Archive for October, 2010

CLP Retreat: Pictures

(A quick note before we get started: You can click on any picture to make it larger.)

Here’s one of the first things I saw when I arrived at the St. Thomas Gainey Conference Center:

My accommodations:

The room did have a TV (a nice one, too) – but I didn’t turn it on even once.  : )

The conference center also offered a variety of recreation activities; but I didn’t have time to explore them. (Nor did I really have much desire to do so; that wasn’t why I was there.)  Maybe if I return one day…

The common gathering area:

The room where we spent all of our group instruction, discussion, meditation, and yoga time:

(The view from outside.)

The grounds.  Note how well-cared-for they are, as well as seasonally appropriate!

And lastly, some of the animals.

Click here to go back to the main CLP retreat page.


Read Full Post »

Most people find a residential retreat a powerful experience; and I have found them incredibly helpful in creating (and now sustaining and deepening) my daily meditation practice.  But mindfulness isn’t just about sitting stone-still for a set period of time each day; indeed, “real” mindfulness is cultivated everywhere, all the time.

However.  In my “all-or-nothing” brain, I need to remind myself that every moment of mindfulness I experience is helpful – no matter how small, or how brief, or how fleeting.  One tiny moment helps to lead to another, which helps to lead to another, and another, and another and another…. Just as hurtful words can sting long after their actual sound has ended, so too can an experience of mindfulness be helpful and supportive long after the actual moment has passed.

So, in the spirit of “no-moment-is-too-small”, and “why not start right now?”, here are some different mindfulness methods you can try.  Play with them; find which ones work for you; discover which ones may not appeal to you right now; create brand new ones on your own; and feel free to share what you find.  I always love hearing about other people’s experiences.  : )

  • Schedule an alarm to ring at a set interval of time (i.e., once an hour, once every 2 or 4 hours, etc.); and when the alarm rings, stop whatever you are doing, and pay attention to what is in *that* moment.  Where is your mind?  What are you thinking about?  How is your breathing?  How does your body feel? Walk through each of your five senses – how is each one engaged (or not) in the moment?  Etc.
  • Choose a routine activity that you do each day (brushing teeth, brushing hair, showering, doing dishes, caring for a pet, eating, etc.), and be mindful for as much of the time as you can while you are engaged in that activity.  Again, note any mental thoughts, body sensations, breath awareness, etc.
  • Pay attention to your breath just before you fall asleep, and/or right as you wake up.  How does your breath feel?  And the rest of your body?  Don’t try to change anything; just become aware of what is.
  • Practice mindful walking for a few minutes each day.
  • For a set period of time (5, 10, 20 minutes), notice all of the experiences you label as either pleasant and unpleasant.  Each experience can be connected to your body, thoughts, or emotions.  What causes you to label an experience as pleasant?  What causes you to label an experience as unpleasant?
  • Commute to/from work in silence.  (I.e., no radio, cell phone, external media/entertainment.)  Just notice all of the sensory inputs that occur “naturally” (i.e., vibration of the vehicle, or feeling of the motion of a bike or body moving, any sounds that occur, etc.).
  • Each time you log on to/log off of a computer, pause for one extra second, take a breath, and notice what is going on in that moment.
  • As you walk to/from a meeting, pay attention to your: posture, emotions, thoughts, self-talk, expectations, attitudes, etc.  And/or pay attention to the physical act of walking itself.
  • Keep an open posture during one conversation, or meeting, or meal.  (I.e., don’t cross your arms or legs, and keep your back straight.)  How does it feel?  Is it different from how you usually feel?  Did it impact the tone/tenor of the conversation/meeting/meal at all?
  • Practice mindful listening during at least one conversation each day.  How does it feel, compared to the other conversations you usually have?
  • If it’s too difficult to listen mindfully during a conversation, try starting by at least taking an intentional pause before the conversation (1-on-1, in a meeting, etc.), and setting an intention to open, listen, and be honest without being harmful.
  • As you are engaging in conversation with someone, ask the question to yourself, “What is called for now?”  Then notice the answer that arises.
  • Refrain from media for an evening, day, several days, or week.  (“Media” can be one or more of the following: TV, computer, Facebook, cell phone, newspaper, magazines, internet surfing, etc.  If going “cold turkey” seems insane, maybe start by choosing just one item to refrain from.)  Check-in at various intervals, and notice how you feel (physically, mentally, emotionally).  Are things shifting as you spend more time away from media? Notice how things are as you include media back in your life.

