Sometimes heat really is the best catalyst.
I recently returned from a Vipassana retreat (10 days of silence with approximately 11 hours of daily meditation). To say it was intense is a bit of an understatement, so I will be doing a few different posts about my experience. This first one is just to break the ice, so to speak.
This month, I attended my retreat in the small town of Kaufmann, Texas. I am so very grateful I didn’t wait until the session in July because southern Texas is hot. It’s soupy, muggy, sticky hot. I felt overdressed in my modest garb, and each walk from the meditation hall to the dorm room left me feeling like a greased pig. (Okay, perhaps the metaphor only occurred to me because it sounded like something they might say in Texas.)
So in my private quarters, in the hours of solitary mediation, I often stripped down and sat naked, feeling the relief of the small fan as I drifted in and out of awareness.
In those hours I learned, relearned and unlearned many things.
1. I am not a Buddhist!
I’m probably not going to be a nun in this lifetime even though as a child, I thought I would be, (although then, it was of the catholic persuasion.) I just can’t get behind the life is suffering philosophy. I get it, seriously, I really do and you don’t need to argue or prove it, or set me straight. I understand it, I just don’t experience it.
Over and over Goenke said to believe only what you experience. So my experience is not suffering or misery (even when I’m in pain). My resolve it to continue to identify as a yogi.
2. There are plenty of hours in every day.
Don’t believe me? Try meditating for half of them, and experience the subjective nature of time. Upon returning home, within days I was feeling the crunch of time and I had to remind myself that the amount of time is always the same—it’s only how we perceive, use and react to it. I meditate more.
3. The benefits of eating slowly are often underestimated.
When you have hours and hours of time, when your day is focused on meditating, and eating is outside the scope of formal meditation, you may find you eat a bit slower. I did. And although I often extol the virtues of mindful eating, I have not been the best practitioner I was during these 10 days. It will change your relationship to food. To how much you eat, to what you eat, to why you eat…just try it. Slow down, breathe, taste, chew and appreciate. Everything will be different.
4. You really don’t need much.
When you live simply, you realize how little you really need.
It was so nice to only have a few clothing options, a few food options, and a schedule. I have read in various places that too many choices can actually be a source of unhappiness. We question and crave and lust and doubt when we have too much. The acquiring of more stuff to find happiness is actually the exact opposite of what we need.
Sure, some of it was just not being stressed with less to do, but it’s amazing how good a simple meal is when that is all there is and you are grateful for it. In our pursuit of freedom sometimes I think we forget to be grateful and there is so much happiness in that place.
5. I am stronger than I realized.
Crap, all this means is I don’t have any excuses for not living up to my potential.
Isn’t it so much easier, in a way, to claim we have something wrong with us and that’s why we don’t, or can’t, do certain things?
I didn’t really believe I could be quiet for that long, let alone enjoy it. I had moments of sheer terror and others of boredom, and one moment of thinking I might actually have a meltdown. However, that’s when I found strength and it was welcome.
6. I am not growing old as gracefully as I thought I would.
I am critical of my wrinkles, lines, sags and greys. I don’t do much about it admittedly. I put on a brave face and pretend I’m all good with it, but the truth is, if I suddenly had a ton of money I don’t know if I could resist the urge to fix some things.
This was good to know, it means I have more work to do and now I know what it is.
7. I am pretty freakin’ spoiled.
I like to think of myself as the hippy—down to earth, go with the flow kind of gal. The truth is, I am pretty picky and not okay with substandard things. I’m a bit of a snob. I think it’s okay because what I am snobby about is organic food and eco-friendly products, but the truth is, I’m still a snob.
8. Writing is a huge part of my life experience.
When you attend a retreat, you are not supposed to bring any reading or writing material. I was good for the first few days, and then it was too much to hold in and I had to get something down and out…
Sub lesson? You can write on paper-towels, but don’t believe the movies that show people writing on toilet paper…it doesn’t work.
9. I really do love meditation.
The longer I do yoga, the more I settle into the meditation, and the longer I study meditation, the more it reveals to me. I want to try every kind of meditation anyone has ever promoted ever—except possibly TM (Transcendental meditation) because, holy crap, $1500? Well, if I get a windfall, I’ll add it to my list!
10. There is nothing new under the sun.
This is what it is. For now, I think it’s important to realize that when we sit, when we experience whatever it is we experience, we are not alone.
Editor: Brianna Bemel
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