Reflections on a silent retreat
I never realised how loud a herd of cows chewing is. Or how fascinating watching blades of grass being folded over in the wind could be.
Approximately 8 hours a day of formal meditation practice is a lot. This included morning yoga and mediation, daily instruction and guided practice for an hour and then three 1.5 hour periods of unguided self practice as well as an evening Dharma talk on the practices with Q and A.
Apart from these group sessions, we were silent. There were plenty of smiles and nods and silent and occasional whispered acknowledgements. Everyone supported each other in our shared intention, reveling in the anonymity, we didn't know each others stories, or often even each others names until the last day.
There was plenty of freedom to make the unguided times what I wanted. We were encouraged initially to sit for half an hour, practice mindful walking for 30 mins and another 30 minute sit. This was then extended to 45 min sit and 45 min walk. I was determined to try and sit for a full 1.5 hour period and managed 1 hour 20 before my urge to be kind to my knees gave way to child's pose.
Gratefully I was able to finally practice a 1.5 hour guided yoga nidra I have had for a while from an English teacher Christopher Gladwell, and was awake and aware for the entire time in that beautiful practice. I also practiced appreciative joy to marvel in this teachers skills to guide such a deep inquiry for that long!
One of the things I came to notice is that it's not so much as thought doesn't happen in meditation, but that I became less disturbed by them. They became just another phenomenon raising in the moment, like the magpie song or the smell of cow dung of the feel of my breath on my upper lip.
Mal Huxter, long time Buddhist teacher expertly crafted the retreat to allow us to explore a variety of meditations and to understand what they were and why they were important. We were also encouraged to notice the obstacles to mindfulness and I had many moments sitting with doubt and uncertainty and noticing the obsessive parts of my mind. I felt fully supported by Mal Amy and Lisa all psychologists who were available if we needed.
The last 10 days has given my mediation practice a much needed turbocharge boost and also reminded me of what I love about teaching yoga and movement- I was privileged to teach a yoga class one morning of the retreat. Mal has recorded the yoga nidra and it should be available on his website soon.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and am so pleased I went. Walking through the paddocks with the sound of the cows chewing and occasionally mooing was probably part of my favourite part.
I'm back teaching this week - come and join me as I continue to explore serenity insight and wisdom.