Finally, for those of you who may be interested in starting a more “formal” meditation practice (or for those who may be interested in enhancing an established meditation practice), here are some additional meditation methods:

  • Dropping a question into meditation three times, and seeing what arises.  (A good question can be, “What is called for now?”)
  • Mindfully eat a snack (or drink a beverage).  Experience the food visually, then with the ears, then the nose.  Then experience the sensation of the food (or fork/spoon) in your hand.  Then, take a bite, and notice the flavors, textures, temperature… and notice these things via your lips, tongue, teeth, throat, all the way down to as far as you can feel.  Put the fork/spoon/food down, and breathe. Then resume.
  • Doing a mindful yoga session.
  • Doing a walking meditation session.
  • Using the breath as the object of meditation.
  • Using thoughts/emotions as the object of meditation.
  • Using a field of vision as the object of meditation.
  • Doing a seated mountain meditation.
  • Doing a seated body scan.  (Or doing a body scan lying down.)
  • Doing lovingkindness (metta) meditation.
  • Reading a poem before entering meditation; and using the content of the poem as the object of meditation.
  • Doing any guided meditation practice.
  • Practice choiceless awareness as a meditation method.
  • Live in a period of silence for an evening or a day.  Notice how the experience feels; notice if any new sensations arise; notice what thoughts appear; etc.  Did anything change as you spent more time in silence?  Notice how things are as you include noise back in your life.

There is no single right method, or way, or answer; it all just is.  My wish is that you have fun exploring and discovering your personal path.


Read Full Post »

“Fire” by Judy Brown

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

Read Full Post »

I turn the key in the car’s ignition, and though it is a hard start, mercifully the engine turns over, the car sputters, and then it comes to life.  I place the car in reverse, back up a few feet, then shift into drive – and I’m off.

And then I hit a detour. Literally.

But no problem; it’s all good.

And on my detour, guess what I see.  Just guess.

Someone seriously has a sense of humor.

Then, not even five minutes later, I see this:

And this:

These are wonderful parting reinforcements for me: namely, avoid creating polarities.  Instead, accept all of my life – ’cause it’s all intermingled, and ’cause I just never know what I might encounter where.  And that can be the wonderful fun of it all.

Be well.


Read Full Post »

6:30-7:30 am: Early meditation session.

We did 20 minutes of silent sitting meditation, then 20 minutes of walking meditation, then 20 minutes of silent sitting meditation.

Yesterday’s meditation sessions were quite “easy” for me – i.e., I had a sense of lightness, focus, and ease that I really haven’t ever experienced before in meditation – not even during last year’s 10-day experience.  But today’s meditation was full of thoughts and distractions once again – UNTIL I switched from breath meditation to choiceless awareness.  Then, I saw everything as the practice, instead of as a “distraction”.  There are no distractions; there is just the present.  This is a tremendous shift for me!  I’ve heard this before (literally tens if not hundreds of times) – but now I have experienced it; which makes all the difference.

7:30-8:30 am: Breakfast.

8:30-8:45 am: Quick guided meditation/settling in.

8:45-10:15 am: Re-integration, Question & Answer time, open sharing.

