I recently spent a weekend at a yoga retreat in Ojai, California. It had been nearly 4 long years since my last retreat—a blissful week spent practicing yoga twice a day at a vineyard in Tuscany—and I was definitely due for some time away to reflect and relax and soak in the goodness of a yoga-infused mini-break.
When I’d booked this retreat, I was desperate for some “me” time. I was severely overworked and was also recovering from a very tragic personal loss. I was struggling with anxiety, which seemed insurmountable at the time, and all I wanted was to escape. But I had to wait. My day job and my small press were both in need of my attention. But I plowed through, knowing that a yoga retreat was just around the corner.
Oddly, by the time my retreat rolled around, I didn’t feel like I needed it. Things at the day job and my small press had calmed down. I no longer suffered from anxiety. I was maintaining my yoga practice, going out with friends, and working on my second novel. A retreat seemed unnecessary. But I’d put down a $200 non-refundable deposit, so I went anyway.
It was my first trip to Ojai, despite living only 2 hours away. And on that Friday, as I headed north on the 101 Freeway, I saw something amazing. My world was opening. My horizons were expanding. You see, I live in Los Angeles, which is a huge city. And I often spend most of my time in my own little neighborhood, which is quite lovely. But going on this retreat forced me to step outside my circle, and what I saw was remarkable.
Crowded buildings and congested streets gave way to soft rolling hills, blue skies and ocean views. I marveled at the landscape, barely able to keep my eyes on the road for I wanted so badly to absorb the beauty surrounding me. And when I headed up into the mountains, the sights were even more stunning. Rugged peaks towered majestically over deep canyons, the crisp blue of the sky contrasting with the earthy browns and greens of the land. It was so much more beautiful than I’d imagined, and as I rolled into Ojai and up to the retreat grounds, I was overcome…with sadness.
How had I gone so long without stepping outside my bubble? Sure, my bubble was nice and comfortable, but I had forgotten how lovely life can be outside it. And all I had to do was take a two hour drive to rediscover that. I love traveling. But opening my small press in 2010 meant my travel budget went into my business. So, without the means to voyage to foreign destinations, I figured I should just stick close to home. Too close, in fact. And even though I’d taken a few quick trips to Vegas for a couple girls’ weekends and back home to visit my family, I hadn’t ventured out into the world. I didn’t give myself a retreat, time to just reflect and relax and soak in the goodness of nature, yoga, and the beauty that is right around the corner.
So, the next time you think you don’t need a retreat, I suggest, that’s exactly when you doneed a retreat. Even if it’s just an afternoon spent outside your bubble, I’m sure you will discover how much you really needed that brief respite all along.