What a long, challenging day. Despite lacking the stamina for 5-6 hours of meditation & mindful movement, it was an interesting experience but I failed miserably with the rules of silence & no eye-contact. I could argue this was my rebellious / insubordinate side but it seems rude not to acknowledge the existence of others & we automatically say odd things like “thank you” when someone holds the door or apologise (e.g. for a non-flushing toilet) as part of social etiquette. So it was curious how that bothered me but overall, I’m not sure I found it as inspiring or energising as usual because it was mostly repetition in order to deepen practice. The guided meditations were interspersed with Qi Gong, yoga etc so we were not just sitting still the whole time. I went from concentrating to restless in the morning, then my mind seemed quieter in the afternoon but I was half-asleep. I also felt quite trippy & lightheaded on / off but that may have been due to only eating a banana. It was relaxing but also exhausting. Typically, I particularly enjoyed the mindful movement & body scan and sounds seem to help me focus. I was amused how I know a fair amount of the meditation dialogue by now. “Where are you now?” Plus, I loved the wheely chairs “Weeeee!” in the larger room.
We were instructed to drop the pebble in a pond and ask, “What brings you here today?” Answers that bubbled up included: continuing my spiritual journey; doing what’s important, meaningful; trying to sway the pendulum to more positive than negative events; looking for more peace of mind; to be calmer, less anxious. Throughout the meditations, various expressions I appreciated were: “Letting the mind settle in your grounded body. As I breathe in, I ground my body, as I breathe out, I settle my mind. Breathing in, I still my body, breathing out, I calm my mind.” “Feeling the sense of gravity, the sense of being held, gently, closely, without fail.” “Intentionally bringing yourself into a direct & intimate relationship with the present moment & whatever is arising in it for you as much as possible without judgement. You have the opportunity to expand your attention to explore body sensations, sounds, thoughts & emotions. You are taking time to become more familiar with who you are beyond all the wanting & having & doing.”
During the mountain meditation, the image of Julie Andrews swirling singing ‘The Hills Are Alive’ popped in my head. I thought it is a shame I was not sat crossed-legged to form a triangle, like the structure of a mountain but technically, mountain pose is just an erect, dignified posture, either sitting or standing. As in the lake meditation, we were encouraged to take on its attributes when faced with adversity e.g. silence & stillness. I struggled again with the smile meditation. It appears I was not alone either asone woman described how in order to embrace it, she needed to picture herself at a happy event. All I could think about was the grinning teeth of the Cheshire Cat from Alice In Wonderland in my chest. However overall, on this occasion, I seemed to have more success with the compassionate breathing or Tonglen (breathing in the black smoke & dissolving it into white light), balancing on one leg and mindful walking, despite finding it a little tedious after a while.
After walking slowly, “Synchronise your breath with the movement,” we were encouraged to move at normal pace weaving in & out of people, tensing our fists & jaw, imagining there were objects to deliberately head towards, changing directions, stopping etc. “Now close your eyes. Begin, very slowly, to walk backwards, gently leaning into any contact you make with an object or person before moving in another direction.” I felt uncomfortable, disorientated & vulnerable. What if I bumped into someone and was not allowed to say sorry? “Orient yourself to the centre of the room, continue to walk slowly backwards and start to hum.” Someone commented it was like being in a giant bee hive. Finally, we were to pick up a card on the floor and find the person with the matching jewel for a discussion answering the 2nd pebble question, “What has my experience of today been?” We were advised to talk quietly in a whisper at first, in order to dissolve the silence gradually.
One woman said she had enjoyed the peace & tranquility. Another mentioned how it was easier to be silent because you were not allowed to look at each other. John commented it would be awkward if you were the only one but we were given permission as a group. Another confessed how she did not want to come because she lives in constant noise (falling asleep & waking up to the radio) and asked herself, “Why are you so scared of it being quiet?” On the subject of getting rid of the distractions all around us, the television, the phone etc, Mike mentioned a woman who goes into a retreat in her own house for a day or two.And a lady laughed about how during lunch a stranger began speaking to her, which was difficult. Oneman said he usually puts his headphones in & listens to music during breaks but decided against it. I piped up that would probably prevent people from talking to him as they would assume he could not hear.
I only half realised the silence / no-eye contact rule also applied to folks outside of the room & actually went to the post office & local shop during my break. In my defence, I had a parcel that needed sending before closing time & was concerned about fainting so felt compelled to buy a snack. Therefore, I’m considering going to the Day Of Practice again & taking the guidelines much more seriously. In the end, we were invited to listen to a poem called Happiness by Lama Gendun Rinpoche. “Happiness cannot be found through great effort & willpower. It is already here, right now in relaxation & letting go. Don’t strain yourself, there is nothing to do. Whatever arises in the mind has no importance at all because it has no reality whatsoever. Don’t become attached to it, don’t pass judgement… Everything happens by itself.”