My Meditation Awakening at Sarah and Ty Powers' Retreat
January 21, 2015
It’s hard to put into words my experience and time with Sarah Powers and Ty Powers. A myriad of words fill my mind as I try to write and yet each word that flows into my awareness just doesn’t seem to do the silent retreat, not to mention the deep exploration we have all experienced, justice.
Let’s begin with the two most beautiful beings that are Sarah and Ty.
They hold space like no other and the words that spill from their lips are carefully measured whilst free flowing. Of considered refinement, yet of the moment. It has been beautiful to bathe in the stream of consciousness that comes through from their years of teaching experience.
With their guidance, I felt my nervous system slow down… and down… and down some more. And just when we all thought that the Yoga and our walking pace couldn’t decelerate any further, Sarah and Ty took it down a level deeper, lingering just above complete oblivion and stillness.
I have come to realise that this type of silent retreat is not suitable for the Yoga tourist, for anyone wishing to have a “holiday”, but rather it is a deep reworking of your inner make-up. Break-downs and tears were welcome, and experienced across the board, as we embarked upon our journey into silence. Within the silence you come face to face with yourself, everything you have packed neatly into the suitcase of your psyche and diligently wheeled behind you for some time. Sarah and Ty expertly create a space that leaves no room for anything other than a genuine and honest communication with yourself.
The process itself is an invitation to STOP lugging around your baggage, to unzip and peek inside the suitcase you have been carting around and carefully pick out an item, look at it honestly and maybe say “I don’t need that anymore, time to chuck it out”.
We delved deep into the practice of Samatha meditation and the Buddhist teachings of The Four Immeasurables - we were to practice a minimum of 6 sessions of 24 minutes of sitting every day, along with deliciously long held Yin postures for up to 15 minutes per posture. The experience was a deep unravelling of the impermanent structures of identity and beliefs that we so graspingly cling to. When these were lovingly peeled away by Sarah and Ty, what existed for the group was the space to just Be. To sitting in Being and luxuriate in Feeling Awareness. To acknowledge that this life is fleeting, it’s so fast and impermanent. And we owe it to ourselves to live in the present moment.
To fully LIVE.
I wish I could tell you everything that happened throughout the week but I would be here for days, haha.
However I would love to share, and I am just dying to share, the incredulous and crazy experience I had whilst meditating on Day 3. It was literally ground-shaking. . .
We sat down with Ty to begin the day with the usual 7am meditation. The birds chirped happily in the trees to welcome to new day and the space fell silent. For the first fifteen minutes of the meditation practice I found my mind wandering constantly as it ruminated over yesterday and all that had come up for me amidst the sweet silence.
I snapped my awareness back to the present moment and reminded myself of the technique of becoming aware of Awareness itself. I sat there in blissful Feeling Awareness, watching the canvas of my mind, the space in which thoughts manifest, waiting patiently for the next trivial nugget of information that would take me on a tangent and away from the Present.
Suddenly my whole body felt at ease, like my bones were floating in space and the muscular tension I had felt in my back, holding me in the upright meditation position, no longer seemed to exist. There was a sense of fluidity and I felt an open channel through the middle of my body. A spaciousness in the place of my spine. My breath had a life of it’s own, it had taken on an organic and deep rhythm. I checked and couldn’t feel the ground or my legs, the floor of the yoga studio and the blanket I was perched upon seemed to have disappeared. A feeling was rising inside me, at the lower belly and rose up through my central channel like a beam of light shooting up my spine. It felt so blissful and relaxing and I was acutely aware of the birds around me, almost as though I was now on their level, as though I were made up of sky particles and they were flying near me.
I became aware of a growing sensation at the base of my meditation seat, a rumbling underneath me, like a strong earthquake shaking the ground. I instantly thought, is the volcano on this island erupting? It was so realistic but I told myself it couldn’t be an earthquake, I need to embrace it, this is all part of my experience.
Suddenly my arms felt like they were three times as long as normal, like I had morphed into a scary human reincarnation of Mr Tickle, and each arm was blowing like a long ribbon in the wind, waving all over the place. I felt fearful. But Yoga teachings flowed into my mind and I told myself to relax into the sensations and keep breathing.
As I relaxed I felt the energy build and build and shoot up my spine to my head, but there it got stuck with nowhere to go. Oh my word. My eyes started to flutter and roll back into my head and it felt like a hundred butterflies were trapped in my skull, all trying to find a way out. Such intense flutterings. My eyes and in my eyelids had a life of their own.
My mind shouted “What if you will never be the same? What if you are stuck like this for ever? With butterflies for a brain! What if you can never sleep again?”
At this moment, Ty rang the bell for the end of the meditation and I quickly opened my eyes. The Yoga room looked bright and beautiful. But I was concerned about the lasting effects of my somewhat crazy awakening. I cautiously closed my eyes and there is was again, my eye lids still had a life of their own, my eyes rolling back and eyelids fluttering. Woah. I opened my eyes again and the panic started to rise up inside. I immediately went to Ty and as I told him what had happened the tears of fear started to flow. He directed me to sit down with my bare feet on the volcanic rock by the studio, in order to ground the energy I had awakened.
