Blog by Francesca [Loves Yoga, Invoke Yoga & Pilates student, Communications]
I, like many people, have a tendency to speed from task to task through life – always trying to maximize efficiency so I can check everything off my to-do list. When that to-do list in complete, I think, I finally can relax.
On the Friday morning before I departed for Invoke’s yoga retreat in New Harmony, my Type A orientation felt like it was hyped up on steroids. I had experienced a week of hectic frenzy at work and an overbooked social calendar. I was leaving Indianapolis for the retreat with a few unchecked items on the to-do list, a groggy head from insufficient sleep and a painful stress knot in my shoulder that was producing a dull headache. I shouldn’t be going on this retreat, I thought. I could really use the weekend to be productive.
But shortly after I got outside the city limits, my attitude began to soften. That was helped in part by the good company of my car companion, Lisa, and the charm of the small Indiana towns we drove through on our southward journey. When we arrived in New Harmony, we found an idyllic Main Street and a friendly recovering hippie whom we asked for directions to the Barn Abbey, our home base for the weekend. Rather than point us there, he got in his beater truck with a “Buy Local” bumper sticker and drove us to our destination.
My warmth toward the experience grew that afternoon as mom, who practices yoga in Springfield, Illinois, arrived and we started the first yoga session. During that session, instructor Ahna Hoke delivered a message that felt as if it was directed right at me: Life is always stressful. There are always multiple tasks you’ll have to accomplish and a myriad of obstacles to overcome. The secret, she said, is being able to find peace in the midst of all of that – and to use that peace to propel yourself forward.
She may as well have said, “Francesca, put your to-do list on a shelf and make some time to be in the moment.” So I did.
I fully embraced that mindset for the weekend. I stayed away from my cell phone (the few Instagram photo updates aside). I had authentic and engaging conversations with brand-new acquaintances. And I took time to notice the beauty of the art, nature and people surrounding me. All of this was propelled by my yoga practice, which trained me to be in tune with the movement of my body and the activity of my mind. I also find this to be true in my regular practice, but on this retreat – surrounded by this group of kind people in a place 200 miles away from distractions – I was able to hone it more intensely.
I left New Harmony on Sunday with a tinge of sadness about parting from the special time, place and community we had formed in our few days together there. But I also felt a new sense of empowerment about the things I’d learned to embrace on the retreat – the sense of calmness and serenity I’d found was possible. My challenge, then, was to take that back to the real world and find it, as Ahna instructed, in the middle of chaos.
It is, in fact, a big challenge, but one that I progress towards conquering daily, with each unexpected life event and every work-related conundrum. My sense of urgency has not changed; I still work to be efficient and fill my days with productivity. But I do so with a new sense of appreciation and an intention to find joy – not just after the work is complete, but in the midst of it.
Jarosz is a former journalist who now leads communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit.