Reading Sylvia Boorsteins’s: Don’t just do something, sit there – I am inspired to remember the value of periodic retreats. Paraphrasing Sylvia and integrating with my own ponderings:
So why practice ‘in seclusion’ rather than ‘in the midst of life’? On retreat, we are freed of the usual diversions and distractions. There is no place to hide. We open to the possibility of knowing ourselves a bit better. Really we practice seeing how things are rather that how we are.
In our day to day lives we complicate our moments, spinning up elaborate productions and the mind becomes confused and fatigued. Oh yes I know this one well. Chasing pleasant experiences and running away from unpleasant experiences. The experiences aren’t the problem – it’s that chasing and running that creates tension in the mind. And this tension is the suffering from which we seek ease and freedom. It’s the common human experience and we can easily get stuck in our autopilot ways of doing life as we do the best we can to live well. With mindfulness all we add to our experience is calm attention: so as I sit, I sit attentively, when I walk, I walk with alertness. Maybe I’ll see the story line playing out, the triggered emotions, the sensational experience of it all. Mindfulness is seeing clearly, awakening to the happiness of the uncomplicated moments.
On retreat we slow it all down. And in the slowing down we discover. The doorway to possibility. We have the opportunity to practice letting go of the elaborate productions created by the mind that make life much more difficult than it needs to be. Over and over again. We come to see the truth of thoughts as creations of the mind and how we get stuck with them, identifying with the story or narrative we tell ourselves. Maybe we get to recognise the inner coach voice who offers- ‘go for it’, ‘try hard’, ‘you can do it’; or the carer – the ‘have some tea’ voice; ‘you’re doing fine’, ‘ no right or wrong here’, ‘have some tea’. Maybe others.
The most important guidance for me: don’t plan for a particular result, who knows what lies around this corner? If we are on the lookout for something specific this may divert us from seeing something really great.
So I’m about to head into a week of silent retreat. It’s hard to make the time, to switch off the devices, to step out of the purposeful and busy life of doing, to ask family and friends for the space. I’ve had a myriad of moments on retreats in the past – joyful, frustrating, sorrowful, peaceful, confused, contented, terrified, numb, alive, free, insightful. I have returned renewed and re-energised. I am aware that I am hopeful to face some autopilot habits, avoidance and numbing out and revisit and reclaim some inner strength and ease. And with that intention recognised, let me drop away those words and let’s see what happens!
Mindfulness gives us space and time needed for the mind to take care of itself. The intention remains key: opening the doorway to possibility. Why not try for yourself? Join us for a day of quiet practice in beautiful countryside.
“When your world moves too fast and you lose yourself in the chaos,
introduce yourself to each colour of the sunset.
Reacquaint yourself with the earth beneath your feet.
Thank the air that surrounds you with every breath you take.
Find yourself in the appreciation of life.”
– Christy Ann Martine.