Reflections on Retreat

I have recently returned from 2 weeks away from my family. I spent 1 week with my inspiring teacher Donna Farhi in Sydney and 1 week studying Yoga Nidra with the wonderful Dr.Richard Miller in Melbourne.

Taking this time out from my family and life has benefitted my family and life enormously. I embarked upon my travels in a forlorn sorry state of exhaustion and I returned a relaxed, healthy, well resourced and a more learned woman! Both weeks were equally inspiring and I have come back with some enriching knowledge. Not just facts and information to remember but a felt sense of ‘Centre’ and ‘Awareness’.

Although their approaches are quite different Donna and Richard’s teachings compliment one another so well. Both teachers have encouraged me to discover a home base within myself. My true ground.

Donna is the queen of embodying the philosophies of yoga, both on the mat and out into our daily lives. She encourages us to ask “Is this practice relevant, sustainable and supporting me in a healthy way in my everyday life?” Both of their teachings highlight the importance of kindness; out into the world as well as towards oneself. Richard asks “Are you 100% safe with yourself? Or do you find self-attacks happening?”

Being away from my family gave me space to reflect on these bigger, deeper questions of life. For example, what exactly is my Dharma? Richard Miller describes it as Heartfelt Desire. It’s a big question for me and something I’ve really struggled with during my mothering years. So this time and space was a chance to figure out what matters in my life so that I can then live my life from that place of purpose. 

As a way of figuring this stuff out, Robert Svoboda, the Ayurvedic scholar, goes so far as to say “Take Death as your advisor. If death were to come to you in this moment, would it be worthy of being your final act of life?”

In my own personal experience as well as stories all around me, when people come close to death or serious illness, a sense of perspective is accessed and that attitude of not sweating the small stuff arises. Serious illness, misfortune or any obstacle in life can actually be the very opportunity to see the bigger picture and connect to a profound sense of Awareness.

Here’s a poem that sums it all up.

Because even the word obstacle is an obstacle
by Alison Luterman

Try to love everything that gets in your way:
the Chinese women in flowered bathing caps
murmuring together in Mandarin, doing leg exercises in your lane
while you execute thirty-six furious laps,
one for every item on your to-do list.
The heavy-bellied man who goes thrashing through the water
like a horse with a harpoon stuck in its side,
whose breathless tsunamis rock you from your course.
Teachers all. Learn to be small
and swim through obstacles like a minnow
without grudges or memory. Dart
toward your goal, sperm to egg. Thinking Obstacle
is another obstacle. Try to love the teenage girl
idly lounging against the ladder, showing off her new tattoo:
Cette vie est la mienne, This life is mine,
in thick blue-black letters on her ivory instep.
Be glad she’ll have that to look at all her life,
and keep going, keep going. Swim by an uncle
in the lane next to yours who is teaching his nephew
how to hold his breath underwater,
even though kids aren’t allowed at this hour. Someday,
years from now, this boy
who is kicking and flailing in the exact place
you want to touch and turn
will be a young man, at a wedding on a boat
raising his champagne glass in a toast
when a huge wave hits, washing everyone overboard.
He’ll come up coughing and spitting like he is now,
but he’ll come up like a cork,
alive. So your moment
of impatience must bow in service to a larger story, 
because if something is in your way it is
going your way, the way
of all beings; towards darkness, towards light.

 (check out more of her poems at

This poem has been a great reminder of all that I worked on while I was away. I returned from retreat back to the incredible busy reality of my family life which in the first week included organising a 4 year olds birthday party, participating in a pre-schooler campout and my oldest son experiencing a medical condition that required an urgent MRI scan under general anasthetic and therefore a last minute flight to Christchurch hospital …not to mention the 5 yoga classes I had committed to teach! 

Even though life wasn’t serving up the smooth, easy path for me I somehow managed to surf it with a real felt sense of my Inner Resource. I was able to take Richard’s teachings, based on non-dualist philosophy, to remember the feeling of ‘Wholeness’ and  welcoming everything that was coming my way. I feel deep gratitude to both Donna Farhi and Richard Miller for helping me to develop and internalize my inner resource so well that it remembered me when I needed it.




  1. You words of peace and honesty came through in your loving sharing – thank you.x

  2. Oh what a great article Sam – thanks for writing. I love how your practice is integrating into your everyday life – inspiring! Yoga in action. Love the poem too.
    Blessings and gratitude …

You may also like