I did it! I did my silent retreat! No talking, no eye contact, no social gestures for 7 hours.
And you know what? I actually enjoyed it. Ok-maybe not all of it. I could have lived without the 45 minutes of silent eating. I mean really, how long can you be mindful of a small mouthful of food? It turns to mush pretty quickly in your mouth. But the whole experience? I would do it again. My husband was taking bets I couldn’t do it. My friends were calculating the amount of talking I would have to do to make up for what I missed. Even some of the people in class had odds I wouldn’t be able to do it. But I’m proud to say I did.
Now is this as great an accomplishment as, let’s say, running a marathon-no. And I’m sure some of you out there are thinking, “wow, I’d love to not speak to anyone for half a day”. But it was a definite challenge for me. Something I feared but decided I wanted to do anyway. My favorite part was walking in the woods by myself for close to an hour. For the first time that I can remember, I walked with no music, no audible book, no chit-chatting with a friend. Just me, myself and I. Nature being my only company; the trees, leaves, squirrels etc. Just lovely.
Another cool insight? The no eye contact? Wow–at first it is awkward. A few quick glances and then you’re a punished school child casting your eyes down. Picture yourself as a monk making eye contact with Johnny Depp and then remembering that in his contract, no peons are allowed to make eye contact with him That’s how it was. But once you got used to it, it was so cool. No eye contact means no judgement-real or imagined! Think about it. Many times our uncomfortableness or anxiety comes from how you think others see you. BUT without eye contact, you don’t know how they see you. It’s incredibly freeing.
We were kept busy by our instructor. And yes she was allowed to talk. We did very gentle yoga and different meditations throughout the day. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep during the 45 minute body scan. But I bet almost everybody did. A 15 minute body scan I can do, 45 minutes? How long can you spend thinking about your toes and the marvel that they are?
At the 6 1/2 hour point, we did something we never did-a back to back meditation with the person next to you. With no talking or eye contact you just move close to each other. This was new and challenging! And the person next to me was a 29 year old man. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But let me tell you…it’s been awhile since this body has been that close to a 29 year old man. And I’m sure he felt a little awkward himself. Unless he’s a fan of The Graduate (which, by the way, do you know how old the “older woman” is in The Graduate? 36!!! 36? My g-d, you’re still wearing hip high jeans! Your bras are still sexy! Your heels are still pointy! 36! OK Laura, breathe, breathe, focus on my breath—OK, I’m better now ). Anyway, once we got our breathing in rhythm it was fine. Afterwards we sat shoulder to shoulder-still not facing each other – and had to tell each other how we felt about the day etc. After about 15 seconds of silence on both our parts, I just said “I have no idea what to say”. That broke the ice and we just started talking and sharing the fact that we both fell asleep during the body scan etc. That made other people around us start smiling and chuckling. FYI– meditation and mindfulness do not mean you have to be reverent and solemn! It’s whatever bubbles up inside you at that moment on that particular day. Again no judgement of yourself.
We all met up in class the next day. So many people were moved in different ways. The silence brought up some hard emotions for some people. But once those emotions are up they are easier to deal with. And the students felt “freer” and “lighter” afterwards. And they themselves feel stronger.
Obviously I’m just a babe in the woods when it comes to meditating. But I’m finally comfortable with it. I do believe it’s something we all need to do–like eating healthy and exercising. But it has to come to you when you’re ready–otherwise you’ll fight it every step of the way. And that’s certainly pointless!
Life can be tough out there at times. I consider meditation a Vacation for the Mind. Now those who know me would say “does your mind really need a vacation?”. I’m not exactly Einstein….I do have deep thoughts but many might think they belong more in the “kiddie pool” than the deep end of the adult pool. Trying to workout a carpool situation is way too confusing for me. I need paper, pencil and a diagram! Seriously, my family is like—“Mom walk away from this conversation. If you manage it you’ll be at one location without a car and I’ll be at another with two. We will handle it!”. Thinking too much can give me a headache! And don’t even get me started with watching the news! My feeling is the media has you so scared watching the news, you have to balance it out with a “vacation for the mind” or you’re going to end up sad, depressed or with a bout of ennui.
I just want to end this blog with the hope that you will consider to meditate sometime in your lifetime. Maybe not today, not tomorrow, but whenever you’re ready for it. Remember, there are no negative side effects, no weight gain, no financial loss. How many things in life can promise you that?
Until next time—
P.S.—I’m going to Sedona, AZ this coming week to continue on my spiritual journey. Let’s see what happens. Maybe I’ll have spiritual enlightenment on a Vortex or maybe nothing, maybe I’ll just have a wonderful vacation under the beautiful Red Rocks!
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What to do with all those unspoken words??? Can you pop them in the freezer and defrost them for use on PMS days? I’m glad that you had such an enlightening experience!