I am in Carlsbad, California on the so-Cal coast, 30 minutes north of San Diego and an hour and a half south of Los Angeles. I flew into L.A. yesterday morning (at an ungodly hour) for the first day of the Journey into Healing retreat at the Chopra Center. Let me just say, I could feel the anticipation, excitement, and a bit of nervousness bubbling up within me starting the day before. Mostly, I was and am just totally stoked about this. It has been a helluva month, with teenager issues, ex-husband issues, and just some generally painful losses and changes, and I needed to "get away" and I stumbled upon this from Byron Katie's website, because she will be here on Saturday of the 5-day workshop.
I flew into L.A. rather than San Diego because I would be visiting my friend Paige at the end of the experience. Wait, let me back up. I flew into L.A. for another reason. I actually "manifested" this experience! I know that may sound weird, and it's not something I normally talk about if you know me and my blog... but the reality is I'd contacted the Chopra Center to see whether they accommodated media requests, and I heard back positively from their marketing director. I was really excited, but then.... radio silence. A week or two passed and I followed up but nothing back. Finally it was just two weeks before, and I knew that airfares were about to get jacked up, so I said, I am going to go to this retreat, I just am. It's going to happen. So I bought the plane ticket to L.A. - if it didn't happen, I could visit Paige for a week. And what do you know? Two days later I heard back from the marketing peeps (she had been out sick) and it was all good. So I'll be blogging daily about the experience and perhaps will write an article at some point. I will be writing a white paper for them, as well, in exchange for comped registration.
To be honest, I'm not all that familiar with Deepak Chopra. I have only read one of his books, and it was on world peace. I came here primarily because of Byron Katie, and the indescribable draw I felt toward the need for healing. All I knew was it had experiences of yoga, meditation, lectures, and Ayurvedic medicine.
So I rented a car at LAX and headed down the coast. As I neared Carlsbad, I-5 goes right along the ocean and wow was it gorgeous! The sun was out, blue skies in every direction, and a brilliant emerald blue-green sea. I turned in at the resort and it's really gorgeous - white stucco and terra cotta tile roofs. I got into my room and my roommate had gotten in yesterday from Ireland, but she wasn't in the room. The room is really nice. A massive bathtub set in marble sets off the bathroom, and the room has a really nice view (not of the ocean - we are set in from the sea).
The first day is a half-day only for first timers. We have to complete a class in Primordial Sound Meditation that people who have been here before have already done. Registration didn't start until 1pm so I grabbed a veggie wrap at the marketplace store, and a tropical smoothie and sat in the sunshine. It felt so incredibly good. There's no humidity (unlike Houston) and it was just a quintessentially perfect sunny day. The morning in L.A. was freezing! And the temp dropped sharply at night, too But the daytime was so lovely. I sat by a fountain and ate my food and chilled until registration began.
I went in and sat towards the front, and of all the places in the world people could have and have come from, guess where the person I sat next to is from? Houston! No kidding. We had a nice chat and then the class began! To be honest, I have meditated now and then for a maximum of maybe 20 minutes. Usually when I do it, it's for about 10 minutes. I started a year or so ago saying ok I can handle ten minutes a day. I enjoyed the calming effects of it, when I did it. But I've never been trained in any technique or meditated in a group. I know that science has shown that meditation is beneficial for calming stress and improving health and wellbeing but that's about it. So I'm actually quite excited to do this more. We had a nearly two hour class on some of the benefits of meditation, and specifically Primordial Sound Meditation (taught by Amanda).
Essentially, the theory here is that the universe was putting out a sound at the time of your birth - this is based on some ancient Indian Vedic writings - and they have been turned into 108 different sounds - essentially Sanskrit words - that have no "meaning" per se (just like "ding" of a bell has no meaning). When you focus on that one sound in your meditation, it brings you back into harmony with your life purpose. Now it may sound a little cheesy, and I have no real idea about the vibrations of the universe and that kind of thing, but the point of having a sound to focus your thoughts on when it starts going all monkey-mind on you seems like a good one to me.
After the lecture, we got a time for our "ceremony" to get our individual mantras. In the mantra ceremony, I and one other woman went into a room that was dimly lit with a candle lit and a flower in a glass bowl on the table. We sat down in chairs, and the instructor talked to us about what to expect through the whole thing that lasted maybe 10 minutes. She first sang/chanted some words in Sanskrit (I'd really like to know what they mean!) and then she said our primordial sound several times, then asked us to join her in saying it aloud - first at normal pitch three times, then quieter, then at a whisper, and then silently in our mind. We then meditated with the sound for about five minutes. From now on, we won't say the sounds aloud or tell anyone what they are, not because it's some big secret thing, but because when you do, you start to associate with conversations and words and the point is to have a sound that isn't associated with anything so your mind can just focus on the sound.
I'm a pretty skeptical person about some of the "stuff" behind this but I have to share my experience. During the part during which we were saying the sound aloud and progressively quieter, I felt this spontaneous and uncontrollable desire to burst out laughing. And this wasn't out of skepticism or anything like that. It was a pure and spontaneous laughter and giggle that bubbled up in me, and to be honest I suppressed it because I didn't want to be disrespectful and make anyone think I was making fun of the process. It was actually a miraculous special sort of thing because I haven't had a lot of laughter lately... it has been a pretty tough ride the past few months. It made me happy. I liked my sound. And that's a good thing.
So I was born at 8:58pm in the Los Angeles area, and I got to thinking earlier about the symbolic meaning of that time - whether or not this means anything or not - but that is right at the time of dusk in summer, right when the sun has gone down and there may be just a hint of light. It is the time of metaphorical death, I think. The winter of the soul. I have been drawn to the concept of death lately, and because of this experience and that in our Group Meditation which took place at 6pm, where we were told to ask three questions - Who Am I? What do I want? What is my purpose? - I really have been thinking about the idea that perhaps one of my future life goals will be working with people close to death. I really am in a transitional part of my life, moving from being a mom and writer to figuring out what I'm going to do for the rest of my life after both kids leave. I have had (as the kids will attest) too many ideas to count. I have thought of opening a cafe with vegetarian food, running a "green" B&B, going to Africa for 6 months to travel, working with the poor and homeless, going to seminary...my mind is open.
After the ceremony, I individually went into the main room to meditate for 15 minutes, which we are told to do to help it get settled in. Then I went back to my room and there was my roommate! It was perfect because I had totally unplugged, turned my cell phone off with no email or text or phone service and I was so tempted to check my email on my phone earlier to see where I might run into her, but I told God, you know, I will run into her at the perfect time! And sure enough, I did. I kept my phone/email off all day and night - quite an accomplishment! Ok, I didn't really turn it off until the thing starts at 2pm but that is still a huge accomplishment for phone-addicted moi.
We then had a Group Meditation at 6pm, where we all sat in the main lecture room in chairs and meditated silently. After that I was starving! My roommate Suzi and I ate at the Bluefire Grill and I had lentils with lemongrass and basil. One of these nights I ann going to go hot tubbin! There are several on property and I love hot tubs! Well now it is 8am, and time to get started on our first full day. I'm excited to ask myself: Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose?