Clearly, I am still not blog focused. I’m pretty much tying myself to my computer right now to type this retreat recap up. I’ve been busy with my client, American Woman’s Association stuff (like prepping and hosting 30 women at my house for breakfast and coffee on Wednesday morning….yes 30), and golf. While the Indian Summer tried to disappear Mon-Wed, it was back today and a couple of us got together and played 9 holes, it short sleeves, in October, in Scotland! How great is that? What wasn’t great…I swear I am getting worse at golf. Oye.
So….my meditation & yoga retreat….
At some point last spring I started googling meditation retreats. I’m not sure what exactly possessed me to do so. But I did use to meditate pretty religiously and even did a couple 6-week block sessions of guided meditation that worked on different techniques. What led me to meditation was my FGM (Fairy God Mother aka shrink) who didn’t think I should just be drugged when I was sad. So I guess maybe I was feeling a bit sad, overwhelmed, run down and thought I should get back to meditation. Or maybe I just saw some Real Housewives of Wherever and they went on a fab retreat….who knows.
I probably was in over my head before I started. I swear when I originally googled only 2 retreat places came up in Scotland that were a reasonable drive. I didn’t want a flight, and I didn’t want a greater than 5 hour journey. Now as I google, man it seems there are tons of these places. And it also seems like there are a lot better options for me. Anyway, the one place originally found was super luxurious and expensive, and the other one, the one I went to, Dhanakosa, seemed more practically priced but no massages. I was okay with that…I thought.
Now maybe I’m using better search terms or have a better understanding of what I’m looking for. But now in the greater google search I have found centers that seem to be fairly priced, more luxurious, not vegan, only 3 nights, AND options not to have roommates. Not sure on the atmosphere, but already these are seemingly better options that what I chose.
I went at it a little aggressive. Doing a full 7-day retreat that focused on yoga and meditation…even though I have no experience of yoga, and do not aspire to be a yogi or supplement a workout through yoga. I am just keen on yoga to help my meditation and help me relax and stretch. I guess I also just had unrealistic expectations. While I didn’t fully know what to expect in this, I was looking at it like sleep away camp or a Natural Helpers retreat…or even a weekend long church retreat. It wasn’t any of these things.
Sleep away camp at Camp Tecumseh was the best week of my life every year as a kid. I went knowing no one, had a super scheduled day, rode horses for half the day, made great friends, never had drama….I just always left feeling better and more confident than when I came in. In high school I went to two Natural Helpers retreats (not sure what it is- this site gives a pretty nice explanation) I first went as a student experience it, and then as a senior in high school I was a leader helping other students. Then, in college E and I went as the college leaders. We both loved the program, loved the weekend retreat, created great friendships, grew on a personal level, and came back feeling better than when we left. Even during my brief Jesus-y phase, I went on a couple weekend retreats and drank the kool-aid, made great connections, and left feeling better and more centered than when I came. I just thought this would be the same, but it wasn’t.
A lot of people who were at the retreat (about 25-30 of us) had either been at this center before or been to other meditation retreats before. There were only a couple people who were totally new to the whole process with me. At the end of the retreat, most people talked about how this was the most social retreat they had ever been on…which left me stumped. I wanted to have hugs and a massage chain and write letters to each other about how amazing we all were and we didn’t do ANY of that. What the heck, this isn’t social. I didn’t even get past surface level stuff with more than 5 people!
The daily schedule was something along the lines of this:
7 Wake up bell
3:45 optional extra yoga
7:30 Varying evening meditation and/or talk
To boot, I had 3 roommates to share one bathroom with and you had daily chores. Roommates are awkward. Not them as people, mine were actually quite lovely, but having roommates is awkward…especially as grown women, having periods of silence, and sharing a bathroom on an all vegan diet.
I said optional extra yoga in the schedule but everything was optional, you could do whatever you wanted. Only one day did I do both meditations in the morning, because it was just too much. For the normal 10:30 yoga session the retreat was split into two groups, you chose which leader you wanted to go with after they talked about their yoga. It was pretty much a full 2 ½ hours though, all the way until lunch. The yoga group I was in…well it wasn’t the yoga I expected. To kind of sum it up, for 2 ½ hours a day we kind of rolled around on the floor and pretended we were seaweed. Okay, we didn’t pretended to be seaweed the entire time, but that happened daily, and we really did just kind of roll around on the floor for the entire time…trying to feel our bodies and move fluidly. One day I decided to really embrace it hoping for great results…and despite my best efforts, had to ditch the next day on the whole experience because I kind of had enough.
I did do the extra yoga session one day with the other instructor and I liked that. I guess it was Ying/Restorative Yoga where you held a pose for a while and focused on your breathing. That was nice and only an hour long. Lots of lying, no seaweed.
It took me until Wednesday morning to have a really good meditation session, but all day Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning before leaving I was in the zone. Despite going batshit crazy on Thursday evening, leaving the retreat center, and going two miles up the road to connect to wifi and drink two large glasses of wine (sacrificing one meditation session which I think was totally worth it- because I should not there is no contact with the outside world. Not only is it frowned upon, but I didn’t have any service within a 5 mile radius of the center…I even ran up a mountain to try and get a signal and couldn’t. It was rough. I missed E & Stella-girl). But even once I got my meditation on, I just felt unfulfilled. Repeat retreat offenders seemed to really get a lot out of the experience. And a lot came with some pretty big stuff to work through…to come to a big come to Buddha moment. Maybe I just didn’t go deep enough?
There were also 2 days were we were silent from about 8pm until 9:30 the next day, and then another day we were silent from 8pm through the entire next day and then the next day until 9:30am. So like 36 hours of silence. I didn’t expect this, but it actually didn’t bother me in principle. What bothered me was on the 36 hours of silence it was the 5th day there, the temp dropped, the house was cold, I was reading a depressing WW2 book (I guess at hardcore retreats no book or music (I listened to music a couple times on a run) are even allowed), the vegan gruel we were fed was getting to me, I just really felt like a prisoner.
The retreat was a £75 booking fee and then “free” made possibly by other’s donations. On the website it lists suggested donation amounts and explains you’ll have a chance to make your donation on the last full day and they take all forms of payment. But I wasn’t expecting such a hard push for donations, I mean I fully intended on paying the suggested donation amount because after all it was 6 full nights room and board beforehand. I knew they’d say something, but it was a full blown kind of rehearsed super hard push…it was intense. I guess the center is a non-profit and they said it cost £30K A MONTH to run the ‘estate’. I do not see how this is possible. And I asked two different people what do they do and what the money goes to…and the answers were vague at best. After the ask for money, it was immediately followed up by doling out chores from the staff that live there full time…while they kind of stood and watched us all work. This is in addition to the daily chores we had to do. When the time came to donate is when I snuck away to the hotel. So Friday morning I went up to donate and right away there was a, “Oh, you’re Lauren” because they kept tabs on who had donated and who hadn’t. It was just kind of weird and aggressive I thought. And a lot of money that I couldn’t see what it went to…the place is kinda shabby, we did chores, the houses are paid off. It kind of seemed that we are funding a community of people to hang out and not work. I just kind of felt like I was getting jipped. Then after I donated I came down and had MORE chores to do before we left, including stripping my own bed and changing the sheets. The guests did literally all the work. Which is fine…but then why is the donation request so how? Where is the money going?
Unfortunately, that ending put a really bad taste in my mouth. But I want to end on a good note because it wasn’t an all bad of an experience. I just kind of had to dig really deep to find the good.
- Didn’t feel like there was a lot of free time between the schedule and chores.
- Wasn’t a fan of the yoga.
- Didn’t feel the leaders “lead” enough. I was looking for more direction and/or feedback.
- Didn’t have any sort of big come to Buddha moment.
- Kinda felt I was funding a group of people on extended vacation.
- Vegan food pretty well sucked about 60% of the time.
- Midge Bites
- Everyone was super nice. Or at least amused the hell out of me. I couldn’t even be annoyed at anyone because I found them all so delightfully quirky.
- Even made some new friends who I’d love to see again. Certainly I wish everyone well.
- Beautiful location.
- I learned a little about myself.
- Benefitted from having such a scheduled day after my normal haphazard days.
- Got back into running- ran 4 times in the beautiful location- even twice at 6:30 am.
- Had a lot of reading time.
- Got back to meditation. Not that I’ve done it since, but it can’t hurt.
- Really got to connect with nature…it felt good.
My tips for you if you go to this center, or possibly any retreat
- Get there early for first dibs on beds.
- Get there early for first dibs on chores.
- You do not want any dishwashing. Trust me.
- Toilet duty isn’t bad because you get to choose when you do it.
- Bring eye mask, earplugs, and drugs to help you sleep.
- Don’t forget your towels.
- Bring extra stuff if you’re driving: bathing suit for a morning loch swim, extra deodorant, extra socks, whatever.