Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don't Talk, Don't Eat, Suffocate

I have recently been going back and editing and deleting dumb posts with pictures of blurry sandwiches where all I say is: I ate this sandwich! Yum!

But this post I just found was called "Missing Missing - Lost on a Cliff" (and I actually have no idea why- oh its because I started the post by saying "Sorry I have been MIA").

It was about a yoga retreat that I went on over Halloween 2009. This is all I wrote:

I just got back from a 2 day yoga retreat over Halloween in the Catskills. It was amazing and beautiful and ... scary (not halloween-scary, but more like I-am-going-to-slip-off these-rocks-and-fall-into-this-waterfall kind of scary).

And also, I am-going-to-starve scary. We had a day and a half of "the master cleanse" fasting on this retreat. Except I cheated and ate my trail mix at night alone in my room like a criminal. 

I was worried to do the fast because... of the obvious. But in the end it wasn't too bad for me because it was only really one day. And also because I cheated. 

Some crazies are apparently still doing it in the comfort of their own food-free apartments. But not me.

So, now let me take the opportunity to reveal some things I, weirdly, forget to mention:

This retreat was cool, and the area really was beautiful... however, not only did we not eat, but we did not speak. It was a silent retreat. Which actually was fantastic because I didn't know anyone and didn't need to spend any energy to get to know anyone. 

But actually, it wasn't silent on the bus ride up, and I sat next to this girl Holly who had just been dumped by her boyfriend of ten years, moved from California to NY on a whim, and was trying to start a cheesecake business. Basically she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But it was a blessing that I didn't have to talk to her after that because, nice as she was...

I also didn't tell anyone that I was going on this retreat. I vaguely mentioned to some friends that I would not be around for Halloween because of a yoga retreat. But I pretty much just left on a whim and went alone. But then realized I should maybe text my mom on the way up in case I died.

Me: FYI on bus going to yoga retreat for 2 days
Mom: What?

It was also the yoga studio's teacher training retreat that just happened to have some extra spots -and I randomly signed up two days before (because I was in yoga, and very stressed, and they announced the open slots and I had found the answer: THE MOUNTAINS!). So all the trainees knew each other, and even though we were ALL silent, the randos like me and Holly were truly the outcasts, and if people could have talked that would have been even more apparent. But I had no idea what was going on, and would often forget the schedule, and then couldn't ask anyone, and found myself walking around lost on a path in the woods at night by myself because I forgot the way from the lodge and didn't remember which building I slept in. Oh well.

We just starved in silence. And then almost died on a hike where we climbed up and behind a waterfall. These stupid yoga instructors were acting like they were trained hike-guides and I can't believe no one died. We walked across a nearly vertical, wet mud drop by holding onto a rope they threw across to some psycho who Tarzaned his way over ahead of us. And I had to sacrifice my water bottle because I had to start using two hands if I actually cared about staying alive.

But the crazier part by far, was the Native American Sweat Lodge ritual thing, that you were very heavily pressured to participate in because it was a "transformative experience". You are basically sitting on top of people you don't know, so close that your face is in their hair, in a small dark tent, too small to stand up in. The tent has molten rocks in the middle and they pour water over it to create steam. So basically you are boiling in the dark- and the air is so thick with steam you feel like you are suffocating. And you are crammed into this hut in the middle of their religious celebreation/ritual and you can't move because it is rude, and you are sardined in there, and also there is that molten pit in the middle. And it is pitch black and you still have 2 hours to go. And then they chant and you are supposed to chant along with the firekeeper master of ceremonies. And I actually did chant along because it took my mind off of the fact that I was dying. 

thank you, Google Images

This was the only part of the trip where we were allowed to talk. (Because they knew there was a chance of mortality) It was actually in the news the month before that someone had died in a Sweat Lodge Ritual. The firekeeper assured us that whoever was running that ritual that killed people didn't know what they were doing. Though still, the actual point of it is to induce suffering, and then to spiritually transcend the suffering. Ugh. 

I found myself digging my hands into the mud like they suggested, because it was relatively cool compared to the burning air. I also had to close my eyes, because it was less scary than having them open but seeing nothing. There were a few people who had to escape and never came back in during one of the few 5 minute breaks where they open the tent flap. And I wanted to so badly, and I had to pee, but I was on the far end. Actually I recall strongly considering peeing right in there, next to people into the mud we were sitting on. We were all so drenched, no one would have noticed. And plus it sort of felt like the end of days, so who cared. But I didn't. We were also strongly urged to stick it out, in order to experience the amazing and transformative experience.

I also now remember, that during the ceremony, Holly, who I hadn't been around since the bus (she wasn't in my group) started bawling- loudly. And all we could do was sit there in the dark, suffocating, and chanting, while she just cried for like a half an hour. 

And when I finally came out I was impressed that I wasn't dead- only lightheaded. If their purpose was to give my life fleeting perspective by inducing a near-death experience, I guess then it kind of succeeded. Except I knew I had done it to myself/they had done it to me, so... I was just mad. And soaked.

I actually can't believe I did that.

I also cannot believe I wrote a post about that retreat and didn't mention the near death experiences (starvation, cliff falling, and suffocation.)

the actual place. Menla.
I would definitely go back- if I could eat, and drink, and sleep- and talk- and do whatever the hell I wanted- and where suffering isn't the "goal".

...and actually, I don't even remember doing any yoga.