Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ~ Carl Gustav Jung
Ready, set, go! I finally took to the air with one carry-on and one back pack for three months of travel. I had no room to spare which means no souvenirs or gifts, sorry my friends. First stop….Mazunte, Mexico for 10 nights of silent mediation at Hridaya Yoga.
Oh my god [OMG], 10 nights of WHAT?!?!?
Does that mean you cannot talk?
Can you read emails?
No, no technology.
Can you make phone calls or text?
No, no outside distractions.
Can you read a book?
OMG, I can’t be quiet for 5 minutes let alone 10 days and
I certainly couldn’t give up my phone or unplug, not even for a day!
So, what do you for 10 days and nights?!?!
What do you hope to achieve?
Some people think I am out of my mind to be off the grid for 10 days, let alone be silent, but I find it a lot easier than it sounds.
What I expected:
I undertook my first silent mediation about 2.5 years ago. It was three nights on Lake Titicaca in Peru. Based on this and that the organizers were affiliated, I went in expecting my days to be full of meditation and yoga; not much more. I had fully anticipated no reading or use of technology during the practice and had an overall sense as to what to expect in way of the process, however 10 days is a bit more dramatic than 3!
I have been asked if I experience any major transformations or insights, and I’ve been asked if I feel different after these retreats. In other forms of personal development I’ve experienced both instantaneous and subtle transformations; both are effective, both are amazing. Deep down I’d love more instantaneous transformations however, I try to go in with an open mind, with no preconceived expectations, knowing that many times we must go through gradual transformation, baby steps, in order to learn.
It’s very typical and common for us to ‘maintain’ our bodies and to have annual check-ups, regular teeth cleanings, regular eye exams, etc. Just as important as our physical bodies, it’s important to take time maintain our mind and soul. I see the silent meditations as an annual maintenance for my mind and soul [for my UK friends, an annual ‘MOT’]. A clear out of the old and a planting of seeds for change and personal development and making room for future growth and creations, almost like clearing closets to make room for the new and improved.
My Experience & Observations:
Location & Food
Let’s start with the easy stuff. The retreat location was fairly remote and serene but still accessible to a nice small village. Not only can you see and listen to the ocean waves, listen to the birds chirping and singing, you wake up to roosters cock-a-doodling and the smell of earth; I just love the smell of earth!
The actual facilities are very eco-friendly: the toilets are ‘dry’ toilets; when was the last time you needed 10 step instructions ? Bathing, if you can call it that, was filling an empty coconut shell with water and dumping it over your head. Quite refreshing in the very hot temperature, but I’m not sure I’d be able to cope in the cold!
My sleeping area was ‘dorm’ like with three sets of bunk beds. Not only did I have four lovely companions sharing the room, three of which were also spending months travelling, but I also had a surprise ‘guest’ sleeping in my bed upon arrival; not as exciting as you might be imagining ! Thank goodness I’m not allergic to animals, not the four-legged kind anyway!
Believe it or not, this was all quite civilized; that’s the accommodations I’m referring to, ha, ha.
In regards to food, I was certainly expecting vegetarian but in fact we had vegan three times a day. I was impressed by the creativity, what can be made and how delicious vegan food can be. There were some especially nice sweets.
To give you a sense of structure, here’s a look at a typical day, well every day in fact:
06.30am morning wake up via gong [set alarm as a backup!]
07.00 – 09.00am: meditation
09.00 – 09.45am: breakfast
09.45 – 11.00am: teaching
11.00 – 12.30pm: yoga
12.30 – 1:00pm: mediation
1.00 – 3.30pm: lunch & rest [well timed for the mid-afternoon heat]
3.30 – 6.30pm: meditation
6.30 – 7.30pm: dinner
7.30 – 8.30pm: teachings
8.30 – 9.30pm: meditation
Help ! Help! Please Help!
