I spent this past weekend at a yoga retreat in Canmore. It was organized by a good friend and was facilitated by Meranda Squires. I have never attended a weekend like this and was immediately curious when the invitation came around. I agreed to come because I have an immense amount of respect for my friend and was looking forward to spending some quality time with her. I know nothing of yoga or yoga philosophies but 'have curiosity, will travel' as I told my husband. (Quite unrelated to agreeing to attend the retreat, I have started going to a local yoga studio. I still know nothing much more than how very far I have to go.)
So, I didn't really think about what I was getting into, or what might be involved. I figured I would get to spend time with a friend I don't get to see enough of, that I would meet some interesting new people and might get a little kick in the pants to get me moving and angled towards some healthy activity. Even when the agenda came a week or so before the weekend listing yoga philosophy and meditation sprinkled amongst the meals, hikes and yoga sessions I didn't clue in.
There I was Friday night feeling quite satisfied after making the drive all by myself (without having gotten onto the scenic route once) and experiencing the first of many satisfying community vegetarian meals. I have to admit, I didn't even really get what was going on as we were organized into a circle and instructed into a comfortable, precise sitting position. Meranda has a lovely, soothing voice and I listened as she began a guided meditation, feeling peaceful and content. Eventually we were asked to think about the feeling of bliss... and then left to do so for ??? minutes. And so I was mentally immersed in the simple pleasure of the bright burst of sweetness from the sun-warmed cherry that explodes in your mouth with the gentlest of pressure from impatient teeth. The feeling that settles around you those few moments after sexual release where you are both completely relaxed and alive in every cell of your body. The sound of my daughter's voice drowsily speaking as she returns from some far off thought saying, "I love you, Mom." The fresh cup of coffee that greets me every morning, sitting there on my night stand enticing me to alertness, placed there by my husband- a gesture of love and care. The warm comfort of a cat curled in your lap, purring, trust-filled. It was lovely.
We were called back to awareness of the room, and began a discussion of using this feeling of 'bliss' in a practiced and regular way. To meditate on it often, to access it and promote systemic well-being and calmness. This is in fact when it began to dawn on me. Meditation. I lost the train of conversation as I tried to wrap my head around this experience. I just meditated.
I went to bed still thinking about the experience. Thinking about the ability to call up the feeling of bliss at will. Like wherever, whenever. Maybe even continuously. And I started to wonder if that was even a good idea.... What if it robbed the extraordinariness from those unbidden and unexpected moments of bliss that startle you to the present- to take notice of the here and now? What if because you could experience bliss at a time convenient to you those organic moments of perfection would slip past unnoticed, unremarked? Should the feeling of bliss be another thing to schedule into our busy lives? Would it be like a drug where your dose needs to get bigger and bigger to have any effect, only to bring you to a crash too painful to allow you the freedom to exist away from the feeling?
I fell asleep thinking that I probably think too much. Not that I thought up an answer to the above questions. Someone wiser that me must know and maybe one day they will share.
Will I make meditation a regular part of my life? I don't know that either. I do many things already to manage stress from creative pursuits to visualization (I have more on this later, but I found the spot I imagine on a mountain top of all places!!) and breathing techniques. If I do add meditation to my repertoire, I don't think it would be in a group setting. At this point, sitting in the approved posture for an extended period of time is physically uncomfortable for me and as it was delicately pointed out to me this weekend, my discomfort makes others feel distracted and uneasy. I was embarrassed to learn that needing to shift to regain blood flow to my toes interrupts the concentration of others. Maybe one day...
What I do know is that I am fascinated with this process, and am open to more understanding of meditation benefits. That the weekend was much more than I ever imagined it would be. For my body. For my mind. For my soul.