Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Ashram for a Weekend

by Riemke de Groot

Students kept asking me for a yoga-weekend with some silence. They were warmed up to the idea by my stories of silence retreats: with Rob Obermeijer in the Ardennes, at the yearly Himalaya retreats in Netherlands and during my stays at SRSG. So I made a plan and gave it a try. With success. Last month the weekend was organized for the 3rd time. My intention is to give people the experience of ahsram life in Himalaya tradition, time to mindfully relax from their busy lives. I do all the planning and shopping for the meals, to avoid that there is too many groceries and things have to be thrown away. It is also relaxing for the participants that they can just come and don't have to prepare. The day schedule is like in the ashram or retreats I participated in.

Keeping the group small, to a maximum of 5, so that we fit in one bungalow and the organization (especially the cooking) is managable. A small group helps the participants to feel comfortable. I work on a shared-cost basis with dakshina, to make it possible for everyone to participate. For me it is a joy to share the precious gifts of the Himalaya tradition. And though it's  hard work, I also feel relaxed and silent during and after a weekend. I can dive deep into my own practice, and  it's most enjoyable to do. Doing some walks alone between the sessions helps me to stay focused and enjoy.

This time a group of 5 women participated, 4 of them yoga teachers in different styles. I rented a house in a quiet bungalowpark near my home town. Arriving on Friday afternoon, we started by putting furniture aside to create space for the yogamats. Then create a make-shift altar and invite the presence of the Guru lineage. Starting with a meal and talk to get acquainted and organise practical things like how early we start, how long will we do silence and who is sleeping where, etc.

For this weekend I choose some yoga sutras (1: 1-3; 1: 12-14; 1: 33) They were not familiar with Patanjali and were enthousiastic to learn and practice something new. Reading and explaing the sutra's step by step and then giving focuspoints from those sutras to practice in between the sessions. They were eager to practice silence on Saturday, which was also for the first time. They enjoyed the Himalaya style teaching in the long sequence of the long morning classes: from makarasana and joints & glands to meditation.

I made a handout with the sutras and with some other practices like Nadi Shodhana, digestive breathing and So Ham mantra. Also some suggestions for the free time in between the sessions: contemplative walking, colouring yantra or mandala. Doing joyful things with joyful awareness. The park also invites to walk, with large lawns of clean grass for barefootwalking. And there is a small swimming pool. Saturday afternoon we did a long walk in the surroundings in silence, while practicing So Ham. We were blessed with nice early-autumn weather. And, of course, the householding activities like cooking and dishes had to be done. We had a simple healthy vegetarian menu with an Ayurvedic touch to the current season. Some paricipants enjoyed assisting, while others enjoyed not having to do any tasks. It's nice to see how everyone finds a balance between activity and relaxation in her own way.

Reactions on Sunday afternoon: “feeling relaxed and I needed that so much”, “being so relaxed”, “being able to surrender”, “being glad to have learned new practices”, made me realize how busy we all are and how much needed such a short retreat can be. The participants can thank themselves for giving themselves the present of this free weekend. The mails the sent to me after going home were about  “relaxing my forehead again and again”and “SoHam does its work”. Makes me even more thankful to this Tradition and to my teachers. I'm glad to be able to share these treasures. 

You can read some more about the weekend program on my site: http://www.chaire.nl/weekend.htm  (in Dutch). You may contact me if you want to give it a try and would like to discuss some ideas about program, menu or other things.



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