As I reflect, I experientially learned a few things that I’ll summarize below. One of my teachers, Sandy Eimers, of Balance Yoga Lounge, explained during a training that experiential learning is like this, “There is shallow and wide types of learning in this way, then there is deep and narrow learning.” I go DEEP in silent retreats, deep into my psyche, troubled emotions, pain, habitual patterns of thought. The first time (My 10-day retreat, journaled about HERE.) it scared me, a lot. I didn’t know what to do with all of it. This retreat was my 4th long one in the last 5 years, so I nervously knew a bit what to expect…I cry very easily, some of the time I’m not sure why, and I get very sensitive, honest and raw when I stop the incessant chatter of words and recycled thoughts. Which makes me wonder, by the way, what if this is what my true nature should be in daily life, when I take down the armor that I keep up in my “normal” living, and only take down when I know the company I’m in is safe?
We lived the Four Foundations of Mindfulness last week: (1. Mindfulness of the Body, 2. Mindfulness of Emotions and feeling tones, 3. Mindfulness of Mind and Thoughts, and 4. Mindfulness of Sense Perceptions (the five senses.) The teachers called this practice a “decending” into the body, a “waking down” into the body instead of up into the mind; we’re always living ahead of where we actually are living, up inside our thoughts and emotions mostly.
“All-Encompassing Friendliness” I learned to “be with” myself even more fully, keep myself in my own good company, no abandoning. Being patient with my suffering as if I would hold space for a dear friend. I learned even more expansively, that I (and all beings) are innately good, deserving and whole…”original worthiness” Jon Kabat Zinn says. This practice is a falling back in love with our whole selves, even the ugly parts that we don’t want seen.
“Gentle Discipline” One of the leaders described meditation and taking care of yourself is like a “gentle discipline, it requires full involvement, like caring for a child.” Sometimes we are like infants when it comes to skillfully and compassionately working with and through emotions. She urged to get more familiar with the texture of feeling tones, similar to how we feel a flower petal, or a leaf….this doesn’t require the cognitive mind, we sense and simply know it. Intentionally dropping the “story of me” and all the “why’s” – Why am I crying? Why do I feel joy that’s laced with sadness?…That’s the rabbit hole, I probably will never know, so gently touching the texture of it, then creating space to allow it to move through.
Fear of Loving Too Much
“Just enjoy yourself.”
“Let Peace Be Your Compass”
A new-to-me-poem I heard last week, titled, “Bluebird“. I love the last two lines…”but I don’t weep, do you?”
For me, most importantly, retreats are teaching me how to live more peacefully and kindly with myself and others. Going on retreat is one of the most radically kind and sane things I do for myself and others around me. The other beings with me on retreat are also on their own journeys full of joy and heartache, fear and loss, bliss and longing; we’re all on this journey together and will experience terrifying highs and lows; why not choose kindness? What you practice, you become.
Allison Peet, RYT200 is a qualified MBSR™ (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) Instructor trained at UMass Center for Mindfulness, founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, and the Mindfulness Center at Brown University. She is trained through Mindful Schools and teaches mindfulness to youth, K-12 and is also a certified yoga instructor. She’s completed multiple week-long silent meditation retreats and has a daily practice. Allison has a personal path of living and working with chronic stress and anxiety which is why she started her own business in 2015, From Within Wellness, LLC, to benefit others. She is committed to creating a more mindful community by helping people develop pragmatic life skills in attentional strength, present moment awareness, self-compassion, and stress resiliency.