Well the 10 day retreat ended on Sunday morning!. Ten days of noble silence! Ten days of meditation. Ten days of what might be called “mindfulness,” meditation.
I went to the Northern California Vipassana Meditation Center,* which is just a few miles from where the devastating “Valley Fire,” near Cobb Mt. and Middletown, CA took place less than 2 months ago. For ten days I could not talk,(and if you know me, you could just imagine how interesting that was for me!) and all I could do is meditate, eat, sleep and shower, and that was all I did. They would awaken you at 4 a.m. and you started meditating at 4:30. The meditation ended at 9 every evening. We had about 12 hours of meditation a day. You only had fruit to eat after 12 noon every day. It sounds so arduous doesn’t it? Or does it sound easy?
But when you live alone, like I have for the last few years, it really isn’t that hard not to talk when you are at home. It is when I am in the outside world that I talk or when I am on the phone. I guess being on the computer like this would be considered talking. You were not supposed to bring in any reading or writing utensils. You were not supposed to use a computer or any device to communicate with the outside world.
One would think it would be hell. But when I stood back and looked at the experience, I realize that an argument could be made that it is the life we lead that is more hell-like than the 10 days I was there.
The meditation practice would be body centered meditation if I had to define it. You were to focus your mind on the your body. Starting from the tip of your head and going all the way down to the tips of your toes, you were to “connect,” in my words, to the rest of your body.
Now I dont know about you, but I have spent a lifetime ignoring what my body “says” to me. I have put layer upon layer of trauma and the effects of trauma between me and my emotional connection to my body. I had to to survive. I had to dissociate from the abuse by “leaving,” my body so that I could psychologically survive. I weep as I write this.
So to tell a middle aged man, who has studied this thing called depression as best as I could in the last 5 years, that it was paying attention to your body that was going to be the thing that was going to help you heal, gave me quite a challenge. I think I understand the dis-ease depression and have said for a while that the PTSD I suffer with is the foundation for the “mental health,” problems that I have.
So to be told that it is by paying attention to your body, for almost 12 hours a day for 10 days in silent meditation, that you were going to be able to heal in a way(s) that you could not heal before, would most probably for most people present quite a challenge. But because one of the greatest gifts I have received on the journey was body centered breath work, I knew I had found another tool to help me. So when I learned what the practice was, how to meditate, I was in heaven!
It was not easy. The mind always wants to say “f— this sh–,” when presented with solutions that dont include it being the leader. So I knew when I was learning the breathing technique that I had come to the “right,” place. I might write more about it later. I would highly recommend it to those who suffer from “mental health,” issues.
The opening quote is something that came to me when I was at the retreat. The answer is my body.