At Ashtanga Yoga Atlanta we joke about how everyone has their own reserved parking space…where they set up their mat each morning. We drop our towels, sweatshirts, iPhones and jewelry onto the floor next to our mat and start our practice in the same spot day after day. And for me, if someone isn’t in their normal location, it messes with the whole feng shui of the room. Even though I can only see shadows and colors after the standing postures (my glasses are usually off for the second half of the class), I can still tell by the energy in the studio if people aren’t where they’re supposed to be. Okay, so I can’t really do that but it sounded good.
Meditation retreats take this space-reserving thing to a whole nother level. Since all of the cast members are on location for the retreat duration, there is more than enough time to set up camp in the meditation hall. And that’s immediately what everyone did…except me. They apparently obtained their building permits and plat surveys in advance and then staked out their own piece of floating real estate on the meditation room’s sea of hardwood flooring. How do I know this? Because when I arrived 30 minutes before the first scheduled sitting, the room was already piled high with rectangular zabutons covered with meditation benches and zippered buckwheat hull zafus under organic cushions, bolsters, khatas, eye pillows and support padding. I squeezed my cushion into the one remaining tract of residentially zoned land, paid for my termite inspection, got my certificate of occupancy and settled down on my quiet vacation property. By the time there were bodies on those stacks of cushions it looked like we were either camping at Buddha Beach near a Sedona Vortex or we were extras in a Sleepless in Seattle remake right next to Sam Baldwin’s houseboat.
Over the course of the retreat, each lot in the subdivision became more and more personalized. There were no home owners’ association covenants or historic preservation laws in place so the sky was the limit.
For example, in addition to the standard cushions, my space ultimately included an additional pillow for my lap, a shawl, a scarf, a hat, a pair of wet socks from working meditation in the morning dew, hair ties, a bandana, a travel pack of tissue, sunglasses, a notebook and pen, Chapstick, a flashlight, tweezers, 3 singing bowls, a solar-powered generator, two advil tablets and a vegan turkey sandwich. Next time I might even erect a shoji screen around my space like a cubicle.
Since I thrive on routine, I was perfectly okay with having my own 16 square feet of real estate, inside my own property lines, for the entire retreat. It was one less thing to think about. In the future, I’ll just hire a planning director to get my spot in the meditation hall as early as possible. And I’ll chalk it up to one of the many things I’ll now know for the next time, like the fact that you are apparently supposed to get your toenails painted in bright colors before you go on a meditation retreat. Why didn’t anyone tell me that?