Silent Meditation Retreat Lessons
Last week I was on an eight-day silent meditation retreat. We sat in meditation for eight hours a day. We were in silence throughout our retreat which included no reading, writing, or use of technology such as cell phones or computers. Outside of thanking all of you again who made this incredible experience possible for me, I thought I would share with you four insights that I had from my week in silence and meditation.
The first big insight was a sense of spaciousness and emptiness that came both from the meditation, but also from the silence and not putting information into my mind in the form of reading books, emails, social media or watching youtube videos and scrolling through social media. I thought I would miss these things, but ultimately there was such a sense of expansion and openness that came from not consuming information in an endless way that loosened up the endless grip of anxiety and tension. Returning home I am setting intention around not picking up so much information again and being more selective about what and when I put into my mind. I am also literally clearing and decluttering space in my home to reflect the clear and expansive sense of mind that I am experiencing.
The second insight I had were two insights around time, which also expanded and softened. During the endless hours of sitting meditation, 45 minutes each sit, I had a realization around how much I rush to get through things, both on and off the meditation cushion. At the beginning of the retreat, I realized that I spent a lot of time just dying for the meditation to be over, whether it from an experience of physical pain in my body, physical agitation or even just frustration with trying to get the meditation technique being taught. I wanted the experience to be over. Over the course of eight sits I day, I began to relax into the experience and appreciate them for what they were, valuing that time that I had on the cushion. This has translated off my cushion as well since I have been home, taking time to make dinner for my family and really rest into connecting with people I care about.
The second insight around my relationship to time was how I held this core belief around not having enough time to become proficient at a technique being taught for the meditation practice or to settle into the meditation practice itself. So on the one hand I couldn’t wait for the meditation to be over and on the other hand I felt like I didn’t have enough time and would be completely frustrated with my own ability. Through the endless hours of meditation sitting I came to realize that I had more than enough time each time I sat for the practice to unfold in its own time. This also has translated into my day to day life, when frustration arises over various tasks that feel like I do not have the skillset to accomplish in the time allotted, I let go of the belief that I do not have enough time and realize I have more than enough time to do everything that I want to. Over the last couple of days I have accomplished some things that have been important to me for a long time that before have seemed way too overwhelming.
The third thing that I was inspired by on my eight day silent meditation retreat was community. There were two ways I was inspired by community. One was the actual retreat location which was Stowell Lake Farm, which is a community of families who live and work together contributing to the farm’s improvement and sharing of its gifts. The second way was the actual sangha (community) of Dharma Ocean meditators who came together to support each other in our meditation for the week. It was amazing to me how much we can deepen in relationship even in silence in a week. One of the biggest ways I felt we did this was by sitting together for meals three times a day. I came home and decided to let go of my low table imperative and invest in a table and chairs that everybody can sit at so that our family can share meals together and so we can share more meals together with friends as well.
The final thing I learned during my experience of a week long silent meditation retreat was from my meditation teacher’s focus for the week on meditation. All week long, Neil taught about shamata, or where we place our attention. All week long we worked with our impulsiveness to jump from one thing to the next and instead we learned to attend well. All we long we focused on this one quote, “To learn to attend well is to discover our place in the natural order.” John Tarrant. All week long we asked ourselves, “Where is my attention?” We spent the week retraining our mind from bouncing around from one thing to another and instead focused on our object of meditation in a clear, definitive and precise way. By taking such a clear, definitive and precise focus I gained confidence and growth in my practice and for that I am incredibly grateful.
Have you ever gone on a week long silent meditation retreat? What did you learn from the experience? Let me know in the comments I would love to hear about your experience. If you have any questions about my experience, please let me know in the comments as well. Thanks for watching, please give the video a thumbs up if you liked it and would like to see more videos like this. Subscribe and turn on notifications. See you next week. Thank you for your presence here. I appreciate you.