OK... Lemme go back to the beginning...
On the 23rd we were on our way to Brazil. It took 3 airplanes (Sto. Dgo.-Panama, Panama-Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo-Rio de Janeiro.) We arrived at the final destination on the 24th, after long, butt-numbing sitting hours. We almost didn't make it as planned though. There was a problem with the airplane in Panama and we had to wait a bunch while they fixed it. That made us arrive late to Sao Paulo for the flight to Rio. Luckily, we were a large enough group for them to decide to hold the flight and wait for us for about an hour. Finally, we arrived at the gate and were on our way to our final destination. Once in Rio, we had to take a 2 hour bus ride to Teresopolis (un mix entre Jarabacoa y Constanza), where we would have the retreat, as if we hadn’t been sitting passengers for long enough. :P And, as if we weren’t going to be sitting for long enough once the retreat began!
We arrived at Sitio do Inga, a beautiful vacation place where we were to have our retreat, almost in time for lunch. Curiously, the slogan for that place, Voce em armonia, translates into You In Harmony. (PLTH anyone?) :P It was totally adequate. We were hungry and, to our surprise, they served a super delicious lunch. Yum! That was delicious. I hope AnaT brought that recipe!
We ate and then got our stuff organized in our rooms, plus we had to coordinate with our roommates stuff like the order in which we’d shower, how we would do about the room key, etc. since we wouldn’t be speaking during the week of the discipline. (In my room we decided to lock the door only at night, but for the whole day, we could go in and out as we pleased and the door would be open.)
Later we had our normal evening meditation in which we were told that the retreat and mauna (silence practice) would formally begin the next day at 4am with the first meditation. After that we had our Xmas dinner- the last meal for 7 days. We savored it well! Then we proceeded to have a gift exchange. We drew the names out for the person we would each give to. When it was your turn, you had to stand in front of all the meditators and start asking them questions until they guessed who your gift was for. We had lots of laughs with that. Whenever they asked about hair colors, people thought it was me. That was also the last night we would be talking, so then we started meeting people from other countries and joking around, etc. just having a good time. It was funny trying to talk with the Brazilians- we'd end up speaking Portunhol instead of Portuguese or Spanish.
Here’s an insect that we didn’t kill, of course. It was in our way as we were walking and I stopped to admire it and said to the others ‘be careful’, another friend of mine took this pic, and a brazilian friend grabbed it gently and placed it on the side of the grass, so the others wouldn’t step on it.
The alarm went off. Mauna (the practice of silence) was automatically taken up. My two roommates and I showered in the order that was agreed, got dressed and went to the meditation room, which, luckily, was right next to our room. At 4am, we began the first long meditation of our retreat.
The first day was December 25th- Christmas Day. During the retreat, the instructors speak of different topics that really provide some light and make us think about stuff. That day the instructor from Brazil, who was directing the retreat, spoke to us about the meaning of that day. She reminded us what it is we celebrate on the 25th- the birth of Christ, the birth of light, the birth of a much higher conscience. She let us know that that day is a birth for all of us, a birth of all the great things that Christ came to Earth to enhance. That day is a very special day in which we should reflect upon where we're directing our lives, and have it be a day when we decide to develop in ourselves all those qualities that help us be closer to God.
For that whole week, this is what the discipline consisted of:
Waking up at 3am to have a cold shower
10 hours of meditation a day, divided in 2 hour sessions
2 hours of rest in between meditations
Fasting (drinking water, lemon, and honey after each meditation)
Hatha yoga sessions (to endure those long hours of sitting)
Dressing in white
This is a pic of the back part of the meditation room. You can see those of us who did not choose chairs, but rather put some cushions on the floor and against the wall. (Of course, this pic was taken at the end of it.)
During our free time we could sleep, rest, absorb sunlight when there was enough (it rained a lot), rock ourselves on the hammocks, go to the cascade, watch nature… and feel the effects of meditation. You could also do Hatha Yoga. It was soooo cool to see people in different spots with their yoga mats doing their thing. We could all be in the same place, but each of us was with our own selves. Simply beautiful.
The sun soaking spot.
The cascade. (In that pic is our official tour guide at Rio. :P Very cool person!)
It’s cool because we weren’t speaking, right, but after awhile everything just starts to flow more, and the harmony between the ones that are present is enhanced, and it got to a point in which we didn’t need to speak to get messages across. For example, I needed half a lemon and in that instant someone sliced a lemon in two and placed half in front of me for anyone to have. Or I was running low on honey and a grrreat friend of mine had just placed on the table her recipient of honey for us to take because she hadn’t used it, she had another one. Many little things just fell into place. It’s like thoughts became things faster.
Of course, there’s also a tough part to it. You have to control yourself because it’s so natural to speak, and to have needless thoughts, you have to endure long sitting hours which sometimes produce back pains and other stuff, you’ve got to maintain the discipline and follow the right indications for the fasting so you can last the whole time in good condition, you’ve got to keep your attention in what you’re doing and what’s really important, and sometimes you end up realizing many things… but of course, all that difficulty provides so many benefits… it’s all worth it.
Well, here’s a friend of mine who apparently didn’t drink enough water for a week…
And here’s another friend of mine who apparently had too much…
OK, so then it was Day 7 and the fasting would end at dinner. Yum! A few of the meditators helped preparing it. Imagine that, you’ve been fasting for 7 days and you’re peeling potatoes and smelling that yummy smell of yummy food being cooked. It’s cool, really. I helped out two years ago at the one in Mexico, and the thing about fasting is that, OK, you haven’t eaten and of course, when that time comes, you want to, but at the same time it’s like this tranquility because you know you don’t need to. You have developed this nonattachment because you know that you’re not going to die. It’s pretty cool.
But, yes, we did want to eat, and we were mentally and physically ready to enjoy that New Year’s dinner. It was a vegetable soup to break the fast, with a delicious whole wheat bread made right at Sitio do Inga.
It was soooo funny then because we were eating and talking so much, and it was weird too because you grow used to the silence. The best thing is that there’s this huge feeling of love that happens after retreats, and everyone is just so honest and spontaneous and pure and happy. We laughed a lot, and shared a lot about ourselves and things we realized during the retreat- stuff we reflected upon, and other stuff we really wanted to keep in mind for the new year, because you sort of notice how you should prioritize things in your life, and that you really want to take advantage of your experiences and not waste your time with nonsense. You have this mental clarity and these focused thoughts and there’s no noise in your mind like there is usually. And you see a way out of everything. And you understand why many other things happen. And you notice that you’ve grown so much in so little time. It’s just awesome.
OK, after all that love sharing, we would go back to the meditation room to welcome the new year and share new year’s hugs. Then we started singing and taking more pics. We went to sleep like at 2am. Most of us anyway.
On the next day we had our final group meditation in the morning. Then we had breakfast, a “souvenir” exchange (I got an Om keychain and some other stuff), we exchanged emails and phone numbers and made plans with our new Brazilian acquaintances for the couple of days we were to spend in Rio. We took a group picture, which I don’t have a copy of yet, and said goodbye.
Oh yeah, there were two things I didn’t know existed at Sitio do Inga until after the retreat had ended.
1) The big frogs that looked like chicken. You see, at retreats I spend most of the time somewhat blind because I don’t use my contacts or glasses.
2) Washing machines.
Well, as for the rest of my stay in Rio, I had a marvelous time. But this post was about the retreat, so I end it here. :D