Six days of silence = peace of mind

Mother's Day card from my granddaughter, Sadie. Handmade. (c)2016

My Mother’s Day card from Sadie, my granddaughter. She designed it by hand.

In January of this year, I signed up for a  6-Day Vipassana Residential Retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA.  After my big trip to Italy and my 70th birthday in October, I longed for a chance to submerge myself in silence and mindfulness practice – to integrate the experiences of my 70th year.

The first day of the retreat  I cried all day; the second day I was angry. The third day I had the feeling of being held in the palm of God’s hand and sank into that blissful feeling. By the fourth day, my mind was already preparing to leave and return to my life. Poor mind, so restless and agitated.

All the details of daily living were taken care of by volunteers. Delicious vegetarian meals were prepared and served at the same  time each day. All we had to do was show up in the meditation hall for our  sitting meditation practice. I wasn’t accustomed to sitting for 1 hour. My daily practice at home is only 30 minutes once a day. When I go to a meditation group, we usually sit for 45 minutes. So 1 hour of sitting was challenging, to say the least. My back complained but I discovered that if I wore a blindfold, I was able to sit without squirming so much. Seeing 85 other people in the hall, not moving a muscle for 60 minutes helped me to do so.

In those 6 days I witnessed my “wild restless mind”  which is forever making a to-do list and looking for problems to solve. It was exhausting to experience this over and over. I kept telling my mind, “Just calm down and relax, you will not disappear if you don’t have a ‘to do’ list for a few days.” I realized how much of my life and energy is consumed with being a problem-solver both for myself and others. At the retreat, I attempted to take a “leave of absence” from that job for just 6 days. Poor mind does not give up easily.

Yet, by the end of the week, I was filled with joy and happiness. In the weeks since I returned I’ve done my best to maintain that state. Sometimes I’m successful, but sometimes I slip back into the old ways. It was a week of practice and what I’ve learned is that that practice can be continued in my daily life if I make it a priority. But I must keep in mind that practice doesn’t = perfection. That’s not possible in this human realm. What is possible is being content with imperfection and impermanence. So grateful for the teaching of  the Vipassana Residential Retreat at http://www.spiritrock.org

 

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