During our last 90 minutes of retreat, people basically shared whatever was still on their mind, asked any final questions they hoped to get addressed, and did what they needed to do to process that this very special time was coming to a close.  Here are the nuggets I extracted from the larger dialogue:

  • “You want to take care of the future?  Take care of the present – because the future rolls right out of the present.”  Another way of thinking about this: If I take care of the present, the future will take care of itself.
  • “Redirection *is* the practice.”  (Redirection from being mindless and lost, to being present in the moment.)
  • Let things happen; don’t force/push/strive for anything.
  • When in doubt, drop this question into meditation: “What’s called for now?”  Then, just like we did on Day 1, set the first answer aside, wait a minute, and ask the question again.  Then set that second answer aside, wait another minute, and ask the question still again. And see what comes up on answer #3.  Sometimes, “silence” is exactly what is called for; and while this may seem like “no action” to some people, it’s actually a profound act.  It’s *much* more difficult to be still and silent than it is to ramble and fill space; and yet sometimes, silence is the best gift one person can give another.
  • “Usually if there’s two, there’s ten.”  In other words, the world isn’t usually one-or-the-other, yes-or-no, black-or-white, good-or-bad, insert-your-favorite-duality-here.  Ambiguity, variations, “shades of gray” abound in life.
  • Desire versus longing: Desire is a craving for things we don’t have; longing is a craving for things we do have, or have experienced at some point.
  • Tiny things add up!  Even a few minutes of meditation every day can have a profound effect.  (Just look at snowflakes.  They are so tiny, so fragile, so easy to melt.  But when they come together and add up, just look at what power they can have.)
  • “Close the eyes – touch the breath – touch the silence.”
  • “Start the day instead of letting the day start you.”
  • Instead of looking, let the eyes receive sight just as it is.  Instead of feeling, let the body receive sensations just as they are.  Instead of thinking, let the mind receive reality just as it is.  Stop striving, start receiving.  Just receive.

In our final moments together, we went around the circle one last time, and each individual shared their parting intention.  Mine was “To play with choiceless awareness instead of working with it; to engage in my practice non-judgmentally; to hold it all lightly.”

And with that, we shared hugs, packed our cars, and drove away.

Click here to go to the postlogue.

Read Full Post »

As today was a day of silence, I didn’t have the opportunity to take many notes; so my reflections regarding this day will likely be brief.  But, let’s see what unfolds.  :)

4:15-4:30 am: Time to wake up.

Waking this early is my own personal preference; rising at this early hour was not required by the retreat program.

4:30-5 am: Solo yoga.

Again, engaging in yoga at this early hour is my own personal preference; for me, it starts my day in a very positive way.

5-6 am: Shower, grooming, get dressed.

6-6:30 am: Walk.

Once again, walking at this time in the morning is my choice, not a requirement of the retreat.  I appreciate walking in the darkness and stillness of this early hour, when the stars are still out, and life is still calm.

6:30-7:30 am: Early meditation session.

We did 25 minutes of silent sitting meditation, then 15 minutes of walking meditation, then 20 minutes of silent sitting meditation.

I chose to do this morning’s walking meditation session inside, bare-footed.  The feeling of my toes and heels on the ground was deeply comforting; and the sound of my feet brushing against the carpet was fantastic.

I find that when I do walking meditation, my body tells me instantly when I’ve stopped being mindful.  When I mentally drift, I physically falter.  (And while I see this so clearly in meditation, it is likely true for the rest of my life as well.)

Just before the breakfast bell, we were reminded us that this period of silence is not intended to be punitive; but instead, is a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know ourselves better.  We were also cautioned against being too pious, serious, or even deadened – life *is* happening, right now; and it’s wonderful to enjoy it.

7:30-8:30 am: Breakfast.

It was so peaceful for me to dine in silence with others, especially where the expectation is silence.  I can just sit back, fully relax, and just be.  Not have to do anything, but just be.  What a gift.

8:30-9 am: Silent seated meditation.

During this session I felt my body breathing itself.  “I” wasn’t forcing the breath, “I” wasn’t consciously inhaling, or exhaling, or trying to make the breath deeper or slower; “I” was just observing the process that my body was doing all on its own, with zero influence from “me”.  It was quite amazing.

9-9:30 am: Guided visual meditation.

We all went outside, and chose an area of garden to look at.  We first focused our vision on a patch of space the size of a quarter, and settled there for a few minutes.  We then broadened our view to include a patch of space the size of a flashlight beam.  After a few minutes, we increased the visual area to the size of a floodlight.  Finally, we walked to a high hill, and viewed the entire panorama.

I am not used to meditating with my eyes open, so to practice in this way was simultaneously challenging-yet-interesting.  But if I want to engage in mindfulness more than the amount of time I spend sitting on my cushion each morning (and I do), visual meditation is a good practice to cultivate.

9:30-10 am: Guided seated meditation.

Once back inside, we were led through the seated version of “mountain” meditation.  During this session in particular, a frequently-used phrase from last year’s retreat experience sprung into my mind: “strong determination”.  And while last year’s retreat was incredibly difficult, it really did “set me up for success” in my continuing meditation practice and experiences; and for that, I am deeply grateful.

10-10:15 am: Break.

10:15-11:30 am: Guided mindful yoga.

Today’s yoga session was truly blissful to me.  My mind was so settled, and so peaceful, that I could connect with my body in a deep, helpful way.  During these 75 minutes, I got to experience just how far I have come in my personal yoga practice: how much stronger and more flexible I am.  Perhaps even more amazingly, I also got to witness  how much kinder and gentler I am with myself, physically, emotionally, and mentally.  Oh. Wow.

11:30 am-12 pm: Silent seated meditation.

At the beginning of this period of meditation, the poem “Fire” by Judy Brown was read.  The imagery was quite powerful; and I immediately connected with the noble desire to open more space in my existence.  Not a desire to do “less”; not a desire to remove “things”; not a desire to push anything away; but a desire to simply open up more fully to what is here, to what is – so that I can better experience life.  To start and sustain a good fire, the logs are certainly important; but so is the open space, the “breathing room”.  Similarly, to start and sustain a good life, the “doing” is certainly important; but so is the “being”, the calm of resting in what is right here, in what *is*.  This poem helped put into words the value (and the importance) of “doing nothing” – i.e., of meditating.

12-1:30 pm: Lunch.

During this period I also took a walk by myself; and continued to enjoy the peace of silence.

1:30-2 pm: Silent seated meditation.

2-2:30 pm: Silent walking meditation.

2:30-3 pm: Guided lovingkindness meditation.

In the several different experiences with lovingkindness meditation I’ve had, I’ve found that each teacher has a slight twist on the words they like to use – but that the sentiment of this meditation is always the same.  I’m delighted that we ended our period of silence with this method – what a wonderful way to transition from isolated introspection into shared community.

This period of meditation was very powerful for me.  My emotions were much “closer to the surface” than usual, much more accessible: my usual habitual thinking mind had been given a break, so the generation of thoughts had decreased, and the thoughts that remained had been allowed to settle (much like mud will settle to the bottom of a glass if the water is simply allowed to rest [instead of continually stirred/shaken/agitated]) – allowing the emotions to float up to a more “visible”, accessible place.  In the first round of lovingkindness (directed towards self) I was calm and content.  But in the second round of lovingkindness (directed towards someone we love deeply), I began to cry.  I was so grateful for the individual in my life, so honored that they see good in me and love me in return, and just so amazingly stunned at how blessed I am.  In the third round of lovingkindness (directed towards someone we don’t know very well) and the final round of lovingkindness (directed towards a large group, if not the entire world) I just felt… spacious.  Included.  Whole.  It was amazing.

3-3:30 pm: Coming out of silence.

To break our silence, we partnered up with one other person in the room, sat side-by-side and facing each other very closely, and whispered a 5 minute monologue about anything relating to our experience: how we felt about the period of silence, what we were experiencing right now, what we learned, what we hated – anything we wanted to share about our experience.  I basically shared that I was sad that the silence was coming to an end, and indeed that the experience as a whole was ending; I felt like I grew so much during these three brief days – I could (can) honestly feel my life transforming.

3:30-4:45: Group discussion.

