I’ve written about the silence retreat I attended over Labor Day weekend not once, but twice. I had several people ask me about the more long-term effects of the retreat. I’m going to address what I believe to be the long-term effects, but I also found I have put other routines into place that have caused a change in my life. In fact, a bigger change in my life has been my daily kriya meditation practice, which lasts about 25 to 30 minutes. It’s hard to identify exclusively what impact the retreat had, but there is still insight to be gained.
Most people that I know are scared off by meditation. They believe it’s only for monks, yogis and gurus. They don’t think they can ever “quiet their mind”. I have been practicing one form of meditation or another for over five years. I have done everything from a body scan, where you tighten and relax various parts of your body; a loving kindness meditation, a meditation where you send out loving kindness to loved ones, enemies, and acquaintances; and now, I practice Sudarshan Kriya Focus, which is a breathing meditation where you put your body in certain positions to increase energy. The main difference with my current practice is that it lasts upwards of 30 minutes, whereas my prior meditation practices were ten minutes or less.
So this is what I believe the long term effects of a silence retreat are:
- Focus. I feel like I am much better able to focus. During the retreat, we were not allowed to use our phones, read books or watch television. With distractions gone, I discovered I was able to focus quicker and have carried that forward in my daily life. I’ve made a concerted effort, like right now on a Sunday morning, to have my phone in another room. Out of sight, out of mind. Distractions are the roadblock to focus. They eat up valuable time. Perhaps it’s the daily meditation, or the fact that I am in a completely quiet room with nothing to lure me away, but I am able to write and focus more quickly. There are no bings, pings or beeps to entice me away. I am now more focused.
- Technology-free. I realize I am writing this on a computer, but there is nothing open on my desktop, and my phone is some 50 feet away. During the silence retreat, I left my phone in the vestibule of the ashram. When you part with technology for the better part of two and half days, it makes it easier to part with it going forward. I remember a speaker I saw recently who said that just the mere presence of a phone at a meeting or appointment is distracting. It shows a sign of disrespect. Like something more important and urgent could invade the space at any moment. I definitely think through when I bring my phone with me now. Being more technology free allows me to be present.
- Peaceful. Part of what brought me to the retreat and the kriya practice was the aftermath of putting my house back together post Hurricane Matthew. It was and is an enormous stress both physically and financially. It’s still not “finished.” The practice has helped me through the ebbs and flows of the decisions, as well as the patience required to get through a most challenging time. I think of the metaphor “water off a duck’s back”. I’m better able to let things roll off and be at peace.
- Cope. I almost feel like I have shock absorbers attached to my brain. I don’t want to bore you with the litany of disruptions and unexpected turns over the last twelve months but it’s been monumental. Whether it’s requests for help, a loss of a business opportunity and an end to a partnership, I’ve weathered it all. I don’t get as rattled and I certainly don’t react in the same manner. I have the view that “this too shall pass.” Everything that can be bad has a flip side that can be good. Even if your power is out, you will have a lower power bill. And you’ve gained silence from the roar of daily life. There is a silver lining to everything. Finding that silver lining has helped me cope.
- Simplicity. In the past, I had a way of making everything more complicated that it had to be. Over the last month, I have been decluttering my house. If it’s not an absolute “yes”, it’s a “no.” I have been boxing up family heirlooms and sending them to those who will truly appreciate it. So far, I have an empty attic (yes, empty), empty linen closet and my spice drawer is still alphabetized. There is order, but it is beautiful in its simplicity. I continue to cull out the non-crucial items every day. I still have the Lego airplane my son built some thirteen years ago and a pillow painted by daughter that says “I love you.” There are still treasures I hold onto. But the extra set of china, the unmatched socks and Sizzler training manuals from twenty years ago are now either trash or someone else’s treasure. I continue to lighten the load from the silence retreat going forward. I’m embracing simplicity.
It’s the chicken and the egg scenario. Which came first? Did I seek out a new meditation practice and silence retreat? Or was I hardwired for it to find me? Regardless of the answer, it has made a profound difference. Is there a change you need to make?