My yogi job was a different story. Alone and armed with a pair of disposable blue gloves, I tried to bring a mindful approach to my task. Following laminated instructions, I focused on the sounds as I scrubbed the toilets, sinks and showers. I mopped the floors, noticing the motion of my arms and being mindful not to bang the mop into the sink legs.
Every chance I got, I went outdoors. During my walks, I had an eye-to-eye exchange with an owl, watched a large beaver leave a frozen pond to cross a road, and marveled at iced-over berries that hung like marbles. I wished I could capture these encounters with my camera-ready phone but captured them in my mind instead.
Sitting at meals — not speaking, reading, scrolling or watching a screen — was a true exercise in being in the present moment. Moving through the buffet line, I piled my plate high with the flavorful vegetarian food, expressed my gratitude (silently!), and counted how many colors were on my plate. My best entertainment: an exquisitely placed bird feeder outside the dining hall windows. Every meal provided an all-out war between squirrels and birds.
With all the stillness, many of us yearned for distraction. A large white board sat outside the office, displaying the group meeting schedules, locations for daily affinity sits and folded up notes from a yogi to a teacher. We had been told to provide a family member with the front office number, and in case of emergency, a message would be posted on the white board. As though breaking news might come in hourly, a crowd built in front of the board very time we exited the meditation hall
By the end of the week, while the days had taken on a tranquil, rhythmic pace, I was ready to go home. I missed my family, and knowing what was happening in the world. The daily routine was growing monotonous. On my final day scrubbing toilets, I gleefully tossed those blue gloves into the garbage bin.
Did a week of silence change my life? I hadn’t come on retreat in search of that kind of epiphany (I have a therapist for that). I came rather seeking an adventure, and a deeper knowledge of the power of meditation that only extended time can give. The week had given me a sort of spalike experience for my mind, protected from the distractions and stressors of daily life.
For Jo, the retreat brought a deeper insight about meditation’s purpose. “On retreat, I learned that the point is not to lose yourself, which is more relaxing, but to find yourself, and that was harder work in good way.”
52 PLACES AND MUCH, MUCH MORE Follow our 52 Places traveler, Sebastian Modak, on Instagram as he travels the world, and discover more Travel coverage by following us on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up for our Travel Dispatch newsletter: Each week you’ll receive tips on traveling smarter, stories on hot destinations and access to photos from all over the world.
Get more stuff like this
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.