Recently I led a 7-day yoga retreat to Maya Tulum, Mexico I called “Power Yoga Unplugged.” Pratyahara – the practice of internalizing consciousness by turning away from external sensory stimulation – was the theme. Each participant was asked to surrender their electronic devices and other vices on day one, abstain from alcohol, stay silent on days 3 and 4 (no talking, reading, writing, listening to music, or looking at anyone), and practice a broad variety of asana up to four hours each day with me.
Of the 16 who attended, 14 courageously took the journey inward with me. The other two kept themselves miserable all week busily complaining about one thing after another. At the end of the week – after completing more than 25 hours of yoga and meditation and two full days of silence – the committed14 were as connected and contented and full of love for each other as any group I have ever been with.
That’s what yoga practice can do.
Yoga says happiness is found within, bliss is our natural state, joy is what we are. All we had to do to experience this truth was turn away from our distractions, habitual routines and stressors… and get quiet for a little while. Oh yeah, there was the initial waves of awkward guilt of not interacting with others, the mental fidgetiness of the surface layers of mind, and that pesky shadow stuff, but with sincerity and focus that soon subsides.
Through silent introspection we naturally find what we were looking for all along: our self. The effectiveness of this practice was evidenced numerous times. On day 2 of our silence I noticed a few students playing in the sand with the same vigor of children. Others were smiling and laughing for seemingly no reason at all. I played catch with myself with a large seed nut found on the beach.
This practice of simply withdrawing from the sense world into silence is something anyone can do anywhere, anytime. Just go on a distraction sabbatical and give your mind a rest. You’ll have to make a few special arrangements, but it can be done. The world will be fine without you. You’ll find that what’s going on inside your own head and heart, real and otherwise, is much more interesting than any movie or Facebook post. And silence is totally free.
Happiness does not arise out of any sort of physical attainment or material possession. When I’m truly practicing yoga, which to me means meditation centered in my breath, grounded in my body, and staying consciously connected to my intention, I couldn’t care less how the pose looks or going deeper into it or how strong and flexible I’m getting… or the size of my bank account. I’m free because I’m me.
Go for a walk in nature alone and watch yourself. See what you find inside.