The idea of " Group Retreat" in various flavors seems to have hit a sweet spot in Central Texas. Ellen B. Smith, formerly of Sojourn Retreat, has devised a new program through Barsana Dham, just west of Austin. This is a weekend adventure in Yoga, presented twice this year in June and October.
"There is something for everyone at the Texas Yoga Retreat Weekend! The retreat features teachers from across Texas who represent many distinct styles of Yoga. Some classes are gentle and restorative; others are rigorous and will push you to your edges, and some are that delicate balance between. Classes are suitable for all levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced / teacher / aspiring teachers. Do as much or as little yoga as you would like. Take a walk to Friday Mountain, read a book, have yummy vegetarian food, sit in the gorgeous and peaceful Temple, visit the peach and flower orchards, commune with peacocks, make new, like-minded friends. " for more info, go to Texas Yoga
Another weekend of delights may be found at the "Love, Sex and Spirit: Playing Together" event also in June, at the Margaret Austin Center in Chapel Hill (a tiny burg about halfway between Brenham and Houston). As facilitator Charla Hathaway writes:
"Are you ready to experience a miracle in your relationships? Join with others who are taking love, intimacy and sensuality to the next level. If you desire to move past the barriers that keep you apart, fearful and in judgment, you are ready!"
Group retreat is a time to share and learn from your peers and teachers. Another, less well-known form of retreat is solitary or 'Close Intensive Retreat.' I will be teaching a workshop on how to conduct CIR next Sunday, at 2 p.m. at the Triangle Community Center at 46th and Guadalupe.
There are three vocations that benefit from Close Intensive Retreat: spiritual, artistic or cognitive. These are no-holds-barred, life-long investigations into the nature of Love, Freedom and Intelligence (respectively). In order to carry out these investigations, it is useful to locate two things: 1) who you are, and 2) what sucks.
In the words of the inimitable Merlin Mann:
"You can’t just turn it [skillfulness] on and instantly be the thing you wish you were. It takes reflection, thought, iteration, and a personal commitment to facing the stuff at which you suck. And we all suck at something. You totally suck at something, and it secretly drives you nuts every damned day. "
Yes, it does... We are social animals, which is both a blessing and a challenge. The retreats mentioned above clearly work with the blessing side. The flipside is the fact that while we are in the 'world,' identity is an ongoing composition, including large amounts of what other people think/dream of us. "Not me" you say? Pssst. You're reading this on the Web. And creating that composite *right now.*
So. Close Intensive Retreat is a set of techniques that gently but firmly disengages the social body. It does take a few hours (or a day or so) to stop being everybody else's 'you,' but CIR is extremely effective in creating the space for that solitude.
Once inside of real solitude, it becomes much easier to a) be nourished by your spiritual, artistic or cognitive practice, b) see where your Big Question is positioned. BQ=the thing that you suck at; what you came here to contribute; the particular karmic/dharmic burr under your saddle. You know - your nemesis/daimon/pearl.
There are lots of ways to find it; few of them involve other people telling you where to look. For that, you need to ask your(whole)self.