Getting Silent to Find Peace.
This article was written by a dear friend Kate Morton, who lives “down under”! Kate lives in sunny Brisbane, Queensland Australia. Kate was introduced to Yoga at the tender age of fifteen to help her manage her asthma. As life took hold, adventure and work took her overseas travelling and working for many years. A busy life and Yoga fell by the wayside. She loves finding healthy living options for the mind, body and soul and is now reconnecting with what makes the soul tick.
I had the pleasure of meeting her while we were in Australia in the fall of 2011. She is an inspiring women and to see the effects that a dedicated yoga and mediation pracitice have… it is truly inspiring! And here her piece begins:
I recently undertook my first seven day silent Meditation retreat. Yes… silent and no eye contact. A gregarious extravert I can be, this was going to be extremely challenging. My idea of meditation was a 5 minute lie on the couch..then being allowed to turn on the tv.
What was the motivation?
Meditation has come up a healing strategy for me for many years, so time to address it. So my motivation was to experience and learn the benefits of daily mediation, shift something, restore energy having experienced Adrenal fatigue for 12 months … and someone to cook great vegetarian food, and that it was.
Was it what I thought it would be?
Possibly something I could of looked into more before I committed to booking in 5 days before it began, but hey when do I ever, I just go do it!!! And glad I did.
We have a reputable Vipassana Meditation retreat in beautiful Pimono Sunshine Coast, QLD Australia, a few friends saying it was life changing….but pretty strict….not something I needed as being too hard on myself, probably a result of the Adrenal fatigue, was not the idea. So an alternative was run by the Australian Dharma Insight group. Finding a comprehendible comparison or outline on either is difficult now I look for information, making it difficult to explain …something I now remember when listening to friends and their experiences.
What was it?
A 7 day Meditation retreat done in silence. ‘Why’ I hear some people say.
Quote : (and excuse me if you already know) …Insight Meditation (also known as Vipassana) refers to both Buddhist meditation practices and a largely Western form of Buddhism. A feature of Insight Meditation as a form of Buddhism is that it is either free of ritual or has minimal ritual. Aims of Insight Meditation include coming to a deep understanding of ourselves, and developing compassion for all living beings. There are different styles of Insight Meditation. Some common threads are that they all place importance on acting in an ethical way, and they all have a focus on settling the mind, developing a level of clarity, and looking carefully at one’s experience.
We had those practicing style opportunities and I was in an environment where structure was provided. The schedule included a 6am wake up (reasonable I thought), eight 45 minute opportunities during the day to sit, in silence, in the meditation hall. Of course you could sit additionally to this. An evening talk. Breaks for meals, a bell was rung to indicate time to move onto the next session. And an opportunity for individual conversations with teacher.
All sessions were optional, not compulsory and being in the beautiful (cold) hinterland off the Gold Coast, QLD Australia, lots of long walks with nature were in order when the sun appeared.
Vegetarian meals were provided, we had a daily 30 minute job – mine was breakfast clean up so there was a necessary opportunity for some talk then.
So the mixture of structure and flexibility was great and the teachers adjusted to the groups needs.
What did I experience ?
I can now sit comfortably, the perfect stool and sitting position helps. I averaged 5 sits a day and 45 minutes a day got easier – I wasn’t going to beat myself up. I had naps when I needed. And ate like a trooper. I put on weight that I needed to put on.
The biggest challenge was ‘this is weird’ ..no eye contact felt like I was surrounded by a room of zombies. Am I doing this right? Gosh they are serious about this stuff. Who are these people? I’ve got some great ideas of how I could renovate the kitchen….Eventually my thoughts did slow down after some particularly strong emotions and breakdown that needed my attention and assistance from teachers . The realization being that I can be in a pretty dark place after a shit year and I was hearing myself laugh again …even in silence.
In talking to the other students on the last day in order to re-acclimate to the outside world, I was hypersensitive to engulfing myself in others ‘stuff’, so I focused on feeling the joy others were experiencing and was quite surprised in their intrigue how I survived as a first timer. Maybe they had forgotten their maiden retreat now they had become regular ‘retreaters’ .
So I left with Trust and patience, trust to reduce the effort for things to work, as a result the sit became easier. And it was a great debrief and giggle with my new friend on the drive home.
I write this in a period of transition, but I can’t help but feel optimistic about the future. Will I join the Sunday night mediation group? Will I have more energy and focus, motivation and will meditation be a permanent part of my daily routine? Who knows. I certainly enjoyed the process of settling the mind and like the benefits.
I know what these silent retreats involve and now I have a stronger interest in Yatras – silent meditation 6 days walks. Combining my joy of walking, exploring new areas and peace of the silence.
So if the aims of Insight Meditation include coming to a deep understanding of ourselves, and developing compassion for all living beings, this is certainly a great way to stop and take time out to BE.
In the days since returning from the retreat, some notice being able to maintain an incredible level of focus and a sharpening of all the senses. I’ve noticed being grounded and less flighty, maybe I can call it a glow. But is it waning. Time to get back on the stool.
These experiences allow me to feel confident in saying there is something in meditation for everyone who is brave enough to give it a go and sit…….in silence.