My first night’s sleep at Present Moment was an incredible. I slept with the doors open and enjoyed fresh air, mosquito bites, and the sounds of the ocean. I LOVE my life in Chicago, but the stark contrast of being on the quiet coastline of Mexico was something special.
Present Moment is a yoga retreat, but it’s completely up the guest how much yoga they want to participate in. There were classes throughout the day in various styles and featuring different instructors, all held on a beautiful open air platform facing the ocean.
Didn’t know I did yoga? That’s because my yoga experience isn’t much. I used to go to YogaLife in Cape Town off and on during 2011, and I have been to exactly one yoga class since living in Chicago. What was a non-yogi doing at a yoga retreat? I wanted to try something different and I needed to unwind. Yoga always makes my mind and my body feel good, so I decided to take the plunge and commit for a week.
On my first morning, I attended a meditation class at 8AM, followed by a Vinyasa class at 9AM. I was the only guest that showed up for both classes, so that meant I essentially had private lessons.
While I have some frame of reference for different styles of yoga, I had no idea to expect from a meditation class. I personally don’t meditate, but I consider my morning gratitude exercises a form of meditation and I have a couple 30 minute guided meditations that I listen to on my ipod once in a blue moon.
We started the meditation by applying some all-natural bug repellent and then sat facing each other and got in a position that would be comfortable to sit for an hour. Cross-legged for me was fine. The instructor explained that she had a mantra that we would be repeating in a rhythm, 3 times slow and 3 times at a quicker cadence. We would repeat the mantra a total of 108 times with our eyes closed and keep track via a beaded necklace called a japa.
|Here is fun one from Etsy|
I have always seen these beaded necklaces with the tassel and never knew they had a practical purpose. They essentially act like the abacus of mantras or a Buddhist prayer beads.
The mantra was in Sanskrit (I think) and meant, ‘we come from the shores, to the shore we return’ (if I remember correctly). The instructor’s first language was Spanish, so we were getting all multi-lingual in our meditation. The pronunciation was not easy and remembering the sounds when I hadn’t seen it written out was difficult. I had to tie the mantra to memory based on syllables, how the sounds felt as they came out of my mouth, and rhythm. We did a few practice rounds, and then it was time for the big set of 180. I got comfortable, closed my eyes and gave it my best shot.
The first couple rounds were tough, and I stayed a second behind to follow her lead, but eventually it become a rhythm of breath and the fast and slow becomes the expected. Being focused on the words was my priority and it didn’t allow my mind to wander very much. I was very present in my senses and felt the breeze on my skin, but the coordination of delivering the mantra in the specified rhythm, and delivering the pronunciation forced me to focus my thoughts on the words. I let myself completely ‘be’. I wasn’t worried about embarrassing myself or doing it wrong, I just wanted to experience it.
Interesting Insight? The concept of time was lost during the meditation. You could’ve told me I was sitting for 10 minutes or two hours and it would of felt the same. The end of the series was marked by the ring of bells ( I feel like this was used to indicate quiet time or story time at some point in my childhood). I’m guessing it was a solid 40-50 minutes. The only indication was that when I pressed my legs forward from the cross-legged position, my knees felt tight.
Following meditation was a Vinyasa flow class, lead by the same instructor. Since I had just spent the following hour sitting face to face with her stumbling over Sanskrit, we already bonded. The yoga was incredible and I felt release and energy in so many of the positions.
Post Shavasana, I headed to my room for a quick shower and then headed down to the restaurant for a smoothie of coconut milk, banana, agave, and raw cacao, and some journaling in the sunshine.
Any meditation masters?