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Daraius: We’ve got a great team at Million Mile Secrets helping with posts. But I miss writing as much as I did in the old days! So here I am writing about stuff that I really care about. And which isn’t all miles-and-points related.
A few weeks ago, I attended the “Awakening to Life Intensive” in Madison, Virginia, with Robert Gonzales and Robert Krzisnik.
I had earlier attended Robert Gonzales’ 3-day workshop in New York City, “Non-Violent Communication (NVC) as a Spiritual Practice.” I loved how he combined NVC and meditation, both topics which I find fascinating and which have influenced me a lot.
I flew to Washington, DC, and rented a car to drive to the Seven Oaks Retreat center. As soon as I saw the beautiful trees while pulling into into the gravel driveway, I felt a sense of relief and peace.
The rooms were very clean, but basic.
This wasn’t a “retreat,” but an “intensive.” So we got up at 7:00 am and didn’t go to bed until 10:00 at night!
I am grateful for the structured schedule because it ensured that we would stick to the practices. We had ~1 hour for each meal and that was the most rest we got in the day.
We started the morning in a group circle to share what was alive for each of us. We then went on to a “question of the day” which formed part of a dyad inquiry (i.e. 2 people sit across from each other and ask each other the question 4 times while the other person just listens without speaking).
Interspersed during the 7 dyad inquiries a day, was time to walk in nature to integrate our awareness and a time for movement exercises. I found the movement exercises, where we would just move our bodies however we wanted, very challenging. Soft music would play in the background and we were to move our bodies “to the flow of life.” What the heck does that even mean?
I was filled with thoughts of “am I doing this right,” “does this look stupid,” and other such reactions.
And then I realized that the purpose of the exercise, was for me to be aware of such thoughts and to try to meet them with compassion and kindness.
At first, I was frustrated at having to get up so early and to not be able to sleep-in. Then I was frustrated at having to repeat the question ~28 times a day! Gradually, as my distractions become less pronounced because of the internet and telephone hiatus, I was able to feel more into the questions.
I loved how the facilitators encouraged us to pause and let the questions land before trying to “answer” them. And I especially loved the suggestion to not answer the question from an intellectual sense, but from a felt sense within the body.
I always struggle with not looking at the world intellectually, and I appreciated the opportunity to slow down and seek answers from a different place within me. A place that is unfamiliar – but filled with lots of life in all its many forms.
During 1 or 2 of my dyads, I felt as if I was taller than the trees and expanding into the universe! I found that the stillness I experienced while “dyad-ing” with another person to be of a different quality than the stillness I experience when I meditate by myself. And unique in that it was a better representation of the “real world” where I interact with many folks daily.
We also had time for walking meditation twice a day where we would walk in silence amidst nature. I’ll admit to taking a nap during some of the time for walking!
By the end of the retreat, I had got more understanding into how I experience life.
I observed the instinctive patterns which prevent me from receiving others and the life around me. Not good. Not bad. Just being able to notice those patterns.
And I got practice at seeing how open, free, and peaceful life can really be once I get past my instinctive defenses, judgements, and thoughts. I got a glimpse at what it means to be human, living authentically and vulnerably. To see the joy and the sadness and the nuances of human existence.