It use to scare me, the silence. My first silent meditation retreat I felt like I was going to explode. My mind was so amped up, wanting to do, do, do (that was the first three days, then it began to calm down – thankfully!).
Now I go into silence and feel completely at home. Totally present. Totally joyful in the silence. My mind has calmed down so much over the years and I’m grateful for this. It’s so much more peaceful!
I go into silence at least once a year (if I can) to push the restart button. And to deepen my spiritual practice.
Why have silence? Because it takes away all the distractions. The talking, the writing, the eye contact, everything we do to distract ourselves from the discomfort we have inside. It gives us the opportunity to be with ourselves to clear things out, to sit with the discomfort and release (one teacher calls meditation “spiritual drano”), so you can feel the peace and joy that lies underneath it.
At the start of the retreat, we had a “cell phone” ceremony where we had the option to put our cell phones in a box to be locked up for the rest of the week. I was grateful for the opportunity. For some it was truly a challenge, but they did it, and for others, they chose not to do it. We are all on our own journey and readiness for letting go.
This retreat, held at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in N. California, was specifically focused on Metta, which is the word for Loving Kindness in Buddhism. I LOVE this practice.
It has dramatically changed my life and how I interact with the world since learning it almost 10 years ago.
I can’t do it enough, and each time I focus on it, my heart expands into places it has not known before. Our love is truly limitless.
The first day, we focused on loving kindness for someone that’s easy to send it to (a pet or child), and then back to ourselves.
The second day was focused on self-compassion (there were a lot of tears in the room), the third day wishing kindness to people we don’t know, the fourth day sent to people we have difficulty with (aka: those we resent – lots more tears in the room), and the fifth day on all beings.
Each day was about six hours of sitting and walking meditation.
Can you imagine? Six hours a day focused on loving ourselves and others? That’s why it’s so powerful!
There was a gal sitting near me who, right from the start, I felt irritated by. She was talking when we were in silence, she was moving a lot, and having deep verbal sighs. I wanted to yell at her – stop it!
By the second day my wisdom said, “She is my teacher.” She was a perfect person for me to learn how to open my heart when my mind was wanting to persecute (old pattern).
So I started sending her loving kindness. Over and over and over again. I lost track of time, but kept saying it until my mind no longer judged. Until there was an openness there.
And after that, I felt compassion for her. I didn’t know her past that created the unsettledness she was experiencing. When I saw her or heard her, I felt compassion and kindness toward her for the rest of the retreat. It was so liberating! That is true freedom.
It’s not always like that – it may take time, over and over and over again. And by intending it (you might need to start with “I intend to intend to wish happiness for this person), you plant the seed. I’ve had that experience too.
What you put your attention and focus on grows. Focus on loving, and that is what you’ll experience when the time is right.
You can say these simple words:
May I (you) be safe
May I (you) be happy
May I (you) be healthy
May I (you) live with ease
Start with someone that’s easy to care about and send it to, then go back to yourself. Back and forth, back and forth. This teaches year heart how to open to yourself.
Do it while your driving, while your washing the dishes, while your out on a walk, while your judging someone, while your going to sleep or upon waking.
As one teacher says, “In order to stop the war outside, we must stop the war inside.”
I left the retreat feeling the most peaceful I’d felt in my life up to date. A deep peace that reaches to every cell. I can even drive through the L.A. traffic and laugh when I’m passed by someone going 95mph like it’s the Indi 500. It’s truly funny!
What if you were able to be kind to yourself, to have peace? How might your daily life change? How might your relationships change?
Want some help with this? You can take my self-paced step by step course on Opening the Heart here, or receive some personal coaching from me to guide you.
Categories: Conflict & Forgiveness, Health & Happiness, Heart Centered Living, Meditation & Mindfulness