“Nothing is sacred until we make it so.” ― Chris Crutcher
When MJ and I were planning our yoga retreat to the Sacred Valley of Peru (IOY/P'RU), we decided to use "Nothing's Sacred" as a sort of tongue-in-cheek retreat theme and as a response to all the "sacred this" and "sacred that" descriptions we had been reading while researching the area. But when we found the above quote from Chris Crutcher, we let go of the irony as we realized we had really nailed the theme.
Our retreats have always been about elevating your spirit through practices, experiences, and the people you hang out with. The practices themselves have been about choosing a positive attitude around whatever life/relational experiences you're going through, because we both believe that choosing to be positive determines how you’re going to live your life. We found the perfect framework for our positivity practices in a Great Courses audible book called, Masters of Mindfulness. Perfect not only for IOY/P'RU, but for a lifelong practice that can literally change your life.
In the intro to the course, Dr. Shauna Shapiro outlined three essential components of mindfulness:
Intention - Remembering the most important thing
Attention - Present moment awareness
Attitude - Paying attention with kindness and curiosity
Dr. Shapiro says that mindfulness is not just about paying attention, but it's how you pay attention. If you practice yoga, meditate or spend much of your day in judgment, you're practicing judgment. If you practice yoga, meditate or spend much of your day with frustration, you're practicing frustration. It’s not about changing your experience, it’s changing how you relate to your experience.
Here’s one of my favorite examples of this:
One beautiful day, two boys were exploring their neighbor's farm and came upon an empty barn that smelled of manure. The first boy said, "we've got to get out of there, this smells horrible!" The second boy said, "Oh boy, this is great ― there must be horses around!"
Some of us have a tendency to react as the first boy did; others as the second boy. But either way, there's good news! According to research on neuroplasticity, practicing mindfulness―i.e., paying attention with a positive attitude, with kindness and curiosity―can literally train your brain and reset your happiness setpoint, so that over time you feel happier and more fulfilled, even during times when your life might stink.
So whether you’re at a yoga retreat in the Sacred Valley of Peru, or in a barn that smells of manure, your experience is up to you. Nothing’s sacred until you make it so…