Retreats are wonderful things. They evoke visions of white-clad yogis on sun-blessed yoga platforms, looking out over still cobalt seas. The body sighs at the thought of freshly prepared vegetarian meals, beautifully balanced to rejuvenate your cells so you can be reborn into a better version of yourself. The promise of rest, afternoon naps, directionless walks and dedicated asana practice. Pristine white walls, carefully laid tables and gauzy mosquito nets. Connection, community and permission to do absolutely nothing. Otherwise known as bliss.
Wouldn’t it be nice to go on retreat all the time? Yes. It would. And you can. In fact you absolutely should, as one of the most basic, yet overlooked, of the yogic practices. Having just come back from a weekend with the incredible Christopher Hareesh Wallis, author of Tantra Illuminated, I am reminded of this and totally inspired to go straight to bed.
There are dozens of yogic practices in the Tantric tradition and Vishranti is one of the most fundamental. Without it, you will never bear the full fruit of your spiritual experience, if that’s what floats your boat. So what is this mysterious practice?
“Get enough rest and reduce stimuli”.
We spend so much of our lives in a stress response – fight, flight or freeze –and the bombardment of stimuli ensures we stay there. It keeps our adrenals activated and there’s not a cat in hell’s chance of winding down or truly relaxing. The only way you’re ever going to do that is by having actual rest for 60-120 minutes before sleep. And we all know what that means. No devices. No glowy, shiny, noisy, beeping, electrons in your face. No Louis Theroux, Netflix, Putlocker or Sopranos. No catching up on Facebook, instant messaging or checking your calendar for the 44th time that day. I’m not going to lie; I can feel the resistance as my mind battles with this truth. I love that time with Pete where we cuddle up in bed to watch a movie. How can I possibly impose this new order onto our relationship? Does this mean I have to buy a TV and watch things in the lounge? Do I get a landline? An alarm clock? Should we move house?
What would happen if we had an hour before we went to sleep where we put all devices down?
The prospect of candlelit baths emerges; reading an actual book; meditation; making love; writing in a journal; making a phone call on the new landline. It feels peaceful. It almost feels retreat style peaceful. Like I could go on retreat for an hour everyday. Now you’re talking.
So that’s a possibility. In fact, I need to make it my reality so I’ll let you know how that goes. Another way to carry out Vishranti is to set aside one day a week (or half a day if what I’m going to suggest next sounds like utter insanity) to do nothing. Do nothing. Do nothing. Now, that doesn’t mean do nothing. It just means don’t do anything you would put on your to-do list and don’t go near any devices. Go for a walk, read your book, meditate, sit, nap, make some nourishing food, practice some yoga. Nourish yourself. Go on retreat. Once a week. Just for the day. Turn off all devices and reduce your stimuli. Then see how it transforms your meditation and yoga practice, let alone your life.
And if all of that sounds all too much, you can come on retreat to Ibiza next year and we’ll look after you instead. We spent a week on the island this month searching for the right venue and will be hosting 5 nights at the incredible Can Amonita in both April and September, and a 3 night retreat on an organic farm, also in September.