Retreat – Verb – withdraw, retire, draw back, escape
Retreat – Noun – an act of moving back, pulling back, flight
– Noun -a period or place of seclusion for the purpose of prayer and meditation
Regardless of where the word comes from – the purpose of this particular retreat was to Make your Soul Smile.
The last retreat I had ever been on I was only 13 years old, it was a religious one and was held at the Catholic Marian Hill Monastery. The only memory I have of this auspicious occasion is sharing a small dorm room with 3 other classmates and having pillow fights at midnight with one of the nuns scolding us severely in the morning for being disruptive. I therefore had no preconceived ideas about what I was about to embark on. It promised a balanced experience where you would not be expected to walk around head bowed in silence, but to fully embrace all aspects of life – from dancing on the beach till dawn to questions with a holy guru in one of the holiest of cities in India.
They lived up to their promises, encompassing the teaching of seven sacred miracles. Intention, masterpiece, gratitude, balance, integrity, humour and love.
As this is a personal journey for each individual, the teachings are interpreted differently by each person and I found only one aspect that did not sit well with me, and that was the expectation that by the end of 12 days you would automatically be transformed into this ever loving, ever forgiving person ready to take on the world, warts and all. I wasn’t ready, still have quite a few glitches to work out. It is a judgement on my part and maybe this is just part of my own journey that I am working through.
Apart from meeting some wonderful people who I will be able to call friends for life, there were some wonderful highlights, which will remain in my memory and hopefully enable me to iron out these pesky glitches.
Tuc-tuc race through the streets of Agra to a sunset tour of the Taj Mahal, puts things in perspective. The monument for love lives up to its expectations, and after driving through the abject poverty of the surrounding streets, to this marble grandeur can only make you marvel at how the local people live and how much we, as spoilt westerners, take things for granted.
Driving in convoy by landrovers, pre dawn, into the foothills of the Himalayas to watch the sun awaken the sleeping hill tops, freezing cold. To hear a woman sobbing loudly as the sun made it appearance. The beauty, solitude and peace was almost tangible.
A visit to an Ashram where guru Mooji was giving an audience is an unforgettable experience. On entering the ashram, the instructions where silence, with cream clad westerners, many sporting pre-requisite dreadlocks, walking around with hands clasped enforcing the rule. I felt a bit of cynicism setting in here as I felt you do not need to follow like sheep and dress the part and walk around with stooped shoulders to be enlightened. Sitting crosslegged on the cold concrete floor with hundreds of other elephant pant clad, barefoot pilgrims, who had come to India to find themselves, waiting for the main player to appear, didn’t help with my inner voice calling “bullshit”. Then out the speakers a recording started of one of Mooji’s meditative teachings, which resonated with me and silenced that inner voice, my mind, to the extent I stopped feeling the cramp creeping up my legs and the cold and the disquiet of my mind. Mooji then made his appearance – a calm beautifully spoken inspiring man, who could work magic with his words. The questions and answer session then began, with a tortured woman taking the floor with her question about life. Mooji listened attentively and answered fairly. She however was a seriously lost soul and would not leave the podium demanding more and more, and the reaction of the crowd of “enlightened ones” broke the spell, with the laughing and twittering at this poor woman. I needed to leave this area to try and keep the magic that was still in my heart.
Learning the rudiments of Japanese Hojo martial arts on the sunsetting beach of Goa, here where any inhibitions have no option but to be let go, was a truly emotive and liberating experience.
And walking through the slums of Mumbai, where not one occupant put their hand out. They make their living conditions work, do not complain and make the most of what they have. Something we as westerners can learn a lot from. The whole time I have been in India, I have somehow felt I have been living on a movie set. Around every corner is a scene that cries out to be captured. The people are all smiling and I know that through all of this, my soul is going to end up smiling from ear to ear.
Here I have to give credit to Brett Shuttleworth and the Smiling Soul Retreat – because my take on the word retreat, is not one of withdrawal, but one of awakening. Thank you.