From where I sit some 30,000ft in the air, flying back from Montreal after finishing my silent meditation retreat early evening yesterday.
It was a ‘Metta’ retreat – which embarrassingly enough I didn’t know too much about prior to signing up – nor had I ever practiced this type of meditation before.
Metta means loving-kindness, and the idea is to cultivate, and send, loving kindness to yourself, your loved ones, your friendship circles, those you are ‘neutral’ about (the people you regularly see at your grocery store or local coffee shop) and then out to larger groups of humanity. The classic way to practice Metta is through short phrases and words, repeated in your head over and over again, while also holding your intention, and the idea of the person in your mind.
We did this while alternating between sitting meditation, and walking meditation (walking 10-15 paces in one direction, at the pace of your voice saying these words or phrases, and then turning around and walking the same amount of paces back.)
Myself and 39 other individuals, all with their own stories and circumstances and motivations for being there, did this together for 14 hours a day, save for meal breaks and 45 minutes of ‘working meditation’ (I got to clean toilets… you’ve never seen toilets sparkle so!)
And all in silence.
I have to say it was pretty challenging, and yet extremely powerful. And it was only 4 days! Some people brave silent retreats for YEARS!
Well, I survived.
And in fact, I want more.
I’ve been thinking about doing a traditional 10-day Vipasanna meditation retreat for a few yers now… however timing has never worked out, or I was subconsciously not ready. But I’m pretty confident I could do it now.
I acknowledge this week is, yet again, another personal share rather than an insight or something to teach or apply. And then again, perhaps it will give you an opportunity to think about what you’ve been thinking about doing for a while, or something that may be on your ‘Brave List.’
That being said, it would be remiss of me not to share some of my initial learnings and take-aways (it hasn’t even been 24 hours since I left the beautiful centre in the middle of the Laurentians… see one of the photos I took above just before handing in my phone!) even though there is much still to digest, process and reflect upon.
Silence can be piercing.
Okay, a bit of an exaggerated oxymoron, and yet true. But in a good way. We were in silence the entire retreat, and yet powerful communication still took place. Not to mention clarity, feeling, and space… oh so much space. (Although I have to say, not being able to say hello, good morning, ask people’s names, or engage with the others during meals was extremely challenging… I couldn’t help but feel kinda rude!)
Loving-Kindness is never not helpful.
Our teacher is a world-renown mindfulness instructor, and I honestly could have listened to his soothing voice all day long! He shared so many nuggets of wisdom, however I did as I was told and refrained from writing anything down throughout the experience. Part of me wish I had! After almost three decades of studying and practicing various styles of meditation, mindfulness, and the teachings of Buddhism, you hung on his every word. And while there were so many eloquent phrases uttered, one of the more simple ideas was this: bringing loving-kindness will only ever make a situation better. And so it is.
When you have nowhere else to be, you can simply be here.
I tend to move pretty fast. I’m often on the go, often in a rush, and often trying to do numerous things all at once (even though I know it’s not productive!) However, when you’ve handed in your devices during a special ceremony, and there is no option to do anything other than what you’re doing, there is space to simply be here now. When I sat in meditation, I actually sat. When it was time for walking meditation, I walked slower than I ever have done. 10 paces in one direction, 10 paces back. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to get to. And when I ate at meal time, I ate. And I tasted my food in a whole new way.
When you put all of your energy and attention into what you are doing here and now, and into this moment, there is a stillness and a space created that is actually quite magical.
It’s going to be challenging to hang onto these ideas now I’m back to reality, however, I’m committing to slowing down, to creating more awareness and space in the present moment, and sharing more loving-kindness with everyone I meet and in every situation.
Have you ever been curious in doing a silent retreat? What do you think would be the most challenging part? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
And now in the true Metta fashion, may you have joy, may you have peace, and may you have love… this week and beyond!