Posts Tagged ‘retreat’
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.
I’m back from the meditation retreat. I’ll write more about it later this week after I catch up with all the emails, search committee stuff, instruction, and other things that have been languishing while I meditated for the past (almost) two weeks.
I will say that this was one of the hardest and best experiences of my life.
(This post was written on Aug. 21.)
DH and I were talking about the meditation retreat (which I’ll be starting when this post is actually published) and he asked me what I hoped to gain or accomplish or discover…something like that.
This is a hard question to answer. One thing I hope to discover eventually is greater clarity in my life. This may sound trite, but there are days when I really wonder what I’m doing and if I’m doing the right thing. Then I start to wonder what is the right thing. How do you know? I’m looking to create some inner stillness so that I can delve into deeper issues and figure some things out.
I also want to find a sense of peace with myself. Having anxiety and depression makes for a pretty noisy and chaotic inner landscape sometimes. Often, it’s almost paralyzing and I have to really push to work through things and keep going. I’m not looking for a fix-all or cure, but I’d like the ability to make some stillness in there.
There is an image I have of the person I want to be. Although it’s pretty idealized, I still think it’s possibly to attain it. Part of it involves a more enlightened me who does good because it should be done, without ulterior motives. Yes, I’m beginning a journey that will never end, but I hope will improve who I am and how I treat others.
These are a few meager things I’d like to achieve. Truly, I don’t know what to expect out of these 10 days. I go in with no expectations of what it will be like because it’s completely different from anything I’ve done before. All I do know is that this is the right time to be doing this.
It’s weird to think that next week I’ll be retreating completely from the world to learn Vipassana meditation. And when I say completely, I mean just that. No cell phone, no computer, no television, no books, no newspapers, no radio, no talking. What will the world look like when I return? During that time, we will once again honor 9/11, the Republicans will have their convention, gas prices will do whatever it is they are going to do, Gustav will likely blow itself out after wreaking whatever havoc it must, and generally the world will go on.
It’s a strange concept of retreating in a world where most of us are so completely plugged in some way throughout our waking hours.
Then I think about what retreat means.
1.a. The act or process of withdrawing, especially from something hazardous, formidable, or unpleasant.
b. The process of going backward or receding from a position or condition gained.
2. A place affording peace, quiet, privacy, or security.
3.a. A period of seclusion, retirement, or solitude.
b. A period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, or study: a religious retreat.
I will be withdrawing hopefully from unpleasant ways of dealing with the world around me. I am going backward so that I can move forward again in a new direction. I will be in a place that will offer me quiet. I will essentially be in seclusion from the world. And I will be with a group of other people seeking the same thing, to learn the meditation technique.
There are two events in my planner that I’m really looking forward to.
The first is Stitches Midwest. While a giant fiber market with all sorts of yarns and other fibery goodness thrills me to my toes, I also get to see my family again. I do take advantage of the few opportunities I get each year to make trips up to see them and do whatever official thing actually brings me to the area. And this trip really is all about pleasure. There might even be a stop at Ikea in the works. DH is likely to also get a growler of some tasty brew from a local microbrewery/brew pub.
In the beginning of September is the meditation retreat. I’m nervous in some ways, because it will be strange to spend 10 days without a computer, phone, knitting, books, etc. Yet I’m really excited about the possibility of creating profound change in my life. I have no idea what to expect except for long periods of meditation while we learn the technique. My pillow has arrived and my meditation bench is on the way. Other than that, there isn’t much preparation to do. (And how will I survive all that time without blogging?! *laugh*)
So, that’s what’s going in my life. How about you?