If I told you I was going to scoop you away into a day of total silence, how would you react? No email, no kids to manage, no traffic – It sounds good, right?
Just me, myself and I being with my thoughts in silence all day. Um, wait, not so fast, maybe I should think this through a bit.
We rarely consciously surrender to being in the present moment 100%, often because we think we can be more productive multi-tasking. Most of us are newbies with really being fully present with ourselves because it’s a hell of a lot more familiar and comfy “doing” something than “being” with the moment.
My class participants courageously committed themselves to a day of silent practice as part of the 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course. Inspired by Anderson Cooper’s 60 Minutes segment, they voluntarily donated their cell phones to the basket while I “phone sat” and guided them with mindfulness practices of the body scan, sitting meditation, yoga, walking meditation and mindful eating.
Most participants were new to the world of silent retreat, yet they all embraced the day with their own experience – tentativeness, excitement or curiosity. Some people expected to struggle and found the day to be peaceful while others expected it to be easier than it was. I’m sure at least one of them wanted to take control of the bell and call it a day well before it was over - a normal response on retreat and is well described by Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Eat Pray Love.
It takes courage to walk into this place of uncertainty. As someone with many silent retreats behind me, each retreat is a new opportunity to learn more about myself and my reactions. I recently made friends with my “planning mind” which is so busy controlling the future that it’s completely missing the present moment. This week I took part in a Mind Body Medicine Retreat with Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn’s team from The Center for Mindfulness. I spent the week with over a hundred people that came from all parts of the world including Europe, South America, Australia, Japan and Singapore! The room was filled with plenty of physicians, nurses, educators and psychotherapists interested in bringing mindfulness back home in hopes of reducing the pain, suffering and stress of the world.
A day of nothingness is not exactly like going to the spa. There can be lots of uncomfortable moments that arise in the physical body and in our thoughts and emotions. This is where the benefits of our own direct experience teaches us. What is our unique response to boredom, irritation, or restlessness? This is not discovered by reading a book about mindfulness. This comes with practice and nobody can do it for you. If you are curious, come join us for a weekend retreat in Lake Tahoe 3/20-22 which will be partially silent, so you can ease your way in, instead of jumping in the deep end.