Retreat, Recharge, Renew. In her article “Why a Mindfulness Retreat Is the Best Gift I Could Have Given Myself” Caroline Daus describes how her participation in a 4-hour mindfulness retreat was helpful for her in meeting personal goals to reduce stress, bring compassion and meaning into her life and cultivating a daily mindfulness practice.
Being in a period of extended silence is increasingly difficult in our media and busy-ness oriented culture. But, as Daus describes, a retreat can offer a different perspective on being mindful that shorter periods of mindfulness – valuable in their own right – just can’t produce.
Daus describes the instruction for the day as including what I have heard termed ‘noble silence’, which is just as it sounds, and also maintaining “custody of the eyes”, avoiding eye contact. These voluntary contracts create for us an opportunity to take custody of the smallest of our behaviors – speaking and looking, that are also behaviors we most take for granted. In this way, we are brought into an awareness of a thousand opportunities for being present and making conscious choices. It is amazing how powerful the desire to look at another can sometimes be. Or how automatic a spilling out a greeting is. Or the number of ways sneakiness presents itself to get around a commitment!
Naturally, this sets up a perspective that turns inward. It is through that silence and inward turning that we discover what it means to be: alone, committed, powerful, vulnerable, in pain, peaceful, connected… and more. That is part of the gentle magic of transformation that mindful self-awareness cultivates.
My experience in retreats: daylong, 2 or 3 days, is that I come away with with a sense of experience that is hard to quantify, but is, perhaps, most noticeable by what is present after the retreat is over and we enter back into the everyday world.
Coming Out and Carrying On
The peacefulness that I feel is then carried into a world that is busy, noisy, whooshing by, stimulating. Of course, the challenge is to be present with it all and notice the shifting in my belly, how my breathing changes, tightness of my hands on the steering wheel, my mind’s wistfulness and wanting to stay in retreat and my responses to all of that stimulation. But, on a more simple and, perhaps, significant level, that very contrast between my being in mindfulness practice in a retreat and the “real world”, helps me to not only understand, but to have the direct experience of the fact that there is a different way of looking at and being in the world. That breaking away from Auto-pilot thinking and perspective is what is for me so valuable and long lasting about time spent in retreat.
I like Daus’s description of her experience and thoughtfulness about her goals and how her retreat experience supports her noble efforts and the long lasting impact of mindfulness.
DayQuest Life Counseling is not doing a retreat this month. However, but for the month of March I am giving away weekly Introduction to Mindfulness classes for no cost (open donation) in “Mindfulness Tuesdays”. Learn some basic concepts of mindfulness. You will also be guided through a new mindfulness meditation each week.Please RSVP. Hope to see you there!