We dissolved our dyads, and formed one large group where individuals shared (in a normal speaking voice) about their experiences with the period of silence.

4:45-6 pm: Break.

I spent this time on a walk with three other people.  At 4:44 pm I was in the same space as yesterday’s afternoon break – wanting to go for a walk with someone, but feeling like an outsider; so prepared to go alone.  However, a very kind woman saw me, and smiled, and warmly asked if I would like to join her and another person for a walk.  I lit up, happily said “Yes!”, and threw on my shoes.  By the time we three made it to the front door, another person had joined us, and we became four.  And it felt great.

As much as I appreciate silence, and enjoy solitude, I need other people in my life, too.

6-7:30 pm: Dinner.

I spent a good hour talking one-on-one with Saki, about his family, his meditation perspectives, his work, his personal interests… just getting to know a bit more about him.  He’s a pretty darn cool guy, and I don’t even know a full 1% about him.

7:30-9:30 pm: A buzz kill activity.

So.  Nearly everyone in the group is totally blissed out: we’re allowed to talk once again, we’ve had a great meal, we’re riding high from some deep meditation residuals… life is grand.  Then, we are hit with this activity:

Step 1: Brainstorm as many world issues we can think of that impact us as leaders.  (I.e., economic insecurity, multi-generational differences, globalization, etc.)  Our list was long, and largely depressing.  Positive energy gone.  Depression beginning.

Step 2: Brainstorm all the different entities we can influence as leaders.  (I.e., our coworkers, politicians/government, academia/schools, etc.)  Hmm.  Feeling a little better, a little more hopeful…but only slightly.

Step 3: Get in a group of six.  (Done.) As a group, come to consensus on this question: “What one unique contribution or change would have the greatest impact or effect on one of the items addressed in Step 1?”

You have 15 minutes – go.

Holy crap.

In the discussion/conversation/dialogue that ensued, I totally got to see people slight RIGHT BACK into work dynamics.  This, after three-and-a-half days of dedicated meditation practice.  In some ways, it was as if the past 80 hours never happened.  With the sound of the word “go”, people transformed from peaceful, “everyday” individuals into high-powered, high-strung business folks.  Yikes.

And with that, we disbanded, and went to bed. Thank goodness.

Click here to go to Day 5.

Read Full Post »

6:30-7:30 am: Early meditation session.

We did 20 minutes of semi-guided sitting meditation, then 20 minutes of walking meditation, then 20 minutes of silent sitting meditation.

7:30-8:30 am: Breakfast.

8:30-9:15 am: Guided meditation on thinking and emotions.

Whenever I have tried to open to thoughts during meditation, I have been unsuccessful in maintaining awareness, and nearly always immediately get sucked into the thoughts.  Two, five, ten minutes later I “wake up”, and realize I have lost considerable chunks of time thinking instead of meditating.  It’s frustrating and discouraging, and I didn’t know what to do to avoid it – except to avoid thoughts altogether.

During this instruction period, the method for meditating on thoughts was explained in such a way that I finally “got it”: Focus on the process, not the content.  Just watch the thoughts arise; see how long they last; and then watch them pass away.  Nothing is new about this teaching – I’ve heard it and read it probably no less than 100 times (literally).  But for whatever reason, when I heard it today, it “clicked”.  I guess I was just ready now.  So during today’s sessions, I was able to meditate on thoughts (and images, which are just another way our brains represent thoughts) and emotions without analyzing them or getting sucked into them.  Oh my.  This is *big*.  I have choices now.  I only need to ask myself what I need, and then listen for the response.  Wow.  Wow.

9:15-10 am: Debrief on the thought/emotion meditation experience.

We all shared about how the previous 45 minutes went for us; and at one point the process/content distinction was analogized with a reference to my very favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz.  It was explained that when Dorothy gets a view behind the curtain and sees the “Great and Powerful Oz” is nothing more than a small, insecure man desperately pushing buttons and flipping levers, she is able to move from content to process.  Instead of being dominated by the frightening content, she is instead able to observe the crazy process – and in the act of observation, of seeing what is *really* happening, the content loses its edge; and Dorothy is able to become free.

