This past Saturday, March 24th, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a free meditation retreat run by Linnie for GSU students at the Indian Creek Lodge. This was my second retreat, and I’ll suffice it to say that it was a very different experience than the first one last November. There is something incredible about being mindful for a full 8 hours (not just sitting for 8 hours straight, but with multiple activities). Everyone seems to go through a different experience, and it is pretty incredible to lose track of time, enjoy and be with nature, sit with oneself however one is, and just be. An 8 hour retreat is not a trivial event, especially to someone new to meditation and not as used to it. That being said, mindfulness meditation is a journey, and there’s no “mastery” of it.
As Linnie sometimes says (paraphrasing),
“Are you aware of what you’re doing? Right now?”
One idea this reminds me of is that no one is mindful all the time, and one can fall in and out of the habit of practice. It has been easy in the past for me to think once I’ve fallen off the horse, I’ve failed. But as I’ve come to learn from some of Linnie’s meditations, we can start again, in this moment, both in the midst of a meditation practice and in life. “You can start now, with this breath. Or this breath.” I can decide to set aside time to meditate each day, maybe just for a little while, or maybe for 30 min at least X times per week. The trick is to simply start, and to be kind to yourself. After all, you’re starting (again)! That’s commendable.
Returning to the topic of the retreat, my experience this time was one of somewhat content discomfort. I have been going through a lot of changes, and that day in particular I wasn’t especially happy with some of them. I was worried. But I was aware of these feelings. I was aware of having fewer thoughts than I’m used to and how that made me uncomfortable, too. And in the awareness there was a sort of comfort — nothing especially bad happened for being aware. I was simply aware of how I felt and thought in those 8 hours. And a sort of consistent awareness didn’t happen right away (or arguably at all — distractions are inevitable). I fell asleep a few times, and I reminded myself that this was okay, too, being aware of the tendency I occasionally have to feel guilty or like I missed something. At the end of the day, I was reminded of how being mindful is being aware of and accepting things as they are in the moment — this does not mean one cannot want to and take actions to change. But in the moments of mindfulness, this is not the focus, and in fact, taking things in as they are has helped me better inform the changes I want/need.
A quote as you continue on with your day:
“To think in terms of either pessimism or optimism oversimplifies the truth. The problem is to see reality as it is.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh