I felt a little guilty leaving Sadhana Yoga and Meditation Center a few days earlier than planned. Not guilty enough to go back. Just slightly disappointed that I didn’t follow through with the original intention of staying through Dec. 30.
In other to shatter this guilt, I meditated on the matter and determined the following as motivation for my early exit:
- There is only so much meditation I can handle. And that’s OK. To be in perpetual meditation sounds blissful and relaxing to either those who don’t do it at all … or to those who do it all of the time. I fall into neither of these groups. Hour-long meditations, three times a day, for seven days was a huge accomplishment for me.
- Had there been a firm commitment with a full downpayment, I would have been forced to stick it out. But I was free to go whenever I pleased. I seize freedom. I am American, after all.
- Although plugging inward is wonderful, I find tremendous “wow” in experiencing all that the external world has to offer. I am a tantric yogini in this respect. This sort of exploration requires leaving the solitary sanctuary of a yoga hall. Other parts of Nepal were beckoning me. I needed to answer that call. This might be my only chance, in this life.
So there it is. My justification. Not that it’s necessary — but I needed this rationalization to overcome the ounce of guilt that followed me to Chitwan, Nepal.
Sadhana was a wonderful experience, but the center is not for everyone. You have to enter the experience with an open mind, and a willingness to surrender to (or seek out) your inner peace. The setting is perfect for this brand of “inner” adventure. What better place to meditate than in the birthplace of Buddha?
The cost of the program for three days starts at US$120 per person; a week starts at US$240 per person. This includes a basic room, all meals and all sessions on the daily schedule from 5:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. Despite this cheap price by American standards — it amounts to as little as US$30 per day — you only get from it as much as you put in.
I saw a few people leave after just one day. The relatively strict schedule of meditation, yoga and chanting likely bewildered those who thought they were coming for a more mainstream “yoga holiday.” There is chanting (Bhakti yoga). There are chores (Karma yoga). There are students participating in detox programs/cleanses (which involve fasting and open discussion of bowel movements).
The education is tethered to Hatha Yoga, with a heavy emphasis on meditation. The meditation sessions are held three times a day. If you get frustrated with meditation or are a true beginner, then this is your optimal chance to learn, as different techniques are offered with each session. If you’re not willing to put in the appropriate effort — and if you’ve journeyed this far, why wouldn’t you? — then it will become your private hell, and you’ll likely leave after one day. (And that would be your loss.)
While my first day was spent in a cloud of confusion, as some of the teachings were foreign to me or slightly different, I began embracing the “new stuff” by the second day. I approached my stay as a true education without trying to rally against what was being offered. I questioned things politely, in an effort to learn. Although, I never did ask why the teacher kept referring to downward facing dog as “mountain” … that’s not the Sanskrit translation for the asana, after all. Perhaps that warrants a follow-up email.
Some key things that I take away from this experience include:
- There are many paths to meditation … and this needs to be reinforced with more vigor to new students. We worked with mantra, breath, visual and tangible options. When informally polling other students at the center, I learned that some techniques definitely worked better than others. It all depended on the student. Most had never been offered a selection such as this. Goes to show that there is no “right” way! This is a great (and authentic) personal anecdote to share with hesitant (yet curious) students back home, as many are often turned off after one sour experience. For women, perhaps I could use the analogy that it’s like trying on different dresses until you find the one that shapes your body perfectly. For me, I enjoyed working with the mantra “So Hum” and counting my mala beads. That combination — a new discovery — was my “little black dress” at Sadhana.
- Encourage karma yoga … in my own life and with others. Dedicating myself whole-heartedly to one simple task that would ultimately benefit the Sadhana community was a special brand of meditation unto itself. Simple tasks such as cleaning dirty yoga mats or chipping off hardened wax off candle holders brought me joy because it tethered me to the moment at hand.
- Consider integrating the Hatha yoga sequencing of Sadhana into my own teaching. I bought the course manual (a bargain at US$5), so I have the basics in a handy how-to guide. Our yoga practices were always split into four parts: reflexology with a wooden roller; pranayama; dynamic movement; static asanas (held for one minute to 1.5 minutes each).
- Don’t be afraid to sing. I loved the chanting! I looked forward to that after each afternoon’s tea break. I need to think about how to integrate this into my teaching, when appropriate, and in a “mainstream” fashion that won’t weird people out. Does Beyoncé have any jams with Sanskrit mantras?
- Remain a witness to my own mind. I needn’t be in meditation to “watch” my thoughts and let them go if they aren’t serving me … most usually aren’t anyway. See the photo below, one I captured a summer art exhibit in Chicago — it’s a wonderful metaphor for what meditation can inspire.
- Stay open to all types of yoga, even the versions that don’t seem “right.” This will hold very true for when I travel down to Mysore and begin practicing Ashtanga yoga as a beginner. I don’t know everything. The more I learn about yoga, in fact, the less I know! It is challenging, humbling thing to realize and accept — a reversal of how education typically works.