Surviving my first silent retreat!
I always come back to this…
Let your thoughts go. Be here now. Focus on your breath.
A couple of years ago I attended my first weekend silent retreat. How hard could it be to be silent for 48 hours. It was hard (and I cheated a little bit). I’m pretty sure the only reason my head didn’t explode was that I cheated and talked to my hubby at night. Oh and I also texted my daughter. Okay, so maybe I cheated a lot!
I felt pretty confident going in as I practice meditation and mindfulness quite a bit. The first meditation was a breeze. “I’ve got this,” I thought. I’ll be a role model of meditating excellence! Ha!
By the second long meditation session I started to feel a little shaky and was certain I was the only one who was squirming around. After lunch we did a walking meditation, by this time I felt as though my equilibrium was completely off and I was having a difficult time balancing as I walked. I was pretty sure I needed to drive down the hill for an MRI because something must be wrong with me! I was reassured that I was right on track and that I was releasing toxins, and not having a stroke! The weekend continued with a combination of intrusive thoughts and body sensations haunting me. By the final mornings meditation session I was certain I was the only one who was NOT meditating.
And that is when I got it… We are all just practicing. That’s why its called a Meditation Practice. I was doing it “right” merely by staying on my mat or in my chair. I continue to do that now: show up, try, and practice. With everything…
As I think back on my life I realize I have been practicing a form of meditation for most of it. My mom said she would place me in my playpen for hours and I would just listen to the mantle clock. Tic Toc Tic Toc. Oh! This is why I learned to use sound to ground and soothe me. I still love the sound of clocks. I have a loud one in my office and I use it to help my clients return to the room or center if they are processing a difficult memory.
As an adolescent I began attending 12 step meetings and started formally meditating as part of the 11th step. I studied mindfulness as a way to “help my clients” and found my life seemed to flow more smoothly when I could stay more in the present moment instead of the past or the future.
If you find yourself stuck in a repetitive thought about the past or worry about the future try this simple four step process that Eckhart Tolle discusses in his works.
Take 2 slow deep breaths. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale….
Stand up and shake your arms and legs. It’s hard for us to be anywhere but here when we’re shaking!
Notice a thing of nature. A tree, flower, plant. You’re seeing the now.
Notice sound. What can you hear right now. You’re hearing your now.
Practicing these steps will bring you to the present moment. With this mindful technique you return back to yourself. Back home, to you.
Be ever so patient and kind to yourself. Keep trying. Staying present is hard work.
We’ve got this.
xo ~ Trish.
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