Adventures in Yoga – Silent Retreat in the Catskills (Part One)

Menla retreat

Silence is a true friend who never betrays.

– Confucius

When I heard about the Silent Retreat with Yoga to the People last year, I promised myself I would attend the next one.

This year when it was announced, I thought of reasons not to go.

I couldn’t think of one.

Silent retreat here I come.

A weekend in the Catskills with cool peeps.

The weekend would include, hiking, yoga and a sweat lodge ceremony – all while sipping on nothing but Master Cleanse juice.

Sound insane? Looking back maybe it was a little crazy- but it was bad ass fun.

Day One 

After a 3 hour ride in the rain we arrived at Menla Mountain.

The grounds were beautiful and I couldn’t wait for the rain to leave to walk around a bit.

I changed my clothes and headed to do some yoga and a Q&A about the sweat lodge ceremony.

Here’s the thing- I’m sort of socially awkward. Not creepily- just incredibly, painfully shy.

You wouldn’t know it and spending the better part of two decades in retail does a lot to mask that.
I’m the kind of person who always mostly bulldozes through what scares me.
This pushes fear aside without having to deal with it.
A silent retreat seemed like a perfect way to deal  avoid my shyness.  More on this later.
Let’s get back to it…
At the top of our class we had a ceremony that led us into silence.

As soon as the silence set in it was clear that I had not been listening to my surroundings or even myself.

Class started and no joke, MY THOUGHTS WERE SO LOUD that I couldn’t hear the teacher guiding us in a low tone. It took about 20-30 minutes to adjust. At one point I relaxed in balasana (child’s pose).
I used my breath to gently tell my mind shhhhh…. there will be time later, for now just let the body do the asanas.
It was as if the volume turned down in my mind and the teacher’s voice increased. I think by acknowledging that I would deal with whatever came up I was able to release it.
What an amazing practice. There was a tea light on the floor that we could blow out as we left the studio.
I sipped my cleanse drink and headed to bed excited for what the rest of the weekend held.
Sleep came easily.
Day Two 
Sun Menla
I popped up at 5:30 and decided to relax a bit more.
At 7:30 we would get our cleanse drink and find out the schedule.
There was a 2 hour steep hike and then my group would leave for the sweat ceremony.
After the ceremony there was an optional 90 minute class- then more cleanse drink a 60 minute class, a bonfire, then bed.
It was interesting to get the first drink and see folks from the night before. Everyone seemed to mill about comfortably. I smiled but wandered around a bit to check out the grounds.

 

Time for the hike.

 

Steep hike was an understatement. Holy f*cking shit.

 

So steep that midway, I had an Arrested Development moment and said to myself or course (because we’re in silence) I think I’ve made a huge mistake.

 

I huffed. My legs hurt. It was steep. The group was moving- quickly. I huffed. My legs hurt. It was steep.

 

The mind can fuck with you. It can tell you that you can’t do something that you actually can. My heart was pounding like crazy. I wasn’t gasping for air. My legs hurt. I was tired. I hadn’t physically pushed myself like this in awhile. I was uncomfortable, not dying.

 

Let me be clear- this was really hard for me.

 

But, how could it be a mistake? The hike was only two hours we were already 20 minutes in. I’m in fairly decent shape for crying out loud. And before I knew it we were at the top.

 

It was at this point my mind suddenly shifted to thinking about my shyness (It’s funny how our brains and emotions work).
I had a rough time with the hike. I have a rough time with being shy. I don’t  have to get over everything. Some things get dealt with in the moment. Not everything has to be handled, fixed or squashed.

 

Some things can just be.

 

This is the thing about tough times- if you aren’t careful you can miss the lesson while it’s happening. At the top- the sun was through the clouds. I was still thinking- wtf, this climb was hard but I was smiling.

 

As I caught my breath covered in sweat I took a look around at the group and the view.

 

On the way down I realized that the hike was definitely a bit much for me- I had fun getting down eventually- but the first few hundred feet there were a few drop offs that made me think of the nightmares you have about walking across bridges…

 

One foot in front of the other.

 

I thought two things- sthira and sukha.

 

That and Dory from Finding Nemo- just keep swimming.

 

I made it down.

 

It was a really big deal and was grateful for the experience.

 

Only 10:15am and I was already feeling more alive that I had felt in a while.

 

I went off to get changed for the sweat lodge ceremony.

 

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s on Love, Sweat and Tears….

 

Namaste y’all.
Hike
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Vegan Diaries – PIZZA!!!!

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After class on Friday I picked up some veggies from the fruit market and stopped at the local pizza joint.

‘Dough please!’

They didn’t hand over money, but they did charge me 5 smackers for a enough dough to make an extra large pie. I got another one to store in the freezer.

Why buy dough you’re asking?

Easy- because I don’t want to make it.

Please. Don’t get it twisted- I can make a mean pizza dough. But as I get closer to the end of 108 days of yoga, I’m learning to be efficient with my energy. Also the pizza guys make dough better than I do.

I had grand plans to make the pizza that night. A fat slice with a glass of wine and Netflix was my idea of a sexy evening.

My body had a different story to tell.

But I did manage to make the toppings.

Grand plans moved to Saturday.

No biggie.

My friend and I caught the 7pm hot class at Yoga to the People and headed to my place for pizza and wine!

Whoop!

She looked at me dubiously- no cheese on pizza?

What fresh hell this?

I whipped up some basil oil and put the dough in a deep dish.

Shredded vegan cheese? Blech.

My eggplant/onion/sun dried tomato mixture was going to be so good cheese wouldn’t even be necessary.

Why ruin it with fake cheese- file this under the category of learning to let things go.

It was on the money honey.

When people wander over to the kitchen to sneak more of something I’ve cooked, I know it’s a hit.

Going the deep dish rustic route was also a good move- sometimes delicious food is best when it has a homey feel.

Good food, conversation and wine. It doesn’t take a lot to live a great life.

This is yoga. Keep it simple.

Namaste y’all.

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Eggplant filling for deep dish vegan pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant- cubed
  • 5 cloves of garlic minced (I know it sounds like a lot- do 8)
  • 1 medium onion sliced in rings
  • Sun dried tomatoes 1/2 cup chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted red pepper soup (or pasta sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 handful oregano roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon italian seasoning
  • 1 large pinch sea salt

Preparation

  1. Sauté onions and garlic
  2. Add eggplant tomatoes- stir for 5 minutes
  3. Add soup or sauce and spices
  4. Turn heat to low and cover for 20 minutes checking every 5 to stir
  5. Place filling in a bowl

Pizza Prep

  1. Sauté 3 cups spinach with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper
  2. Work dough in a cast iron skillet or big pan
  3. Distribute eggplant filling evenly
  4. Layer spinach on top
  5. Pour basil oil on top
  6. Add any additional toppings

Cook pizza in a 450° oven for 17 minutes