Review of the recent Sacarest retreat - Mastering the Basics by Michelle Beazeley - Reading UK

I love going on retreat. I make sure I go on retreat at least once a year to keep my mind and body in check. As such, it kinda surprised me when I turned into Grumpy McGrumpster from the onset. Even before I had landed in Spain I was grumpy. No, actually, even before I had boarded the plane at Birmingham I was grumpy. A gaggle of girls were also boarding my flight full of giggles and fun times ahead on their journey to sun, sand, sea and booze. I couldn't help wanting them to shutup and let me be grumpy in peace.


On landing in Spain my grumpiness temporarily subsided, helped no doubt by my bag being one of the first on the conveyor belt at baggage reclaim. I met up with three other retreatants to get a taxi to the meet point at Finestrat and we chirped along merrily in the car talking about yoga, meditation and stereotypical visitors to benidorm. Upon meeting the rest of the group, our chatter continued on the final leg of the journey and then we set up in our new “home” for the week - some 700 metres up in the mountains with no neighbours, minimal creature comforts and the continuous buzz of grasshoppers and other talkative insects we settled ourselves in over the course of the evening.


The retreat started properly the following morning and the schedule was pretty full on with meditations morning, afternoon and evening, yoga practices, workshops and discussions. I had never been taught by Sadhita and it had been over four years since I last practiced yoga under Sudaka's instruction, and it was interesting to see how my practice had changed over these years: my practice had become more slow and gentle with an interest in flowing movements and feeling my way around my body – not neccessarily prescriptive yoga “moves” if you like, but more a slow dance between postures. Sudaka and Sadhita's yoga teaching was much stronger and more powerful than my home practice and it was something of a revelation, adding a whole new dimension to my yoga. My gentle home practice is normally a good antidote to all the physical bashing I take on the football pitch but it was great to see that a strong yoga practice can help “fix” you.


So, after really enjoying the first yoga practice of the week I was feeling good. I got an early night afer meditation as I was aware my body was still “arriving” and I was likely tired from the previous day's travelling. Alas, my early night and a single yoga practice was not quite enough to keep my energy levels topped up and McGrumpster was back in full force the following day. I was tired, grumpy, aching, couldn't be bothered with silent time, was tempted to check my mobile phone and was starting to count the nights until we were going home. And yoga practice on the second day? I was wrecked. As it seemed the rest of the class were loving all these new postures and teachings, I felt like I was practically on my knees, going through the motions trying not to look like a one legged warrior with an arrow stuck in her face and a noose around her neck. It was hard. The same can be said for the meditations, trying to sit up straight and focus my mind when all I wanted was a shoulder rub, my bed at home surrounded by my cats and my partner bringing me a cup of tea. I spent the afternoon asleep.


I wasn't interested in the impending silent day, I was thinking of ways to cope with it without being bored out of my skull and p*ssed off because I wasn't making the most of my time on retreat. I counted the days until we were going home again. I considered checking my phone. I wasn't looking forward to spending a day in silence out in the mountains with essentially nothing to do but be with myself.


The next couple of days were a bit of a blur with my grumpiness fading for a while, then coming to the fore – not just to say hello, but to pull my hair and tease me for being powerless and in the middle of nowhere.


I'm not sure what it was that kept me “in line” with my retreat discipline of keeping my phone switched off, adhering to silent times (although I admit I did have a sneaky chat off grounds one morning before breakfast) and embracing silent day, but whatever it was, I did it. And in fact, this is where the retreat came together for me. Sudaka had told us that silent day really was “the heart of the retreat”, and he wasn't wrong. I spent the day in silence, I did some reading and went for a 30 minute walk alone. Then came the evening meditation. It had actually taken me a good three days to get into meditating and by this stage I was looking forward to getting on the cushion. Sudaka read Mary Oliver's poem The Journey – my favourite poem of all time and a poem that really moves me every time I read or hear it – and then we sat for about 15 minutes. This was the point at which my entire reteat started to make sense. Following the meditation I sat in bed and opted not to read my book but to just sit there a while longer with how I was feeling. And it was the most important thing I did the whole retreat.


Following breakfast the following day we gently worked our way back into verbally interacting with eachother and everyone appeared bubbly and energised. Perhaps a little too energised as was noted by constant giggling during yoga. Sadhita reminded us not to use all our energy up too quickly, likening it to winning the lottery and spending all your money at once on a Rolls Royce. Whilst I'm sure he was more interested in getting us to quieten down so he could teach us some yoga, it was actually something that stuck with me, and a good piece of advice for maintaining your energy levels after returning home from retreat.

So there we have it, my remarkable and quite curious journey through retreat. Going from 11 out of 10 on the grumpy scale down to feeling completely energised with the help of yoga, meditation and some fascinating and inspirational retreatants.


I arrived home and told my partner all about my time away. I said that over the next few days I would sit and work out what actually happened in my head that caused such a big turnaround of emotions. Then I was asked gently “do you really need to know what happened, or can you just enjoy what you have got?”. And I realised how very right she was. I don't think I want a Rolls Royce anyway.