I recently returned from a trip to Spain where I participated in a Mindfulness Yoga retreat, toured a bit around Valencia, and then took off into the Pyrenees for a few days of hiking through Posets-Maladeta Natural Park. It was close to a three week adventure, and although part of me yearned for those three weeks to never end, the lessons are in the ending.
From the moment I arrived in Spain, it felt magical and welcoming, or was that the hazy after effect of the red-eye flight from Austin to Barcelona? Either way, I happily made it, brain fog and all, from the airport, to the train, along the eastern coast south to Valencia. At the train station in Valencia, I met up with a wonderful group of women from Spain, Scotland, England and the Netherlands, and we headed off to the countryside for our 8-day retreat.
Retreats are magical, and this one especially was. If you’re a student of yoga, meditation, Buddhism, or any spiritual practice, you know how powerful it is to gather with your tribe, to practice with like-minded souls, even if all you have in common is that you’ve made time to make it to your 60-minute studio class. Imagine, then, when you gather with others who have all made the same commitment not to the 60-minute class, but to a far-away destination.
I’ve experienced several retreats as a student, as a retreat leader and teacher. While each one of them has been different, on each one there has arisen the powerful energy that only comes about when like minded people with like minded goals find each other and experience the joy in realizing that yes, there are like minded people with like minded goals! We have such extraordinary opportunities and resources in this life. To put those resources towards retreat, towards the study of mindfulness and yoga, is such a rare and precious decision and one that should be celebrated alongside others making the same choice.
That said, when the retreat came to a close, never before had I felt such a yearning, such an attachment to a situation, and a difficulty in letting go. All this grasping was magnified by the fact that I was away from home, I had completed part one of a three-part journey, and parts two and three were still left unknown. I had found a place and people with whom I was safe, comfortable, and connected. I didn’t want to let it go.
Travel is amazing, and it teaches us many things. If there’s one lesson we all need to keep repeating, it’s how to gracefully let go. Through travel, we see our grasping so clearly. It shows up in our decision to take the trip, or not. It shows up in our attachment to the first safe place we land in. It shows up in each small choice to stay within the resort, eat at the hotel, hang out with those people we met the first night, and revisit that one nice neighborhood. It shows up in the impulse to buy the souvenir, take too many photos, and spend far much on cell phone service so we can hold on to home. Through travel, we see.
Alas, through travel we also see the great potential, and the beauty of freedom. When we’re ok with letting go, we open ourselves up to experiencing something new, and open ourselves to the experience of learning even more. I wanted to stay at my Yoga retreat in Valencia forever, but in moving on, I got to experience Valencia itself. And Valencia was so fantastically amazing, I wanted to stay there forever too, but in moving on, I got to experience the mountains. And the mountains…amazing.
Unless and until we can allow ourselves to be fully free of the past, of “our” past, we will never be free to enjoy the now. The now won’t last no matter what. I could have chosen to stay at retreat in Valencia, but that would have been a little awkward as the retreat was over, and the chef was leaving too. I could have chosen to stay at the world’s most perfect B&B in Valencia, but the bills would have added up a bit. And if I stayed in the mountains? Well, winter was coming for sure. All jokes aside, the point is nothing lasts.
We can move forward with grace and freedom, open and available to what’s next, or we can remain in a losing battle, trying to create permanence where there is none. The wonderful thing about travel is that moving is part of the deal. We fly, road trip, cycle or move on foot. We hop on the next train to another hotel, we walk through the valleys to the next refugio, we Uber to the next museum. There’s always something else, something new, something next.
Through all this movement, why not practice going with the flow? Move fluidly, see where the wind, the earth, the circumstances take you. There’s no better time to practice how to gracefully leave things behind than when you’re traveling, and by definition, required to leave things behind. And learning to move with grace, literally learning to move and flow with the wind, your wind, breath, prana, is what yoga is all about. And the path we’re all traveling on? It’s the path of letting go.
Sara-Mai Conway is a yoga and meditation instructor with Baja Surf Yoga who loves to travel Baja, and loves to travel the world. As someone just like you, who is going to one day lose her body, her mind, and everything she owns, she enjoys the practice of letting go. Follow her adventures, and see more pics from Spain, at Instagram.com/SaraMaiC