Have you heard of those weekend-long silent retreats?
I’ve just graduated from one with the Flagstaff Insight Meditation Community. I signed up because I was curious to have a deeper look into my mind, and quite frankly, 2 days of quiet and no expectations sounded lovely.
A year ago, I attended a Science of Mindfulness retreat in Tucson, and I have not yet stopped thinking about their statement: We have 50,000-70,000 thoughts every day, and 95% of them are the same top 10 tunes. Now, after reading Dan Harris’ 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works, I wanted to try a deeper dive.
With 32 strangers, this quiet journey unfolded. In 30-minute increments, we did hours of walking meditation and sitting meditation, peppered with some guided meditation and Q&A. Many of my want-to-be-mindful clients have told me, “It’s too hard for me to meditate because my mind is too busy; I can’t think of nothing.” The teacher, Brian Lesage, reaffirmed that this was not the goal. We were encouraged to (1) pay attention to the breath and (2) when getting “lost in thought” just notice it, label it (categories like planning, judging, worry, remembering), and return to the breath. Sometimes, I became lost in thought 20 times/minute, but I could always have my breath to return to. The other message that really struck me was that our goal was to “shift the rudder”. When we can notice our thoughts passing through instead of thinking that we are our thoughts, there is freedom. Then we can be more present. When this shift occurs, we can have more peaceful lives. I’m definitely game for that! To sum the whole experience up, I loved it, feel refreshed, and am prepared to be more mindful in my every-day.