Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on August 31, 2011.
Why my next retreat will be solo.
By Laura Neal
Most of you readers will understand why years ago I stopped going to the big yoga conferences and centers. Now, it seems like my annual meditation retreats are also about to become a thing of the past. For the past few summers, I’ve sat a long silent retreat at a large center. But no more, and here’s why.
First, be assured that I’m not picking on one particular place or tradition. I’ve done several, and they all share the same inherent flaw: there are people there.
Even in an atmosphere where communication is forbidden, there are still things that I just can’t transcend.
Here’s a list I came up with last week on retreat (but only during the breaks, of course):
- You have a roommate. Now unless you’re my husband or my cats (and even that’s pushing it at times) I don’t want you sleeping in the same room with me. And the fact that we don’t talk to each other makes it even weirder.
- Communal bathrooms. Enough said.
- I always get behind the person who is taking the mindfulness practices way too seriously. Carrrrrefully scooping up a ladle of food. Sloooooowly putting it down on their plate Staaaaanding there in front of the salad dressing and meditating upon which to choose. Staying blissfully aware of each and every detail of the present moment — except for the fifty other people in line who are waiting for you to mindfully hurry the fuck up.
- In a roomful of a hundred people, I guess it’s inevitable that at any given moment there is going to be someone who needs to cough, sneeze, blow their nose, clear their throat, hiccup, burp, or fart, but Jesus people, come on! At least try a little restraint. And by the way, what do you normally eat that your digestive system gets thrown into complete chaos by the healthy vegetarian retreat food?
But some of it is all me. For example, when the tape of the guy chanting sounds to me like farm animals having sex, I giggle. Every time.
So what does this tell me? Clearly, I need to meditate more. And I will. But my next retreat will be alone. I’ve done solo retreats, and they’re hard. With no pretty shawls to covet or bad hairstyles to critique, all that’s left is for me to look at my own mind. Plus, any farts I smell will be my own.
About Laura Neal
Laura Neal is happy to be home in Bar Harbor, Maine at her irreverently and indulgently named yoga studio, Cattitude. She is actually quite serious about the Buddhist path and really doesn’t mind having to save all sentient beings, as long as she can do it through email.