Finding A Rhythm and Digging Up Bones

yoga retreat

I have been at the yoga retreat almost a week now, and for the first time in months, my life has developed a routine. The routine takes on its own rhythm as the days come and go, as slowly as if each day lasted for three. Yet, each is marked by only a single sunrise and sunset.

I wake up at 6:00 AM as the sun is coming up. I take a cold shower – not because I’m so devout that I feel the need to punish myself each morning with cold water. Or because I find it so invigorating and energizing it’s worth the pain. No. The reason is, yet again, I’m staying somewhere that doesn’t provide hot water. Oh, the challenges of travel. Some mornings I think I really should write a post about the art of the cold shower because I believe myself to be something of an expert on this topic. But then again, I doubt many other people are dealing with this same reality.

Some arts are best left unexplored.

yoga retreat blog
My little bungalow

Then I leave my bungalow and walk down the beach to the yoga center. In the morning, it’s high tide so the water goes all the way up to the rock wall that parallels the shoreline. I take off my sandals and let my feet trail through the water. The ocean seems warmer than my shower. I can see the sunrise’s colors and hear the quiet surf. The walk is really only a few minutes and I usually wish it lasted longer.

Once at the yoga center, it’s time for the first meditation of the day.  My chest tends to feel a little tight as I set my determination to dive into another day. Although meditation looks like the easiest thing in the world, it takes all my focus. Each class, whether yoga, meditation or those geared towards emotional healing take all of me. I have to focus and try to connect with my heart.  It’s work, hard work, and if I really want to get the full benefit I need to be all in.

I didn’t come here to half-ass this yoga retreat.

Here’s the thing I didn’t know about meditation, they aren’t all about sitting indian style and breathing calmly, some involve a lot of action and movement. Some involve yelling, screaming and dancing- sometimes all within an hour. Some meditations are about releasing pent-up emotions. Others help to reconnect to your heart. All seem to be about quieting the jabbering of the mind and going deeper.

Digging Up Bones

If I were to give the gist of a day, I’d say each day is spent excavating. If you have heard that old country song by Randy Travis, “Digging Up Bones,” that reminds me of the day.

I’m diggin’ up bones, I’m diggin’ up bones
Exhuming things that are better left alone
I’m resurrecting memories of love that’s dead and gone
Yeah tonight I’m sittin’ alone diggin’ up bones..

Each exercise (whether literal exercise or just another class) is all about forgetting the trail of thoughts running through my mind and digging deeper, deeper and deeper into a place where my mind isn’t telling my body what to feel. Exhuming things that’s better left alone, so to speak. It’s feeling and connecting to yourself and your intuition. It’s hard. Digging literal holes is easier than excavating all the things I’ve been pushing down and bottling up for years.

When I do get down there, I’m surprised my heart’s memory is as sharp as my mind’s. I have a great memory for movies. I can remember quotes from movies I haven’t seen in a decade. I also have a great memory for people. It’s so good it’s creepy. For example, I recently reconnected to a friend I had met with once brifely three years ago. I remembered what his brother was studying in college and his name although I had never met his brother. Sometimes in conversation, I pretend not to remember these details because it creeps people out to know you listen and remember.

When I meditate, my heart remembers feelings my mind has long ago forgotten in the same way. The way I felt one day as a kid with my feet in the creek as I played with my dolls on the water. The feeling the first time I was in Seattle and walked down the sidewalk after a rain.  That specific feeling of loneliness, listening to the thunder the summer I lived in Texas…

Keep Digging

Once I finally do get down deep to where the feelings are and the mind is not, the focus is on allowing myself to feel what I feel and stop resisting. I have found that my heart is a very painful place to be. No wonder I avoid it. That pain causes me to always be tense because I don’t want to let anything out and let others know how much hurt is there. I also don’t want anything coming in that will make me notice the hurt.

So, this week, most of my focus has been on letting that pain and tension go. It’s not easy.

What do I do with what I dug up?

What do I do with all this pain and sadness? How do I express it?

I remember being asked if I wanted to go a football game last year. I responded, “Well, I don’t like the game, but I’ll go so I can get drunk and yell.” At the time, I didn’t realize I was just looking for a socially acceptable way to shout.

At the yoga center, I do a yelling meditation and find it’s incredibly hard to release my embarrassment and actually yell. When I do, it’s the sound of a wailing cry. I’m not very loud so the other voices drown mine out. But I’m still embarrassed of my own voice and the way it needs to cry. I push through though and at the end of class it feels so good.  It’s like as though I cried lead tears and my body is suddenly light as a feather.

In other classes, we open up to others and I literally cry. I have cried at least twice every day. Thankfully, that’s not unusual here so I can feel it’s okay. Actually, most people cry (yes, even the guys). When your heart is suddenly opened and you’re encouraged to let things out, it’s surprising how much needs to come out.

We are all digging stuff up.

Although I was worried about fitting in initially, it doesn’t even cross my mind now. The nice thing is, the rules of society don’t really apply here. The attitude is so much more free and accepting than I anticipated.  No one is being holier than thou. Everyone is friendly. You can laugh or cry or be angry and no one really minds. We are all here trying to heal ourselves and that is not necessarily a graceful or pretty process to see. But when those occasional moments of realization and relief do come, they’re so beautiful it feels like it changes my heart.

So, one step after another and one long day after the next, I keep coming back. I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. I feel as though I’m being turned inside out. I’ve been digging up bones day all day and sometimes in the night too.

The Ocean and the Night

My dreams are shocking realizations that bubble up from the dark. I have had dreams that have woken me up so suddenly and I’m not sure if my scream was only in my dream or if I screamed out loud. Then there are others where I forgave and hugged my middle school bully and woke thinking to myself, “You know, she’s actually really hilarious. I like her a lot.”

If this isn’t miraculous I don’t know what is.

All this takes place in front of the back drop of the ocean. I leave after sunset each day at low tide and sometimes walk on the sand or in the surf back to my bungalow. Last night the full moon rose and while almost everyone else on the island was getting drunk on Haad Rin Beach, I left my bungalow and went down to the water alone. I sat on the sand and watched the lunar eclipse. I wondered if I looked strange to outsiders, this girl all alone in the world while everyone else was out celebrating. Then I laughed out loud. Why, out of everywhere in the world I have been alone, would I worry that in this moment it looks strange?!

If it does look strange, I wasn’t about to change anything in the light of the moon.

I walked into the water and dug a spot in the sand for my feet and stood rooted in the waves while I thought about the rhythm of the moon and the ocean and how they are ever bound to dance together in the rhythms of the tide, and for the first time, I felt like I was part of it all.

I was following their rhythm too as I was digging up bones.

yoga retreat blog
Moonrise