Taking a breath
Posted September 16, 2008on:
Things have been busy since I got back yesterday. We had a candidate interview that took up most of my day. This morning I had an instruction class. And then there was all the email to weed through and other things to catch up on. I think I’ve got the week in hand finally and can now relax a bit.
Let me tell you more about the retreat. It really was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life so far. It was intense and challenging and painful at times. But I don’t regret going and would do it over again. And will go back sometime next summer to serve and learn more.
We actually learned three different meditation techniques. The main one is called Vipissana (pronounced vi-pash-ana). The first technique we covered in the first three days of the retreat and the intent was to help us sharpen our minds for the actual work done during the Vipissana meditation. The third technique we learned on the last full day and it is to share love and peace with others. It kind of helps provide a balm after the work done during Vipissana meditation.
The pain was mostly physical. Meditating 11 hours a day can be hard on the legs and back. However, some of that pain turned out to be psychosomatic. On the fifth or sixth day, I had a particularly hard hour of meditation with such fierce pain in my hips that I was sure I was going to become physically ill. Somehow I managed to sit still (or at least as still as possible with my body shaking from the pain) and after that hour I never had hip pain again. Something was being worked through during the time and once it was gone, I felt better.
The general premise behind the Vipissana meditation is to focus on the sensations in the body. All the mental junk that we carry around gets manifested in various sensations and by observing them without reacting in any way, they lose their power and eventually are released from our bodies and minds. Quite logical when you think about it. And I like logical. I wasn’t looking for a kumbaya experience and this definitely was not one.
The silence part (we didn’t talk for the first nine days of the course) wasn’t all that hard. Although DH wouldn’t believe it, during a regular day, I don’t talk all that much. When I first learned that we would only be getting fruit and tea at the dinner hour, I was a bit concerned that I would be starving by the next morning, but this wasn’t the case. The vegetarian diet was really good and I’ve decided to stick with it. (Don’t worry family-types. I don’t expect special meals and will just eat what I can when we visit.) The one thing that never really got easier was getting up at 4:00 am. My circadian rhythms just aren’t the morning-person type.
Someone commented yesterday that I seemed different. I know I feel different somehow. It’s hard to explain how exactly, but I’m not the same person I was two weeks ago. Of course, maintaining this (and growing more) takes commitment. The minimum meditation recommended meditation time per day is 2 hours, 1 in the morning and 1 in the evening. For me, this is doable. I’ll also be looking into a group that meets in the Kansas City area since we are encouraged to continue group meditation at least once a week if possible.
There were some humorous things that happened during the ten days and as I remember them, you may get a bit more of a look at what life was like.
Now I’m back to teaching, meetings, weeding, book selecting, and all the other fun stuff that goes with my job.