I had two big struggles throughout; my first was physical. I tried to be brave and force myself to sit cross-legged on the floor with a yoga mat but unfortunately my legs were not in a blissful state of meditation but rather a deep painful sleep, so numb I thought they were going to fall off! Thank goodness for an easy remedy, chairs and pillows to sit up straight. I learned only to sit cross legged on the floor, for the short mediations, if you call an hour short.
The bigger of the two struggles was mental, no, not that kind of mental! Many times I struggled to go deep into a meditative state and had numerous cases of ‘monkey mind‘. This however, I feel is part of what meditation is about. First, to recognize and acknowledge that your thoughts are all over the place; this is ok. Second, to train your mind to focus/refocus in order to calm and slow it down. The more you do it, the better you get and the faster your mind comes to a calm and focused state.
While I’m spending time home for the holidays, I’m teaching a family dog the command ‘down’ [to lie down]. The first time using the command was difficult but after a few times of practice [he is lucky to have the incentive of a treat] he lies down much quicker to the command, at times even anticipating it. Even though he now knows the command, there are times that he slips and times he doesn’t want to obey so quickly, or at all. I think the mind acts the same, but with training, repetition, consistency, discipline and patience, it can be tamed.
“Thoughts will lead you in circles. Silence will bring you back to your centre.” ~ Rasheed Ogunlaru
During this silent time, the more I became aware of my thoughts, the more I noticed first, how repetitive they are and second, how ridiculous they can be. Especially how they can just trail off on a tangent and even create stories in your head. I sometimes sit and follow the trail of where my thoughts have led me, how one thought triggered another; where they started and ended really can have no relation to each other. I consciously try to do this if I find I’ve been thinking about something negative to see if there was a trigger point.
Can you think of times when you’ve experienced this? What outrageous stories have your thoughts created?
To my surprise, I found my greatest depth of mediation came during the yoga practice, which at Hridaya Yoga the postures are held for a specific length of time. Although I found some of the positions difficult and difficult to hold, in the end this was incredibly energizing and meditative.
I was also incredibly impressed by the teachings. There was structure and discipline but more interestingly, the teachings included various approaches across a broad spectrum of thoughts and in their words ‘…we address broad aspects of the Spiritual Heart, from a variety of traditions including esoteric Christian, Sufi, and Kashmir Shaivism traditions.‘. They weren’t unhealthily and fanatically tied to single way of looking at things.
The topic of the ‘heart’ deserves more justice than space we have here, but I will note that it’s incredible to see the ‘heart’, not the ‘physical’ but the ‘spiritual‘ or the ‘intelligent’ heart referenced in so many teachings over thousands of years and is now becoming more recognized even scientifically as an intelligent source connected to all. Here’s a brief but interesting video from the HeartMath Institute and a brief note in this article [see #8].
Thank goodness everyone’s eyes are closed during meditation. Around day 6 or 7, I first began to feel energy ‘releasing’, this can happen in different ways for different people. For me, I know if I begin to cry emotionally over something I can’t even begin to put my finger on, I’m releasing stuck energy; not the ‘monthly’ kind. When I first experienced this a few years ago it was difficult as I am ‘not a crier’ and I certainly don’t want to be seen sobbing in front of anyone in private let alone in public!
This however was not my surprise. All of a sudden my energy began moving around like crazy on its own! It was so out of control, it has a mind of its own, moving left, right, up, down, in a figure eight, in a circle, all over the place and the first thought that came to mind was, this looks like a scene out of one of those movies where people drop to the floor in church and move uncontrollably. I was so relieved I didn’t bump the person next to me! Now, if I could only be that flexible when dancing!!
Since this time, when meditating and sometimes just sitting still in a particular position, my energy moves of its own will. I don’t quite yet understand it but I’m letting it be and going with.
The last most unexpected part of my experience was I felt as if I could have continued for another 10 nights! Go figure!
I would love to hear about your silent meditation experiences/thoughts and happy to answer any questions you may have.
“Life is a manifestation of where you direct your energy.
Meditate to master your mind, direct your energy and create the life you want!”
Love & Light & to living your yellow brick road,
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