We took deep breaths together and his calming energy made my emotions subside and I felt calm again.
I asked Ty “What was it?” and he said something along the lines of, “It’s better not to define it, but rather just let it be.”
I said I was scared that my eyes would be like this every time I closed them and that I was scared of not being able to go to sleep tonight.
Ty said that meditation is powerful and unexpected and unexplained things can manifest.
Ty then asked me if I could be with the feeling, accept it and welcome it instead of wanting it to be something different. I knew these words so well, they were words I often say in class to my students and they immediately landed. I integrated them and they gave me instant courage, to be with the sensation. Even Yoga teachers need to be reminded every now and then.
As I relaxed into the moment, I told myself “so what if I can’t get to sleep tonight, this is amazing, enjoy this beautiful, crazy, wacky, wondrous moment for what it is!”
Suddenly I felt EVERYTHING. I was hyper aware, as though I had taken psychedelics… (of course, I don’t know what that would be like, Dad, if you are reading). Everything shimmered with a life force that was visible to my naked eye. The energy that lives in each and every thing was clear to see.
I felt a magnetic force between my bare feet and the rock, an electrical current soaking through the soles of my feet and permeating my body through my legs. It was like I had plugged myself into the earth’s core. Now this is the most amazing part… my ankle pain, that had been plaguing me for months and months, and I had seen numerous osteopaths about, felt nurtured by the earth’s energy. I could literally feel the aches and pains draining away through my feet and into the earth. And to this day, for the first time in ages, I haven’t felt any ankle pain! Literally insane and amazing.
The power of the earth and the importance of plugging myself in to it as often as possible was so very clear to me in that moment. How could I ever again go for months and months without bare feet on the earth?
I could feel everything. I could feel the inner skeletal makeup of my body and how my pelvic girdle was supporting my whole body. I moved my spine and snaked around feeling a sense of freedom in my bones.
I felt so happy, ecstatic, in awe of nature and my own existence. And that the human experience of being awake and aware was so so beautiful. Too exquisite for words. I felt an expansive love for everything and everyone. And so grateful for Ty’s presence sitting next to me in silence.
I couldn’t find the words to describe my experience and all I could say to Ty was, “I feel everything.”
I spent the rest of the day in connection to the earth and when I practiced Yoga postures later it was with such ease and strength, more so than ever before. I could feel the life force flowing through me in every posture and how each posture my body took was a different expression of the organic energy that lives within everything. My body was moving without my mind telling it where to go, it was a self-practice that created itself without effort and had a mind of it’s own. When the island breeze picked up later that day, I could feel the wind flow through my body as though the particles of the light breeze and the particles of my material body were of the same makeup and swirled together in unison in space. As I inhaled I drew the earth's energy in, as I exhaled I gave back to the earth through my feet.
In my next meditation later that day the same thing happened again but this time the rumblings were no longer scary and I felt Ty’s presence right beside me. It was so vivid I thought he had left the stage area and was sitting right next to me. I told myself I can do this, I am strong enough to host this. This time I stayed purposefully aware of my Hara and my stomach in order to stay grounded.
Instead of feeling scared, I felt strong. The energy moved upwards through my central channel and then just like a firework in my head, exploded and rained down on my body with such a blissful feeling of grounding.
So what’s the conclusion, what did I learn? Perspective is key. Through my experience I have learned that this life is not about trying to exert control over what is happening but instead practicing the art of letting go, to form a positive relationship to what is unfolding. It wasn’t the feeling or experience that needed to change but rather my relationship to the feeling or experience. Acceptance of what is.
I also learned the importance of grounding before taking flight, another phrase that I use in teaching Vinyasa Yoga arm balances but I now deeply understand it’s importance in Meditation. It is key to practice grounding before exploring awakening higher levels of consciousness. In life, this is also true. We need to embrace the fact that we are “of this earth” and face our existing trauma to bring us more in touch with the human experience before we explore the higher realms of consciousness with no fear and a sense of grounding.
This is an invaluable lesson that I will use in my meditations and my teachings moving forward. It’s something I have always known and experienced in different situations but I now see the huge importance as a teacher of learning the lessons again and again in new ways. This way, I am able to stay fresh and inspired for my teaching. I have the memory to draw upon when I stand in front of my students and teach the art of letting go.
If you are reading this as a teacher, I highly recommend booking a Yoga retreat for yourself right now, and preferably a silent meditation one. If, like me, you are interested in exploring the higher realms of consciousness, come along to my Yin Yoga classes, where I will focus on the importance of grounding.
And just know that… when you feel out of control… in any small way and a certain feeling arises, all you need to do is ask yourself…