10-10:15 am: Break.

During the break I asked a clarifying question: To get out of a “groove”/rut of thinking (i.e., to get out of rumination), should I turn toward the thought(s), or should I break the cycle by re-establishing the connection with the breath?  [Or some other option(s)?]  It was confirmed that both/either of these methods is effective; but I was also told that rumination isn’t something to break down/break through, but instead is an item that I can allow to dissolve.  Again, a small, slight shift; but a deeply powerful one.

10:15-11 am: Guided mindful yoga.

Today’s yoga session was much more thorough than yesterday’s session; today we did probably 10-15 poses, and I felt strong and centered at the end of it.  I liked this experience more than yesterday’s.  : )

11 am-12:15 pm: Calendar review.

We were told to bring a print out of “an average work day” with us to this retreat; and during the first 30 minutes of this activity, we individually reviewed our calendar page, wrote down any thoughts/ideas/notes that immediately came to mind (i.e., no censoring), and then engaged in a 5-minute mindful monologue with a partner, talking about the items that surfaced.  We then spent the remaining 45 minutes as a large group, debriefing everything that came up.

And holy crap, did lots of stuff come up.  Many, many tears were shed; in fact, I think about one-third to maybe even one-half of the participants have cried at some point in time since Wednesday evening – and who knows how many people may have cried in private.  While I felt compassion for all of the individuals who were clearly in some level of pain, I was also oddly comforted.  No, I’m not some callous bitch; rather, I was comforted that EVERYONE feels this way at some point in time.  Again, it’s not just me; I’m not weak/damaged/flawed/”bad”; we *all* struggle.  It was very powerful – and helpful – for me to see these overt emotions being displayed from very successful, strong business people.

As for my specific response to the calendar activity, I had a wide smattering of words written on my sheet of paper, including: confidence, stress, uncertainty, excitement, pleasure, ambivalence, tightness, tension, clinging, happiness…Basically, I got to see how quickly I vacillate from one extreme to the other; and this realization made me chuckle at myself.  Basically, I learned that I can talk myself in to or out of darn near anything; and that instead of “believing” my thoughts as they exist in the moment (i.e., “I want to/don’t want to…” ;“I like/dislike…”; etc.) I should instead work to see things just as they are, and above all to hold life lightly.

12:15-1:45 pm: Lunch.

1:45-2:15 pm: Silent sitting meditation.

During this session, we were told we could use our breath, body, emotions, and thoughts all as objects of meditation.  Some things that surfaced from this session:

  • In weight training, muscles are built not in the first few reps, but in the later fatigue stages.  When my meditation starts to become “difficult” (i.e., I’m getting more distracted, sleepy, irritated, etc.), that’s when my mental muscles are being built up the best.
  • That being said, I shouldn’t ever push with a “no-pain, no-gain” mentality.  Instead, work the edges; and be content to let things dissolve in their own time.
  • Meditation (and life) doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. If I’m aware that I’m not present/caught in thought/wrapped up in rumination, then there’s at least 1% of my consciousness that *is* awake and aware.
  • Let go of striving; let things just come to me; let me rest in awareness.

2:15-3:30 pm: More calendar review debrief.

It felt like group therapy.

3:30-4:45 pm: Small group meeting exercise (& debrief).

During this time, we were put into groups of four, asked a question, and then practiced our mindful listening skills to have a group conversation about the question.

The question we were asked was this: “What do you do when faced with ambiguity that more data won’t solve?”  My group’s conversation was rich; but the response I liked the best was this one: Ask a different question. Genius!

4:45-6 pm: Break.

During this time I took a walk.  I wanted to walk with someone, but it seemed to me that everyone else was already in a small clique of some sort, and I just didn’t fit in – and I felt like I was back in middle school, awkward and unpopular at times; an outsider.  Then I realized that literally half of the participants are from the same company, and already know at least 1-2 other people here already.  So it’s not that anything is “wrong” with me; it’s that most people here already have a connection that is just easier to engage in.  This situation truly is *not* personal.  Another BIG realization/awareness for me.

