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 Retreat Review - Bala Brook May 2023 with Christi
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Barefoot Burton

USA
17 Posts

Posted - May 19 2023 :  7:57:34 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Message
Hello All,

I recently had the opportunity to attend a 5-day retreat led by Christi at Bala Brook in Devon, England. This post is a review of the retreat. By the way, this is the first AYP retreat that I have attended. (I did attend a 10-day vipassana retreat over 20 years ago but remember very little about it.)

There were 10 other attendees and one other teacher besides Christi. I neglected to ask the other teacher’s permission to mention him by name, so I will not give his first name.

Both Christi and the other teacher were fantastic leaders on this retreat. Christi’s experience, knowledge, and willingness to answer any question no matter how trivial (or profound) was wonderful. Though not as experienced as Christi, the other teacher was also an individual of integrity that I enjoyed visiting with very much, and he did help me with a few technical points on spinal breathing.

Both teachers were completely approachable and accessible during the entire retreat. At no time was there a sense of some exalted guru that you had to approach with humility, and forbearance just to ask a question.

The other students ranged from individuals who were new to AYP to one lady who has previously attended the 30-day AYP teacher training retreat. There were 6 ladies and 5 men ranging in age from around 40 to 78, and I believe the retreat was full at 11 students. Three (including myself) were from the United States, the others were from Britain and Europe. Over the course of the retreat, we bonded as a group, with everyone being respectful of the unique personalities each person embodied. I deeply appreciate and cherish each of the other attendees (and teachers). They are all wonderful, unique, individuals.

The arrival day and the departure day each consisted of one session of asanas, spinal pranayama, deep meditation, and samyama. The 4 full days (between the arrival day and the departure day) consisted of 3 sessions of asanas, spinal pranayama, deep meditation, and samyama. All sessions were optional, but I did attend every session. Some of the other students chose not to attend some sessions.

At the end of each day (except for the departure day), Christi led us in a class with open discussion. The theme for all classes was “seeing beyond the mind” using techniques of self-inquiry. There was also discussion on any difficulties with the practices of any sort, and even questions about other topics in general. These classes were very informative, and a lot of fun. There were many great questions, discussions, and lots of laughter as well. I thoroughly enjoyed Christi’s insight on all topics covered. I asked several questions of Christi (and the other teacher) over the course of the retreat that have really helped to round out my approach to AYP.

Between the second and third practice sessions of each full day, Christi led us on hikes around the countryside. We also spent an hour each day singing bhajans (in Sanskrit) with Christi leading with his guitar and voice. The hikes were very grounding, and the singing was very uplifting. Not everyone participated in the hikes or the singing. The countryside around the Bala Brook retreat center is very lush, with many livestock (sheep and cattle), birds, streams, and beautiful trees, plants, flowers, etc.

There were 2 vegetarian meals each day, one brunch (after the 2nd morning practice session), and one dinner after the 4 pm practice session (and prior to the evening class). The meals were delicious, filling, and better than any other meals I had during travel to/from the retreat. The cook was on top of her game and made fantastic desserts for each dinner meal. I was never hungry. The meals did in fact support the practices. There was also fresh fruit available in the dining room during the day if one felt the need for a snack.

There was sketchy cell phone service, but there was WiFi at the retreat center. I did not bring a computer and chose to put my cell phone in airplane mode the entire retreat so that I could focus solely on the retreat. There were others that chose to communicate electronically with the outside world during the retreat. I did use my phone to take pictures, but there was not any communication with the outside world.

I stayed in a single room with a bathroom. The accommodations were sparse, clean, and totally appropriate for the retreat. We were asked to take a vow of silence from the end of the evening class to the end of the second practice session the next morning. All of this worked very well.

From my point of view, the retreat met and exceeded my expectations. The format was perfect. I have been seriously practicing AYP for a little over 2 and a half years prior to this retreat. It served to reinforce and almost supercharge my full yoga/meditation experience. Prior to the retreat Christi mentioned that energies balance out at a retreat, and I never suffered any serious negative symptoms of overload or irritability during the retreat. Many times, I felt much joy, almost overwhelming, in addition to great affection for the other attendees at the retreat. There were a couple of times that I was tired for a period, but those passed; you can’t be on top of the world 24/7. I slept very little (2 to 4 hours) most nights, and just laid in bed and felt the energies moving in my body, especially gurgling, churning and heat in my stomach area on a couple of nights. One other attendee was having an almost on and off full-blown Kundalini experience and I believe he was simply in bliss for much of the retreat.

Upon returning home, my wife, without prompting, stated that I am much more easy-going, loving, etc. I don’t know that I feel as different as she perceives me to be, as I feel like I have been slowly changing over the last 6 months or so due to the AYP practices, but as most men know, the wife is always right.

If you ever have an opportunity to attend an AYP retreat, especially with Christi, I definitely recommend attending, if you can afford it. I might suggest that one should be familiar with practicing spinal pranayama, deep meditation, and samyama prior to attending. On the first day, Christi did discuss the basics of these practices, but I think those attending without experience performing these routines struggled a little bit. My second suggestion would be to leave your cell phone or computer off and focus totally on you and let the world get by without you for a few days. You’re worth it.

Thanks to Christi for hosting this retreat and allowing me to attend.

Dogboy

USA
2242 Posts

Posted - May 20 2023 :  03:27:26 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for the rundown! Perhaps one day…
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nina

USA
32 Posts

Posted - May 22 2023 :  3:29:21 PM  Show Profile  Visit nina's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
That's a great review. Happy to hear it.
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