Tag Archives: silent meditation retreat

365 Challenge Day 190 – Silent Retreat – Day 8

23 Dec

Last Day of an 8 day Silent Meditation Retreat

Woohoo!!!  This is what I wanted to yell out at the top of my lungs when the silence was broken at the end of the retreat. But, being a good yogi, I sat still and quietly turned to my neighbor who smiled and said, “That was not what I expected.”  Apparently a common theme for everyone.

I will have to really reflect on this retreat.  I’ve done about 20 retreats in the past 15 years, and this was by far the most challenging, because of the difficult emotions, resentments towards the center, and doubts around the practice.  At this very moment it’s hard for me to even remember what I have loved so much in the past that has kept me coming back year after year!

One good thing that really came out of it is a deep deep appreciation for my children, and everything that comes with having kids.  Being in this quiet, serene, tranquil, perfectly orderly environment did not feel beautiful or ideal.  It felt sterile, lifeless, and oppressive.  I realized how much I want to “embrace the mess” that comes with having kids.  Even though I’m always fighting against the clutter and chaos at my house, I’ve seen the extreme lack of clutter, and realize I don’t want that either!!

Bring on the chaos!!

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365 Challenge Day 189 – Silent Retreat – Day 7

23 Dec

Day 7 of an 8 day Silent Meditation Retreat

The relief of having talked to my teacher lasted throughout the day.  I felt at peace.  I continued with the Gratitude practice, and some meditation that I call resting in the abiding awareness.  It was a very long day though.  I felt very ready to go home.  I was just about counting the hours until the retreat would end.  I felt like I had been there a month!  Even though most days had been fairly pleasant, those two really challenging days really colored the entire retreat and felt like they lasted about a week each!

My energy felt very low though.  I tried to do yoga all week, and I did, but each day I did less and less.  My theory is that because I am extremely extroverted and derive a lot of energy from human interaction, that being on the silent retreat really drains my energy.  I think if I did the retreat center’s three-month retreat I would slip into a deep depression or a coma!  I don’t mind the silence, but in the moments I have some form of human interaction I notice it’s like having a double espresso!  A burst of aliveness and energy!  In fact, now I’m remember that on day 6 (my meltdown day) I had the thought, What if silent meditation is only beneficial for introverts, and for extroverts it’s really a slow form of torture and punishment?

Anyway, almost done, just a few hours left.  I miss my kids.

365 Challenge Day 188 – Silent Retreat – Day 6

23 Dec

Day 6 of an 8 day Silent Meditation Retreat

Another major meltdown!!

Last night my teacher gave a dharma talk and some of the things he said were that when our difficult emotions come up we don’t want to look at them, so we run away.  And I thought, Oh shit, he’s talking to me!!

I started to doubt all of my decisions to explore other practices such as yoga and Subud.  I had all of these thoughts about why I wasn’t connecting to Buddhist meditation as my primary practice, but I started to doubt all of them, doubt my own motivation and my own wisdom, and wonder if I should just buckle down and push through and practice.

So this day I really practiced in a more traditional way, dropped the gratitude, dropped the two hour walks into town for more coffee, just did the sitting and walking, sitting and walking, sitting and…

meltdown

I cried in the meditation hall! Again!!  I just couldn’t take it!!  I felt so trapped!!  I felt so mad that the place encourages silence as the ONLY way to practice.  Instead of feeling like a refuge, it felt like an ivory white walled, pine, sterile, OCD, prison!!  I’ve never felt so confused in my life!!

That night I saw my teacher for an interview, and told him I was having a hard time.

He told me to follow my heart.  If my heart was telling me that I needed to do a practice that was more active, more embodied, more extroverted, more interpersonal, than that’s what I needed to do!!  He told me I should never feel like I needed to stick with one form of practice, or one teacher.  He told me that almost all experienced practitioners (including himself) leave the practice at some point. Some come back, some don’t.  I guess I needed his opinion to know I wasn’t kidding myself, and to feel like I was moving forward, not giving up.

Huge sigh of relief!!!

365 Challenge Day 187 – Silent Retreat – Day 5

23 Dec

Day 5 of an 8 day Silent Meditation Retreat

After my meltdown yesterday, I managed to calm down this day.  After staying inside for 4 days straight of cold rain, today the rain turned to snow, and I got outside for some much needed fresh air, exercise, and natural light.

I was running low on coffee (it’s an addiction : ) and decided to really go for a good walk, into town, to see what I could find.  It was about an hour each way, in the snow.  It felt so good to move!!  And even better, I ran into my teacher on the way and he asked me if I’d like a private interview with him. I said yes!

While I was at the convenience store buying some instant coffee (yuck) I saw some bags of chocolate chips and decided the other retreatants would love a treat of some chocolate!  It was pretty fun to sneak a big bowl with two bags worth of chocolate into the dining hall after dinner, and watch it quickly go down over the next couple of hours.

I continued to work with Gratitude.  It felt pretty good : )

365 Challenge Day 186 – Silent Retreat – Day 4

22 Dec

Day 4 of an 8 Day Silent Retreat

Meltdown

After three relatively peaceful days of practicing Gratitude, and reflecting on a longing for Joy in my spiritual practice, I got SLAMMED with feelings of anger, resentment, sadness and fear.

These are all the same difficult emotions that came up on last year’s retreat, and they center around the fact that the meditation retreat center where I have practiced for the past 15 years has decided to permanently cancel the Family Retreat.  I have gone to the Family Retreat for the past nine years with my kids, and this was their only spiritual community, and their only connection to a spiritual practice.

I didn’t realize how much anger around this was still inside me, but being at the retreat center again, and getting really quiet, all the feelings came flooding back.  I had to seriously ask myself how I could be part of a spiritual practice/community that had “kicked out” my kids.  And felt tremendous guilt for raising them in a community where they were not valued, and not wanted.  It was so painful.

All these feelings get super intense during a silent retreat.  It’s like being in an emotional pressure cooker!!!  At one dramatic moment I thought to myself, “They are making me choose between my spiritual practice and my children!!”  And I started sobbing loudly in the middle of the meditation hall with a hundred other people in the room.  Don’t worry, I wasn’t embarrassed, I’m used to it.  Happens all the time : )

365 Challenge Day 185 – Silent Retreat – Day 3

22 Dec

Day 3 of an 8 day Silent Retreat

I decided to practice Gratitude on this retreat.  I brought a journal (which is actually discouraged at this retreat center, but I went to this one wanting to do my own thing a bit.)  Every day I wrote a list of ten new things I was grateful for.  Some of the items were significant, like my kids, and some were mundane, like lentils, and hot water.  Then during the meditation sessions I would call mind one thing I was grateful for, say thank you, and then rest in that feeling of gratitude for a while, then move onto the next.  It was a beautiful practice!

Coming up with 10 unique items each time was a little more challenging than I thought it would be!!  I’m sure I could list hundreds, but I realized how many things that were coming to mind had to do with comfort, like heat, hot water, warm clothes, a nice house, etc.  And then another big category were items that had to do with pleasure, like yummy food, or beautiful colors.  I didn’t want my gratitude sessions to turn into sessions of Greed!!  For example, it would have really easy for me to walk around and say, I’m really grateful for the beautiful plant! (and then a voice in my head says, I want to buy one just like it when I get home!!)

So I tried to think of things that weren’t in either of those two categories, things about comfort, or things about sense pleasure.  And I couldn’t come up with much!!!

It just goes to show how little we actually need in this life.  Family, friends, healthy food, clean water, safe living environment, a good job, access to medicines…  most of the rest seems extra.