On 16th November I went to “Ctrl. Alt. Retreat” hosted by Krishna Consciousness Society. The event took place in Bhaktivedanta Manor, and, if interested in future KSOC events, all the info is on the society’s webpage.
Krishna Consciousness Society seeks to inspire and open our minds, inviting us to embark on a spiritual journey…of some sort. Although I do engage in metaphysical matters probably a bit too much, I am also a sceptic when it comes to those things. I decided to try out the society’s supposedly “life-changing” retreat, and see where it gets me. I went through it unscathed, and also unchanged. I left early, I must say. But I don’t consider that a failure on my part.
Instead of calling it Ctrl. Alt. Retreat, I would consider changing the name to Introspection for Dummies. This is not a critique of what they’re doing at all, as everyone has to start somewhere, but, in my opinion, the retreat is perfect for someone with no or very little history of self-reflection. They made some good points, there were some valuable moments. There were Plato’s cave allegories, there were ‘know thyself’ type mantras, there were ‘7 habits of highly successful spiritual people’—but if you’re not new to journeying within yourself, then I don’t think you’ll find anything new there.
Putting the meandering chunks of disorganized time aside (and my neurotic frustration as a result), it was amiable enough to float from an ayurveda session, acquiring a free mix of spices along the way, to a yoga practice, to a rustic overcrowded lunch. Do not get me started on the weather, though—but I shouldn’t be complaining, I suppose, as the vata side of me is apparently always cold anyway. I’m trying not to be cold-hearted while writing this, but there are some things I just cannot get over.
For a retreat that promotes itself as being a glimpse into a new paradigm of seeing and a window out of the restless ordinary, they have been unhealthily obsessed with pictures. At a certain point we’ve spent thirty minutes gathering outside of the beautiful Bhaktivedanta Manor, only to take a group picture. But the worst thing of all was the annoying clicking sound during our morning meditation. I’m not even a mediation enthusiast myself, but I still consider it to be a rather intimate activity. Here he was, fresh from the charts, musician Kalkey playing his guitar and whispering inspirational somethings, asking us to close our eyes. But how can we concentrate if we know the present moment will never be a true present moment, since each minute of our time is being stolen for each photo taken? No, I’m not buying it.
I must admit, the retreat did not inspire me in any significant way. But I guess that’s a good thing, because they did say some valuable things, and the fact that I didn’t feel particularly enlightened means that I do have some ‘spiritual’ tools within me already, and now it’s a question of whether or not I’ll choose to use them.
Regardless of my pallid disappointments, I managed to fall asleep almost instantly on the night after the retreat, which is something that hasn’t happened to me since childhood. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was the incense, or the singing in unison, which I haven’t done in a very long time. Actually, no, singing itself is something I haven’t done in a long time. I’ve been afraid to pick up my guitar for what seems like forever, and yet I mumbled Hare Krishna with them, like some George Harrison reincarnation, back in the day, back in the manor. It did not feel magical, but it did fill me with longing, and with a kind of permission. Maybe that’s what the event was all about—the permission to do the things we haven’t allowed ourselves to do, to be what we haven’t allowed ourselves to be. Or, even, to allow ourselves to surrender for a day, even if it’s not necessarily our scene.
It was all pretty obvious to me, all they’ve talked about. I’ve been diagnosed with chronic introspection a long time ago, so I don’t need guidance at this point in my spiritually-ridden career. But those of us who walk around with a burden they’re not able to classify might find this event helpful. There is nothing embarrassing or foolish about spirituality, as long as you know why you’re doing it.
Some of us already possess the painful luxury of having a restless brain and an anxious mind, but at least we’ve over-reflected on what’s out there, thought it through, mulled it all over and over and over again. But if you don’t feel awake, if you feel stuck on an ice rink, just skating along, afraid that one day the ice will crack and you will not know what to do, because you have no knowledge of what’s beneath, then I suppose the retreat could encourage you to open your eyes. Or at least one eye.