Yep. I had just gotten done outlining all of my insights, observations, and lessons learned from my day-long meditation retreat. I mean it was a really good blog, you would’ve loved it. I couldn’t wait to share my experience, and with a faint smile, I went to click…oh no….where did it go??? IT ERASED.
And such is life.
So this is round 2! For those catching up, I did a 7 hour silent meditation retreat a couple of months back. This was really stepping outside of my comfort zone, and while I was confident I’d enjoy it, there was a large chance I’d hate every second, and an even larger chance of being surrounded by whackos. But damn it I did it, and I’m so glad I did. Here’s how it went:
Did you hate it?
Not at all, I loved it, and in fact I can’t wait to do it again. Shell Fischer, the instructor, is fantastic. She’s been doing this for 25 years, although she certainly doesn’t look it. She alternated the class between ‘sits’, which are meditations, and something I had never done before, walking meditation. But more on that later. She also interspersed the class with ‘dharma talks’, which is the first instruction on meditation I’ve received outside of apps on my phone and Youtube. She was able to answer a lot of the questions I came in with, and many more I’m sure I’ll have in the future.
Was it weird?
Yes. There was certainly a crunchy feel to the crowd, and there were many more women than men, but that wasn’t the weird part. There is a weird rule that I think is fairly standard at meditation retreats: no eye contact. It sounds easy enough, but in practice it’s really hard. I’ve been taught my whole life to look people in the eyes, say hello, and generally acknowledge other humans. But all that is against the rules. The reason for that is to not distract anyone’s attention. You are supposed to be focused on your thoughts, your breathing, yourself, and all that becomes a little distracting when someone keeps making winkey faces at you, or you feel like you’re being started at. So yea that was a little weird, but I think I pulled it off.
Weird thing number 2. Walking meditation. Now I had never done this before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The instructions are simple: Walk slowly, feeling your feet and surroundings for 10 or so feet, turn around and repeat. It’s a mindfulness and awareness drill that I came to enjoy very much and still incorporate on an almost daily basis in my ‘real’ life. The weird part comes when you look up at everyone doing the same drill. Here we were, 80 people paying ridiculously close attention to the breeze on our faces, walking in tight circles often with eyes closed. It looks like the Walking Dead, and it’s hilarious. I took a peak one time and almost laughed out loud, which certainly would’ve broken some concentration and not earned me any brownie points as a meditator, but still….it’s pretty funny.
Wait, tell my why you did a retreat again?
I’ve been getting deeper into meditation recently, and the deeper I go, the more I like it. It’s helped me stay present in the moment, eliminate distractions, and generally stay off the never-ending river of thoughts flowing by at any given moment. Dan Harris calls it, ‘getting behind the waterfall’, a description I really like, and his book 10% Happier is fantastic for those who are interested.
All of our brains work similarly. They churn out thought, after thought, after thought, and a lot of those thoughts have a negative impact on emotions. How often have you been trying to go to sleep, and then you remember something you forgot, and now you can’t sleep? Or you’re driving home, someone cuts you off, and you imagine exactly what you would do, and say, and throw, if you ever got out of the car and confronted them? Yea me too.
Meditation is not about trying not to have these emotions, but realizing them for what they are. A passing thought, that doesn’t control you. “Oh wow, that guy is a jerk and probably cuts off a lot of people. I’m going to change lanes.” Instead of, “He cut me off, I’M GOING TO FOLLOW HIM HOME.”
This presence of mind takes practice, and the point of a retreat is to get in a lot of practice. Something I plan on continuing. So yea it was a little weird, and my entire blog got deleted, but it was STILL absolutely worth it.