A few months ago, I surrendered myself to the possibility of spiritual enlightenment, for a couple of days, at least. There is this little peace oasis somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Virginia, called Yogaville.
How did I find this? Well, Groupon, of course, where else does one find odd new things to waste money on?
After Christmas, I continued my journey to restore my emotional sanity and self-confidence levels to their full capacities by focusing on achieving various my new years resolutions. One of them, is to lose weight. What a great way to get mentally and physically healthy by confining and subjecting yourself to three days of vegan food, yoga, prayer and meditation? Sounds, great, right? Anyways, the deal was incredibly cost-effective…only about $97 for a three days all-inclusive experience.
Religion is something I’ve always struggled with. I was raised very catholic, yet I never associated with the tenets of the faith or believed in its assertions. I think organized religion is dangerous and is responsible for many of the conflicts and suffering of the world. Spirituality is inherently an individual matter. You can only believe what you believe, no one can believe it for you or force you to believe anything you don’t want to. With that said, I’ve always had a soft spot for certain aspects of Buddhism. I’ve read various books on the matter and as you’ve seen in my earlier posts, I do love Yoga. So, I thought I’d push my own theological limits a bit and step out of my comfort zone to check out what this Yogaville was all about.
As soon as I arrived to the compound, or well, Ashram as it is actually called, I was scared shit-less. It was pouring rain, I was already hungry and worst of all, I was all alone. Or so I thought.
I immediately went to my dorm room to find a woman senior to me making up her space on her bunk bed across the room. It seems like we became instant friends. She had been there before and kindly offered to share her experience and some tips for survival with me. Later on this would include the bartering of snacks, such as a Saudi biscuit a friend had given me that I was not interested in, for some cheez-its and other snacks she was kind to give me.
The food was generally good but, nonetheless I was craving cheese, fish, sugar and whatever else we were not permitted. I owe so much to her for coming to my rescue, haha.
I met another lady there who became my friend as well and was, like me, hesitated before coming and was well out of her comfort zone. One of the nights, despite it pouring rain outside, this other lady, we’ll call her Iris, went to visit the Interfaith Shrine with me. Iris even let me borrow one of her umbrellas so I did not get completely soaked (although I think we both got soaked anyways haha). That is what the picture is above. The shrine finds a commonality between all major world religions and illustrates this physically. Inside, there is various tubing filled with light that runs through each religion and joins together at the top of the domed-ceiling. It is quite breathtaking.
Throughout the rest of the long weekend, I tried Laugh yoga, hatha yoga (different from anything I had experienced before), lentil soup (never doing that again), deligious vegan donuts, and talking to new and different people I might have beforehand misjudged and avoided. I learned some meditation techniques and practiced patience and slowing down my mind when usually, I can’t stop thinking and just want to keep moving.
The last day, we did another round of Hatha yoga and as we opened our eyes and started to get up out of shavasinah, it had started to snow outside, so we rose facing the window, watching the snow fall down. It was an experience impossible to be described with words.
I think I have a greater tolerance for religion after that experience. I also am even more of a believer that friendship can spring from any source.