoshoni yoga ashram, which is less than an hour from my house. For years, I assumed the ashram was for people who thought a good time was yoga and meditation. That was great for some people, but my idea of a vacation involved a beach, happy hour on a patio, and copious light fiction and/or true crime novels. That was before I had two kids. Still, I had reservations.
“I’m not really into yoga and I’ve never meditated for more than 10 minutes at a time.” I said.
“Imagine it, though. You could just come here and be alone in your cabin. You could sleep the whole time. You could even wear a badge that would mean you were being silent and no one should talk to you.”
The silent badge actually sounded tempting, though too extreme for me. A night of uninterrupted sleep sounded better than winning the lottery. My friend suggested I come up for a night, so I promised myself that if I meditated every day in December, I would book the retreat. I meditated 30 out of 31 days of December, which I think is close enough. I couldn’t bring myself to make the reservation, though.
Dan was totally on board for it. It’s unfair because I nag him about making sure the car seats are not tight enough and leaving his breakfast dishes on the table, while he nags me to spend a night alone at a retreat. I felt guilty leaving my kids with Dan and babysitters so I could do essentially nothing. I didn’t think I deserved it. I kept saying I would, and then “Call Shoshoni” would inevitably sink to the bottom of my To Do list.
Six months later, it occurred to me that I had survived the baby’s first year and dammit, I deserved something special.
No one was crying or asking me for anything in the seconds it took to decide to call, locate my phone, and dial.
The ashram had an opening.
Childcare presented itself almost magically in the form of in-laws and a babysitter.
Obviously, the universe wanted me to go to the ashram for a night.
As I headed west up the canyon, the air began to change. It’s not just that it’s thinner, it feels lighter, and you can’t help but feel a little lighter, too, as you get farther and farther from the traffic lights, the people, and the noise of the city. I turned onto the ashram’s dirt road and felt lighter still. It was raining lightly when I got my keys, a map, and a schedule. When I got to my cabin, I lay down on the bed and listened to the rain. It was coming down hard, and I could hear rolling thunder. There was a yoga class in 20 minutes but I had no plans to go.
Instead, I sat on my perfectly made king size bed and stared up at the rich blonde and brown swirls in the wooden planks of the ceiling and listened to the storm. Storms are different at 8500’. Lightening electrified the sky as thunder cracked down just a half a breath away. I wondered if it kept up like this, whether it would be safe to walk to dinner with my umbrella. That’s the kind of thing that Dan knows, but I couldn’t ask him because my phone had no reception. Wi-fi wasn’t available on my phone either, so Google was out. There was no one to ask and it was glorious. What was even more glorious was that no one was asking me for anything.
I wrote in my journal. I read my book. I shut my eyes for a few minutes. I simply put my shoes and jacket on and walked to dinner. It’s hard to explain the quiet joy of leaving the house so easily and so quickly, walking slowly to dinner, and arriving perfectly on time.
After dinner, there was chanting and meditation at the temple. I had never chanted before, but I was game to try it. The temple looked like a pagoda with a blue tile roof. It was in clearing, surrounded by woods. Inside were neat rows of square cushions and matching pillows, and what I believe were Hindu representations of various deities. There was just me, another guest, and the guy leading the service. An hour went by quickly. After dinner, I read on a comfortable couch in a common area and I sat in the sauna. I read some more. I pumped. I showered. I went to sleep.
In the morning I went to a 5:30am service. I could have slept, but I really wanted to know what was happening at this service that my friend had been going to every morning for the past ten or so years. There were about 20 people, each sitting atop a pillow on a square mediation cushion. I later found out I was the only guest. Most people don’t wake up at 5am when they aren’t on a schedule, apparently. My eyes were glued to my prayer book, and I did my best to keep up with the Sanskrit, which was transliterated into English. I wondered if this was how Dan felt every time he did something Jewish with me, as I bumbled along, recognizing a word here and a phrase there by the time we got toward the end of the service. Afterward, there was a silent meditation. It was a lovely, grounding way to start the day. I could see the appeal of doing this every morning.
After breakfast, I went for a walk. I was nervous because the map said, “You must stay on the marked path.” I don’t really do maps or paths. I’ve tried, but my talent lies in getting miserably lost. Since neither Dan nor Google Maps were available to me, I did the best I could. I found the path, I stayed on it, and I took in all the trees and wildflowers around me, the clouds hanging low over the mountains in the distance, the feeling of the squishy, moist ground under my feet, and the cool, humid air on my face. I heard the sounds of the birds and the crunch of twigs and rocks underneath me. I took my time. I had nowhere else to be. Unless you count the appointment I made with myself to visit the hot tub at approximately 9:15.
After a relaxing Hatha yoga class and a short meditation and lunch, it was time to leave. I drove down the canyon with space in my head and lightness in my heart. My only regret was is that I did not give myself this gift sooner.