Finally a solid night's sleep! And I saw a wild turkey outside my window as I washed my face. I awoke feeling good, and ready for an intense yoga and meditation session with Andrzej and the new kid. Today's session started with us shaking around like loose skeletons to very staccato new age music. We were supposed to keep our backs to each other and our eyes closed so that we wouldn't be distracted by self-conscious inhibitions, and could just let our bodies move to the music as they so desired. We then progressed to "unconditional dancing," which seemed similar to the shaking, but perhaps more fluid and potentially more elaborate. I got into it several times, but every time I opened my eyes, I noticed that my movements suddenly became much less natural. I guess I'm self-conscious even in front of myself. Lame!
After about 30 minutes of shaking and dancing, we sat down rather abruptly for 15 minutes of meditation. The sharp contrast from all that movement to sudden stillness makes you especially aware of your body, and the energy pulsating through it. One of the tricks of meditation (as I understand/experience it), is to be "mindful" of your body and of the present moment, yet also to move beyond the physical somehow. It ain't easy. After quiet meditation, we then focused on our chakras, imagining the spinning wheels of energy focused at the tailbone and on up to the crown of the head. I like the chakras because they give me something pseudo-concrete to focus on during meditation.
Breakfast was raw "bread" with almond butter and jelly, grapefruit, and ginger tea. This was mostly for my benefit since the other guest was on the juice plan. His breakfast was a gigantic glass of a brilliant purple slush that contained about fifty different kinds of fruit. He looked like he was struggling with it, poor guy. Today I definitely turned a corner. I felt healthy and happy, and ready for new challenges all of a sudden. I certainly had dark moments earlier in the week, but I also came to the realization (again) that the positive impact of this retreat (and my entire leave of absence) may not be immediately measurable, but I have faith that they will have great significance and value in the longer term. That takes a lot of pressure off of having to achieve and grow on a daily basis!
I took another hike up a different trail today. I always cry on these hikes, for whatever reason, but this time I was taking photos of the pretty views and thinking, "Who's even going to appreciate these?" Who's going to enjoy, reflect upon, and discuss this experience with me with the level of interest and enthusiasm that Mom and Dad would? It made me realize that much of what we do (I do/did) has something to do with wanting to receive praise and feedback from our parents. And now that's gone, so why do anything? Just a passing thought.
After dinner, we went to Harbin Hot Springs, and it was by far the highlight of the entire retreat for me (http://www.harbin.org/). It was extremely cold, and the sun was setting as we arrived (it's about a 10 minute drive from Spirit Springs). The hot springs are clothing optional, but everyone is naked, so you'd stand out much more if you came in wearing a swim suit than if you just walk around nude. So be it. Next thing I knew I was stripping down with Andrzej and the kid, and slipping into the steaming pool among a bunch of strangers.
Andrzej almost immediately began a Watsu session with me. Watsu is a form of water massage where the therapist continuously supports your relaxed body, and pushes and pulls you through the warm water. Your eyes are closed, and only your face is above the water line, so you have the added effect of hearing only the sounds of the water, and nothing of the world above. It's obviously very evocative of the womb-state, and was quite magical. I put complete trust in him, and let him swing me around the pool like a ballet dancer, naked, with strangers all around. From time to time, I'd open my eyes and see the silhouettes of the trees against the darkening sky; or feel the icy cold raindrops that fell on my face periodically. Mostly I was stretched out in various positions, but sometimes he'd curl me up into a fetal ball, or wrap one of my legs around the back of his neck. It was unlike anything I've ever done before, and I HIGHLY recommend it. (Note: this photo is of Andrzej, but not me. Cameras are not allowed at Harbin, as you might imagine.)
We then ended our "formal" session, and had fun running naked through the dark between the other super hot boiling pool -- that was so hot you couldn't even see each other through all the steam -- and the super cold freezing pool that had a spout of fresh water you could drink from. It was exhilarating. We lost the kid somewhere along the way, but then reconnected, got dressed, and went to the unconditional dancing room. It was like a rave, with techno music and flashing lights, and people being totally uninhibited. I felt awesome -- utterly relaxed and warm and content from my watsu and the hot springs. My hair was all tangled, and I was wearing capri pants and a tank top (have you ever seen me look like that?), and I was dancing with the crowd. Pretty fucking awesome.
We came home about 11:00 p.m., and chatted by the fireplace, with cats on our laps and tea in our mugs. Then Andrzej walked me to my cottage and gave me a big, warm hug, like he always does after these intense experiences (clarity breathwork, watsu). He told me I was radiant, and you know he means it in the most sincere of ways: simply a radiant human being, as we all are when we allow ourselves to shine.