Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How Precious is Solitude

I am on yoga retreat in Mexico with my beloved teacher, Laura Christensen, meaning that I have the great pleasure of two classes a day with her, four hours on my mat in awe of her teaching and beauty. I am one of a group of 22 women, each almost without exception more amazing than the last - funny, intelligent, talented. I have laughed really hard at least a hundred times by now, several times to tears, and have spent luxurious periods by the infinity pool reading. The food is delicious and bountiful, the view and the villas just stunning. Most wonderful, I do feel like I have a whole new crop of friends and sisters, something which never ceases to amaze me about the yoga practice -- the unbelievable people it delivers into my arms.

And yet, with all this company, I find it hard to shake my need for solitude, my growing itch to be apart, to be alone in my thoughts, with my thoughts, to be diving through the woods with Jasper at my side. Crazy, isn't it?

I'm finding the biggest challenge of being here not the mustering-up of enough energy to get through four hours of practice a day. That's easy. It's more the challenge of being part of a group when I am so accustomed, I am reminded, to spending a lot of time alone. As I write this, in a perfectly idyllic setting, I realize that I have one eye on the screen of my laptop, another on the woman who sits at the far end of the sitting area willing her not to try to engage me. [And she does keep making sounds as she's looking through a coffee-table book, her unsubtle attempt to kindle conversation. But she's a whole 'nother story, the odd duck, the one off-note in a breezy harmonious melody.] Creating alone and quiet time requires intention and commitment that can be hard to maintain when there's a party going on.

The rest of the group is mostly down at the beach for meditation this morning, while I've stolen time to come read Mary Oliver, stare at the ocean, and meditate in my own way, by sifting through the contents of my own brain for something worthy of sharing here. It's an honor and a privilege to be here, as well as a balancing act all on its own -- how to be with others and still maintain a quiet interior, a lesson all its own.

Ting, ting, ting, goes the spoon in the coffee cup at the other end of the sitting area, but my thoughts are undisturbed. I hear it, but it doesn't upset the calm of my own form of meditation.

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