From Doing to Being

Posted on March 26th, 2014 by in Healthy Living

relaxI’ve always been a doer. Not one to wait for things to come to me, I’m the type to take action, pick up the phone, initiate the project, ask the guy out rather than wait to be asked. It’s a worthwhile trait that’s created opportunities for me, but it can also be exhausting. I feel like I need to be doing all the time to make my life happen. Maybe I’m getting older, maybe I’m getting wiser, but—more and more these days—I’m yearning to receive, slow down, reflect, turn inward, get to know my quiet self, and see what comes.

It was in this spirit that I made the trip to Kripalu for an R&R Retreat weekend. I couldn’t wait to unplug for a few days and revel in quiet, self-care, and inner-world exploration.

Because you can tailor an R&R Retreat to be whatever you want it to be, I could have simply rested in my room, enjoyed the grounds, lounged in the sauna, and feasted on three nutritious meals a day, if that’s all I’d wanted to do. There was no requirement to attend any of the smorgasbord of classes offered all day and evening, but—doer that I am—I couldn’t help but sample quite a few. Because I was putting my energy in the direction of self-care and personal growth, the doing didn’t feel arduous. It felt the opposite of arduous, actually: I felt like a dry sponge set in a pool of water that I was absorbing without effort.

What a difference it makes to start and end the day with yoga and meditation. Rather than hop on the computer first thing in the morning (my room had Internet access, but I committed to taking three days away from e-mail), I’d wake up early and quietly make my way to yoga class. Breathing and stretching through each class, I heeded the instructor’s suggestions to listen to my body, find my edge, and do what I was able to do in each moment. It was a relief to feel no pressure to stretch and move in any way other than my own. I wasn’t practicing yoga to achieve a goal (lose weight, get toned), but rather to be with myself in body, mind, and spirit.

When the class ended with an optional closing meditation, I made sure to stay for it. As I sat on a rolled-up blanket, focusing on my breath, I could feel myself sinking into stillness. I’d been yearning for this. Total quiet. Nowhere to go. No one to answer to. Nothing to accomplish. No other agenda than to listen to myself and just be. How often do I give myself that gift?

After class, I’d make my way to the cafeteria. Along with the choice of vegetarian or non-vegetarian fare, there was the choice to dine in silence or not. In the morning, I often chose to take the mindfulness I’d nurtured in yoga class into the next part of my day by eating breakfast in silence. When it was just me and my meal—no distractions—I noticed I was more apt to look at my food before putting it in my mouth, to smell it, to chew it thoroughly, and to consume it slowly.

One of the highlights of my stay was Noon Dance, the Kripalu mainstay that combines music with movement, yoga, and dance. While I felt self-conscious at first, I quickly appreciated the invitation to free up my energy. It was a relief to skip around the room, shake my hips, and release stored-up angst.

In the evening, I attended Rest & Unwind Yoga classes. In dimly lit rooms with soft, meditative music, I gently stretched my body, focused on my breathing, and began to empty my mind in preparation for sleep. What a delicious way to get ready for bed.

During my stay, I took classes in Metta Meditation, Good Gut Health, the Art of Receiving, and more. One of my favorites was a class called Yoga Off the Mat, taught by Aruni Nan Futuronsky. Her first question to the class was, “What has been the best part of your stay at Kripalu thus far?”

“Stopping,” I quickly replied.

And that remained the best part of my R&R Retreat. I gave myself the gift of stopping the incessant doing, in favor of a few days of simply being. I’ve always been afraid that, if I stopped for a while, I’d fall behind, but that’s not true. What’s true is that if I don’t stop for while, I’m going to be too burned out to move forward. That was my biggest takeaway from my R&R Retreat—one that I’ve promised myself not to forget.

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About Portland Helmich

Portland is the creator, host, and producer of the Kripalu Perspectives podcast series. She's also is the creator, host, and executive producer of What’s the Alternative?, a series of 52 half-hour talk shows about natural and alternative forms of healing the body-mind on Veria Living TV, a natural health channel on DISH, FiOS, and Frontier. For 15 years, Portland’s been investigating natural health and healing as a host, reporter, writer, and producer. She's been an alternative medicine correspondent for Oxygen, a health reporter for The American Consumer on PBS, and was the creator, host, and executive producer of Journeys Into Healing on Wisdom Television. She produced for HealthWeek and Healing Quest on PBS and was a medical producer for WCVB-TV (Boston’s ABC News affiliate). She’s also covered the subject as a freelance writer for Body + Soul, Alternative Medicine, and Spa magazines. Portland currently lives in Boston and produces other natural health programming for Veria Living TV.