I just got back from a retreat in Mexico. It was a time of deep reflection, connection, rejuvenation, and dance parties. It was a week to slow down and allow the natural shift from the regular mode of doing and thinking to the quieter more receptive state of feeling and being.
The word retreat seems so incomplete as a description of the experience as to retreat implies to move away from, pull back, or even in military terms give up. Sure there was a withdrawal from my daily schedule, the to-do’s and maybe most importantly from all the regular roles I play as mother, wife, daughter, and teacher. What I found even more significant though was less about what I was moving away from, but what I was moving towards.
There is this a paradox within the disengaging in that it actually allows one to engage more. To me what the engaging more means is that I’m coming home to myself. I find this idea of coming home to myself to be….big. Huge. Massive. Maybe even at the core of what we are doing here. Here as in this moment reading a spiritual blog, but also here in these bodies, here on this planet, here in this life. You may never have thought about it in these terms, but in our own unique way we are all walking this path, trying to find our way home. In the broadest terms this means connecting more to the power and wisdom that is within rather than looking for answers outside. Whether you realize it or not we are all asking questions. They vary from things like what food is best for my body to questions like what is my purpose in life, and everything in between. Regardless of the details, they are all questions that at their core embody this whole concept of how to come closer to "me". I don’t claim to have the definitive say or the universal definition of what this means but I can share with you what it means to me, and what it means from the yogic perspective. All in hopes that it helps you discover more of what it means to you. Sometimes when we find meaning it’s in realizing what doesn’t feel meaningful. Part of the way we start to understand ourselves is often in seeing who we are not. So If anything shared doesn't resonate can you take it as a sign that you are on the right track? That you are finding meaning in that which does not click, which also shows that you are getting closer to that which does. So really it’s another way of retreat. We are simultaneously moving away to move closer towards.
Since most of you ( including me ) are yogi’s, let’s start with looking at what the yogis of yore have to say about what/who we are coming home to and how they define “me”. Then over the next few weeks we can look at the different parts and details of what this perspective offers in order to understand how we find ourselves there. The yogi’s have lots to say about who we really are, what we are made of, and how to experience the greatest authenticity, happiness, and fulfillment within ourselves. It’s basically what the whole art and science are all about. According to this ancient philosophy we are comprised of 5 different distinct bodies that are called sheaths or in Sanskrit Koshas. The first of which we are most familiar with- the food body of flesh and bone. It’s the physical body we can touch and see. The body that is nourished by food and allows us to move throughout the world. The second body is the body of breath. It’s the body of energy, sensation, and our life force. I can’t speak directly from my own experience as I was pretty out of it when my twin daughters came into the world ( emergency c-section story for another day) but I was there and totally clear when my Grandmother left. The moments of transition seem to be the ones that make this body almost visible, and I saw that as the life force left it felt like something I could almost touch. The mind is the the next body that we all know well. Our thoughts, memories, and perceptions are stored there. It’s the part of us that can seemingly transport us back to the past or into the future.When it’s calm and even momentarily gets out of the way we can start to experience the present. Our intuition has a body all of it’s own, also known as the wisdom body, the intellect, or the first embodiment of light. It’s that inner sense of knowing that we can often feel in our gut, and the voice that grows louder the more we practice really listening. The fifth body, the deepest, most subtle and purest of them all is the one of true bliss. Some might call this the part of god that is within us, or the soul. This is the part that is thought to be unchanging. It’s only our perception of it that changes based on the balance, clarity, or at home-ness of the other four. All of the other bodies tend to get gunked up with daily living, including undigested food, stuck feelings and thoughts, and unabsorbed experiences. Imagine a starry night sky. Some nights the sky is so clear that the stars twinkle incredibly bright. Other nights the sky is blanketed with clouds or fog hiding the stars from view. In the middle of the desert millions of stars are visible, and in the middle of city the litter of light pollution makes it hard to see more than just a few. Regardless of the location, or the convergence of water and air the luminosity of the stars doesn’t actually change- only how much or little we are able to see. Taking the time to retreat for 5 minutes on the cushion, an hour on the mat, or for a week in paradise is one of the ways that we can experience a cloudless sky where the star of our souls has the clearest path to shine.
I’m curious if this is how you see yourself? What words would you use to represent home? Can you describe the moments when you feel most comfortable in your own skin? I’d love to hear your questions and insights so this becomes more of a conversation and way less about me. I can use myself and my experience as a jumping off point, but if you write back it can become much more about you.