While on this retreat all food was made for us, there were NO cell phones, NO computers, NO reading, NO writing, NO TALKING, NO music, NO eye contact. That is a lot of restrictions and quite honestly I didn’t know how I would respond to them. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had felt resistance, rebellion, annoyance, frustration, or all of the above.
Amazingly, what I felt instead was relief.
With distractions minimized and all basic needs met (along with the inability to complain about any perceived lacks!), all I had to do every day was show up for scheduled activities, meditate, eat, walk, and rest when needed. What this meant is that I had the luxury of watching my patterns of thought and let me tell you: I have what feels like a non-stop, never ending dialogue going on in my head; yes, even (perhaps especially) when meditating. And I learned new and interesting things about myself by simply observing the busyness of my mind.
A few thoughts on stillness...
| Most of us resist it
Why? Because either consciously or unconsciously we know we’ll see things that make us squirm with discomfort. Stillness brings us face to face with patterns, habits, thoughts, and beliefs we normally ignore, push away, or simply don’t notice in our daily race to get things done.
| Why it’s essential to do it anyway
Paradoxically it’s for the very reason we resist it… to see all of the things that make us squirm with discomfort. If we never carve out time to step back and notice the thoughts and beliefs that drive our actions we will never find ease, reach our potential, or fully connect with our true self.
| It’s possible no matter how busy you are
Luckily the benefits of stillness can be found even without long retreats or hours of daily meditation. Begin by making a commitment to pause at random points throughout the day and notice what your body and breath feel like in that moment. It is key that you notice without judgment or the need to make whatever you’re feeling wrong in any way.
Ideally find something you do on autopilot like turning on your computer, sitting down to a meal, or putting on your seat belt, then break up the pattern by stopping and allowing yourself to drop into your body.
| The bottom line…
If you want more ease in your life you must first be able to see what is blocking you from having it. By slowing down, and listening carefully, you get to look at the fear that’s driving your anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction dead in the eye and get an honest, unvarnished look at what is holding the unwanted feelings in place. From that higher, clearer vantage point you expand your options for how to respond to the fear and start yourself on the path to emotional freedom.
Taking 3 days out of ‘normal’ life is one of the best things I’ve done for myself recently. Although I can’t say exactly what caused the shift, I came back from the retreat feeling calmer, more focused, and recommitted to living a life that has meaning, purpose, and joy…not bad for a 72 hour investment! And remember, even a few moments each day of intentional pausing is a great place to start.