Monday, March 31, 2014

You know that smile you get when one of your kids just calls you to kill time and chat?  Well, that's how I'm smiling today.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Last fall I was deleting some junk e-mail when I saw a Groupon deal for a weekend at Yogaville.  I'd heard about Yogaville, an asram built in the middle of rural Virginia.  It's been there about 30 years and has good town/gown relations, bringing jobs and even running a credit union for the local area.  I thought for $85 dollars for two nights including meals and yoga practice, this would be an opportunity to do something a bit outside my usual comfort zone.  I put off making my reservations because of the holidays and then the weather and finally I was within two weeks of the coupon expiring.  It was now or never.

The trip
So Friday morning I headed off through the back roads of Virginia.  It was a route that I knew very well. Narrow, curvy, hilly roads that I had driven for years to get to Kentucky to see my grandmother and to get to my son in boarding school.  I could drive those roads with my eyes closed except you can't.  You have to have a good grip on the steering wheel, a good sense of how to drive through curves, and a confidence that I found I hadn't lost.  It was beautiful but changed.  A bit more sprawl outside of Fredericksburg before getting to The Wilderness.  Yes, it really is named The Wilderness. The Civil War battle of The Wilderness was fought here as were some Revolutionary War battles.  This is an area rich in America's early history. Then on through the small little towns, no more than a crossroads, then crossover the Interstate, and deep into a rural area where gas stations still have one pump with the little tabs that drop to let you know your amount and cost, no digital stuff here.  I passed rolling farmland, small little homes, amazing Virginia horse farms, and dense woods.  Some fields were turning green which was a welcome sight given our cold winter and the snowstorm that was yet to come.

I arrived at Yogaville to find a modern complex built around a quad, much like some small little college. Modern wooden buildings - two dormitories on one side, a dining hall and reception area across the quad, and a library on one side and "classrooms" on the other.  They also have some motel-like private rooms available back on a hill.  I checked in and got my room assignment for the weekend.  I was greeted by a middle aged man wearing white flowing pants and top, who looked like his "other job" may have been as an accountant.  He handed my my schedule, the booklet of all the info about Yogaville - it's history, rules, maps, and explanations of the philosophy - and pointed out my dorm.  I was assigned a bunk bed sharing a room with three 25-20 year olds.  I'm certain they were surpirsed to see me there.  I was one of the older people attending for the weekend, not the oldest, but the average age was probably more around 50,  mostly women. 

About Yogaville
You should looked it up here -  In addition to weekend and short-stay guests, it also has long stay residents, some permanent, some in a transition phase where they can stay and do work for the ashram in exchange for a bed and three meals a day.  There is also a requirement that they participate in the yoga and meditation activities.  At the beginning of the recession NPR did a story on how to survive when you lost your job that talked about moving to Yogaville. There were also the scattering of "lost children", those young people who were searching for themselves 1960's style.  And there were the "lost adults" who didn't find themselves during the 1960's and 1970's and were trying again.  Some people were just taking a respite from their lives, staying a month or so to recharge.  And then there were us weekend people. 

The weekend
They call it a "Welcome Weekend" which includes your room and board (vegetarian meals) and yoga, meditation, and some lectures about Integral Yoga and the yogic lifestyle and how to incorporate the philosophy into your normal life. The schedule was busy yet unhurried.  Up at 5:30 am for meditation at 6 am, which was followed by Hatha yoga and then breakfast at 8 am.  Quiet hours - no talking - between 10 pm and 8 am.  Following breakfast you could attend the lectures or do you own thing - there is a coffee shop, a library, and lots of hiking trails. Then at 4 pm you have another hour of meditation, another hour of Hatha yoga, and then dinner.  Following dinner there is a program about Integral Yoga including music and chanting.

On Friday evening I took the opportunity to visit the Lotus Shrine which is an amazing pink and purple circular building in a gorgeous spot on the river bank. On Friday nights it is illuminated and as I drove through the windy road to reach it the view was like something from outer space that had landed there.  It was beautiful but I can only imagine what these rural Virginians thought as it was being built.  I spent a bit of time meditating in the rotunda area and it was a most peaceful, ethereal experience.  You felt but entirely alone yet entirely surrounded by love.  It was like an oasis in the desert but it was an oasis of the spirit.

The end
The schedule repeats each day so by the time I left I'd had at least 4 hours of meditation and 4 hours of yoga and I felt great!  I drove back home, back to reality and an impending snow storm. I knew I could never be as dedicated to my yoga practice as I'd like;  I'm just too lazy.  But I knew I would find a way to put 15 - 30 minutes of meditation into my schedule both morning and evening, and they had also taught me that yoga doesn't have to an hour and half at the gym, it could be 15 minutes of sun salutations and a few good stretches to relieve your tensions and assist your body.  I've been doing that the last few days and I really do feel better.  It also got me in touch with my inner hippie which had been in hiding for so many years.  No, I'm not going to run away and join the ashram, but I do intend to live a more mindful, peaceful life.  Service to others can take many forms and sometimes my service will be to just "let it go" and not try to solve it.

The next trip
Will I go again? I'd like to buy my inner cheapskate will have to wait for another Groupon deal.  And I also don't really want to share this experience with anyone.  My husband knows how much I enjoyed and now he wants to go.  He would hate it and I would feel like I had to keep him happy and entertained and it was be a.w.f.u.l.  My best friends would want to stay in the private rooms and make it into a slumber party and they'd complain about the food in a nice, but complaining way and I don't think they would appreciate the experience in the same way that I did. I think I need to wait a long time so that my enthusiasm is not so upfront and I can sneak away alone.  Not a very sharing thought but .......