I’d been toying with the idea of attending a Meditation Retreat for many years. I had fantasies of sitting in silent meditation in perfect lotus pose for days on end and emerging from the retreat enlightened, blissed out, rainbows and light streaming out of me.
But of course there was also a lot of hesitation. First off these retreats are not free, (unless you jump right into a 10 day Vipassana Course), they require you to spend vacation days in silence rather than in an exotic locale, and oh yea, you don’t have access to technology or friends, or language, or TV, or music. So I never really pulled the trigger until this year.
As many of you know I started a daily meditation practice back in May of this year and a retreat felt like the right way to cap off a transformative 2018. So in September I took the plunge and signed up for Insight Meditation Community Of Washington’s New Year’s Silent Retreat.
That ^ was a great decision.
December 27th 2018:
I got to the Retreat Center in Reisterstown, Maryland in the afternoon. I sent my last “Oh my God I love you so much, I’ll miss you so much,” text to my husband, shut off the phone and got myself checked in.
In preparing for the retreat my fear was having no access to people, no access to my friends or family or my husband via the phone, no way to get to hear a reassuring voice, but when I saw the schedule for the retreat a new fear came: There is no way I can meditate for 6 hours a day.
5:45AM – Wake Up Bell
6:15-6:45AM – Mindful Movement Class (Qi Gong, Shadow Yoga Inspired Class)
6:45 – 7:30AM – Sitting Meditation in the Main Meditation Hall
7:30-8:30AM – Breakfast
8:30-9:00AM Walking Meditation
9:00- 10:00AM – Guided Meditation in the Main Meditation Hall
10:00-10:45AM – Walking Meditation
10:45-11:30AM – Sitting Meditation in the Main Meditation Hall
11:30-12:00PM – Walking Meditation
12:00 – 12:30PM – Sitting Meditation in the Main Meditation Hall
12:30- 2:15 PM – Lunch and Rest
2:15 – 3:00 PM – Sitting Meditation in the Main Meditation Hall
3:00 – 3:45 PM – Walking Meditation
3:45 – 4:30PM – Guided Heart Meditation in the Main Meditation Hall
4:30 – 5:30 – Yoga
5:30 – 6:30PM -Dinner
6:30 – 6:45 Walking Meditation
6:45 – 7:15PM – Sitting Meditation in the Main Meditation Hall
7:15 – 7:30 – Walking Meditation
7:30 – 8:30PM – Dharma Talk
8:30 – 9:00PM – Walking Meditation
9:00 – 9:30PM – Sitting Meditation and Chanting in Main Meditation Hall
Up until this time, the longest I had meditated for in a single day was 45 minutes. I sat ONE TIME for 45 minutes and dubbed it a “meditation of great determination.” Now I was expected to meditate for 45 minutes multiple times per day? That sounded crazy hard.
And then another fear came after walking out of the Orientation Meeting: This place is so chill. They’re not going to make me do anything. Oh no, they’re not going to make me do anything. What if I just do nothing? What if I squander this opportunity? What if I don’t show up to sits or sleep in and slack off?
What if, what if, what if. Future thinking. Worry.
I brought myself back. Took some breaths. And then the loosening of fear and the pep talk:
Jacki, this is something you do have control over. This is an opportunity for you to practice choosing the right thing, the hard thing, the thing for yourself. No one can see but you.
So what do you want? Do you want to be the person who can say they went on a retreat or do you want to be the person who shows up when no one’s keeping track?
For the next five days I told myself, kindly, repeatedly, “Right now, I am going to put in effort. Because I can and because this is something I want to prioritize.”
And I did. Of course I could sit that long and I did sit that long. In the five days I was there I missed one sit. Ha, because I was sleeping. (Be kind to yourself). But otherwise I was there. Sitting my ass on that cushion and quieting myself, slowing myself down, choosing the wise thing for myself, playing at my edge.
Oh my God I’m just getting started….more posts to come.