Recently I had the privilege of attending a ten day silent meditation retreat at the Vipassana Meditation Center in Massachusetts. Although I have meditated on occasion, I had never done anything like this before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The process was grueling – physically and emotionally – yet the benefits are outstanding. Here are a few lessons I learned from silence.
1. Meditation is a way to release all that is buried in your subconscious and in your body. When you allow yourself to have time dedicated to quieting your mind and turning inward, an array of thoughts and feelings that were buried in your subconscious mind and trapped in the cells of your body arise. It’s essential that these items arise to the surface because that is the only way to release them. Observe the thoughts and feelings that arise without judging them. Soon thereafter, they will pass away.
2. Silence allows you to hear the Divine. You may be in the habit of talking to the Divine a lot – maybe you pray or constantly ask your higher power for things. Meditation is your opportunity to listen to what the Divine has to say to you. Most of the time we are surrounded with noise. The constant hum of the outside world coupled with the incessant chatter in our minds leaves little room for us to hear our intuition or divine wisdom. By getting quiet, you can actually hear the Divine and better harness your intuition.
3. Everything is temporary. During meditation, there were times when I experienced states of bliss and there were times when I felt physical discomfort from maintaining a meditation posture for an extended period of time. Both the pleasure and the pain lingered for some time, but, ultimately passed. Sometimes, we try so hard to hold on to the pleasurable things and we try equally hard to avoid the uncomfortable things. You can maintain greater equilibrium if you can accept that everything is constantly changing. Relish the pleasant experiences because they will. Remain calm when the unpleasant experiences arise, knowing that it will not last. Everything is temporary. Change is a universal law of nature. The more you can embrace this truth, the easier your life becomes.
4. Eat mindfully. Until this retreat I had eaten my meals in a distracted way. I’d eat while having a conversation watching television driving, or while thinking about all my to dos. Eating was never the main event. But during this retreat I had the privilege of being fully present while I ate. I used all five senses to enjoy my food. I chewed deliberately and consciously. What I discovered was how much gratitude I had for all the people involved in ensuring that I had this meal- from the farmers who grew the vegetables to the truck drivers who transported my food, to the cooks who prepared my meal. Moreover I realized that I got full a lot faster when I paid attention to what I ate. I ate with pleasure and only for nourishment. When you eat mindfully you completely relish the entire experience and you will eat only to the extent that you feel nourished.
5. Your breath can heal. One of the unexpected benefits I received from meditation was a physical healing. I had a problem with my knee for approximately two years and developed a pinched nerve in my hip in recent weeks. Within two days of observing my breath, my physical ailments were gone. Moreover, the meditation process allowed for many past emotional hurts to arise to the surface and heal. Our breath has a great capacity to heal. We just need to take the time to observe it and pay attention to what our mind, body and spirit needs.
I hope you enjoyed these lessons from my ten day silent meditation retreat. I encourage all of you to try something like this at least once in your life. Despite how intimidating it may seem it is a great gift you can give yourself.