6-7:30 pm: Dinner, but with a twist.

This meal was conducted in verbal silence.  We all could still look at one another, and use minimal hand gestures; but no written or spoken words.

Yay!!  I truly enjoyed just sitting, breathing, eating, and relaxing in a very physical way during the meal period.

7:30-8 pm: Debrief of the silent dinner.

Interestingly, several people also liked engaging in a silent meal.  Cool.

8-8:30 pm: Choiceless awareness meditation.

Basically, “choiceless awareness” meditation is where there is no static object of meditation – i.e., no focus on breath, or body, or some other singular item to continue bringing the attention back to.  Instead, awareness is allowed to go wherever it goes, and we don’t influence the direction with our own preferences.  So if attention goes to breath for 30 seconds, fine; and then if it goes to a sound, cool; and then if it feels a sensation in the feet, okay; and so on.

This method of meditation may sound quite easy, but actually it’s *very* difficult to do. Without a single meditation object, it can be difficult to discern if one is meditating or thinking; and so usually this meditation method is taught to people who are more advanced in meditation practice.

As we engaged in this meditation, I had a realization: I’ve been practicing choiceless awareness in my own personal practice for the past several months now; but I thought I was doing meditation “wrong” because I wasn’t focused on the breath.  I now realize that breath meditation was actually holding me back; that I was ready for more space and spaciousness in my meditation; and that my body/essence just naturally took me to the place I was ready for.  Wow.  Wow!  I need to reduce my emphasis on ego-based thinking, and instead trust my body much more than I currently do.

8:30-9 pm: Walking meditation.

Nearly a year ago I read “Peace Is Every Step” by Thich Nhat Hahn (a lovely brief-yet-full book of wise advice.  I believe any person of any faith/non-faith can benefit from reading it; but I digress…), and in the text he advises to engage in walking meditation by “Walk(ing) as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet…Every step makes a flower bloom under our feet.”  In this evening’s meditation session, I *lived* this experience.  I felt exactly what Thich Nhat Hahn described.  Instead of just reading it, or “thinking” about it, I fully understood it, by fully experiencing it.  Amazing.

9-9:20 pm: Instructions on silence.

At this point in the experience, we began an 18-hour period of silence.  (The facilitators called it a “24-hour” period of silence, because we started the silence at 6 pm with dinner; but we then broke the silence at 7:30 pm for a debrief; so really, to me it was an 18-hour period.  And even at that, most folks spent nearly 8 of the 18 hours unconscious [literally sleeping], so honestly it was more like a 10-hour period of silence for most of the participants.  But anyway…we began an extended period of silence.)  The facilitators explained what “retreat silence” entails; basically, refraining from communication in any form, including: speaking, gesturing, non-verbals, eye-contact, note-passing, texting, reading, writing, TV, phone, internet, Facebook… basically, refraining from all potential diversions/distractions.  The objective of retreat silence is to get comfortable “living with your own good company”.

Before we left for the evening, we were asked to respect this period of silence fully.  It was explained that while some individuals may not like this experience, others may appreciate it, or at least want to try it – but if Person A [who is trying to live in silence] sees Person B gesturing/whispering/looking/etc., Person A’s experience of pure silence is eroded.  While Person B might be happy as a clam, by using gestures or eye contact Person B has just impinged on the experience of Person A; and the break in silence is unfair to Person A.

I personally appreciated these parting words.  As soon as the period of silence began, my immediate reaction was one of release and relaxation.  I enjoy and deeply value the silence and solitude experienced on retreat; and while some people may not like it, or may be uncomfortable with/in it, I think it is inconsiderate of others to self-soothe at my “expense” (i.e., by intruding [intentionally or not] on my experience of silence).

So, I’m now entering into silence, and getting the opportunity to just be with whatever unfolds.  Aaahhhh….

Click here to to Day 4.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »