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Monday, August 17, 2015

2015 Mindfulness Retreat in Garrison, NY; or Mindfulness for the Non-Hippy Part 2: 1st Day of Silence

Sat., Aug 8 - 1st full day of silence.

Silence actually began after breakfast.  I got all excited when I saw a big bowl of yogurt and a big bowl of granola.  One of my favorite things to eat for breakfast!  Then, I took a big spoonful into my mouth . . . there was nothing sweet on the granola - no sugar, no honey . . . it almost tasted salty!  Yuck!  When I took my bowl to the kitchen, I noticed a table with toast, peanut butter, jam, and BROWN SUGAR!  Wish I had seen that before I ate!

After breakfast, we all met in the meditation hall where the instructors explained the silent days.  During the silent days, there is guided practice; 30-45 min. of sitting meditation, then 30-45 min. of walking meditation, then repeat all day.  No talking (naturally), no electronics (absolutely!), no reading and no writing (wait . . . what?).  Just focusing on your inner self.  No reading? Not even a book about mindful meditation? No. No writing? No journaling our thoughts and feelings? No.  The instructors assured us we would not forget what we thought and felt.  They clearly have not reached middle age.  I can assure them I WILL forget.  So, I am already breaking a rule!  Well, technically it's not really a rule, but rather a "suggestion."  Suggestion noted. I'm journaling.

The "sits" (sitting meditation) . . . not a problem.  I was amazed at how fast 45 min. went by!  That was not what I expected.  Great opportunity to practice maintaining good posture for my back and neck.  Thinking "down and back" for my shoulders became my new mantra! I was pleasantly surprised at how easily I was able to get into the "zone," and how peaceful it felt.

The "walks" (walking meditation) . . . not a problem.  At first, I was disappointed that it wasn't just taking a walk.  Instead, we were to walk about 15 paces, stop, turn around, and walk 15 paces back, and keep pacing that distance back and forth.  Varying the speed helped, and actually slowing it WAY down, so you are mindful of every muscle movement in your legs and feet, made it more like a yoga exercise.  My legs are really weak from before my back surgery, and it's hard for me to balance on one foot.  So, this slow walking was really good to strengthen everything back up again. Again, I really got into the "zone," and was walking like a ninja!

The silent meals . . . a BIG problem!  I expected "unplugging" would be difficult.  I expected silence for 2.5 days would be difficult. I expected eating vegetarian would be difficult.  I did NOT expect eating in silence would stir up the emotions it did.  I started off ok. Mac and Cheese and salad - best meal so far!  I was mindfully eating; looking at the colors and textures on my plate, putting each bite in my mouth and letting it roll around on my tongue before chewing . . . and then the other group that is here came in to eat. They are not in silence.  And I watched as they sat at their tables, talking, laughing, and enjoying their meal.  Well, this surge of rage came up first with thoughts of "This is crap! Having to sit here in silence while they're having a good time! I feel like we're the bad kids in time out!"  And then, I began to feel incredibly depressed.  All I wanted to do was finish as quickly as possible and go back to my room . . . which I did, and proceeded to fall fast asleep!

Lesson Learned: Sit down meals at the table for me are more of a social event than about eating.  If I'm hungry, I'll grab something - an apple, a granola bar, a sandwich.  But, all my life sitting down for a meal was when we gathered together to talk about our day; whether it was my family growing up, or sitting with my friends at school, or sitting with my colleagues, or sitting with my husband.  We talk, we laugh, we vent, we eat. The only time we sit in silence through a meal is if someone is mad or upset about something.  So for me, there is nothing more sad or depressing than a table full of people sharing a meal in silence.  It's just not right.  I thought maybe being aware of this would make dinner easier, but it wasn't. Again, I ate quickly and went up to my room.

Other than meals, I survived my first day of mindful practice in silence better than I expected.  We'll see what day 2 has in store!

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