This is a bit of a longer blog, it’s a big topic and I think worth a few extra words. It’s about meditation, personal growth and a satisfying journey. Essentially it’s about finding peace and being happy.
A few years ago a friend invited me on a meditation retreat and I thought I’d go and find out what it was about. What I didn’t know, until I arrived, was that it was going to be 6 days of silence. I was stuck there, and I didn’t have much choice, but to stick it out!
My experiences during that first retreat really opened me up to how my mind works and how my mind and body are connected. It’s something I really hadn’t come across before, and it was a life changing experience. The days were tough and some nights I didn’t get any sleep, but by the end of the week, the transformation was worth the hard work. Since then I’ve been on several other silent meditation retreats and got a lot from each one.
Earlier this year, I decided to step my game up. I signed up to another silent meditation retreat, but this time a whole month. I was pretty nervous in the lead up, I didn’t know much about the structure or the programme, although I did know that we might have just a day off each week.
The difference in moving from a week to a month was amazing. This long retreat was much more about personal practice than guided meditation. In the week long retreats, the meditation sessions were normally led and very structured – in this month retreat the teacher was most absent. But this time and space meant that we could really immerse ourselves into the meditation, meaning that the learnings and effects were even more profound.
As I went more and more into the rabbit hole of my mind, I discovered the deep mental habits that were driving my personality and character. I started to understand the true nature of my personality. I also saw much more deeply into the connections between myself and everything around me. I began to find myself truly at peace with my world. In the last week of the retreat, the teacher was much more present, and this is where the big transformation and learning happened.
By the end of the retreat I felt at peace with myself and my world, I felt ready to make changes in the way I lived my life. This was when I discovered that the most challenging part of this retreat was actually returning home. Once home, I found that everything I had learnt and practiced on retreat started to unravel at an alarming rate. I went from deep serenity and fulfilment, to a state of anxiety.
This really wasn’t what I had expected, I’d hoped the learning had been locked in. But during the meditation retreat, I’d seen how my mind was capable of being, in a very positive way. Back at home I had a very clear comparison of how my mind could be in a negative way.
My biggest learning was that if I continued to work hard in the direction I wanted to move, I would be able to claim the state of mind that I wanted. Over the next few weeks I did work hard to manage my mind, and slowly bring it back towards the ordered state I had enjoyed at the end of the retreat. I started to really understand how external influences affect my mind. I used metaphors and reminders to raise my own awareness and change my long standing mental habits.
As with many aspects of personal development, it’s not about quick change. The direction of travel is the most important thing, and it takes practice and support to embed new habit patterns into the mind. I’ve been working with real self honesty and self awareness on this journey, and it’s been an amazing journey.