Meeting Meditation Head-On

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By Trish Reyburn

I attended my first meditation retreat on my 33rd birthday.

I loved numerology and knew that 33 was an auspicious number. Three represents the trinity, a creation of the new. From the 2 comes one more, birthed into existence and fresh for awakening. The number 3 also represents a time to be with friends and do things that you enjoy. Double numbers are always doubly powerful! Thirty-three is also how old they say Jesus was when he passed out of body.

I had a feeling this was a holy time to make a change for myself and start on a fresh journey, not towards death but towards life.

I just didn’t understand that it would be so hard.

My choice was between going to chant with Bhagavan Das for a weekend at Kripalu (in Lenox, MA) or a silent Vipassana-led weekend with my meditation group whom I’d been practicing with for several years. I decided I could chant another time.

I planned to drive to the up-state Connecticut destination on my own but was contacted by my very first yoga teacher (see previous blog).
In those days, I didn’t know how to say, “No.” I was also a super-sized people-pleaser so we ended up driving to the retreat together.
She was nice enough, although just a bit off-center.

I felt this was a real rites of passage for me: a WHOLE weekend meditation retreat!

Who would I be at the end?
What kinds of major transformations could I embody in two and a half short days?

As we entered the retreat center that Friday afternoon, I met up with some of my dear meditation friends. We were allowed to talk until the retreat officially began that evening and a few friends had brought birthday gifts to give to me.
The rooms were modest and clean. My room had two sets of bunks beds but there were only two of us occupying the room.
Everything was going my way!

The teacher of the retreat was new to me.
Vipassana Meditation was also new to me.

It’s pretty hardcore as far as meditation practices go.

As we gathered together in the community room on that most auspicious night in late October, the teacher opened our weekend with this statement:

“My teacher doesn’t understand why ANYONE would WANT to take a WEEKEND meditation retreat!!
By the time your MIND begins to QUIET down, you go HOME!!”

Inside my own head, I began a major meltdown, which sounded a little like this:

Why am I here? Why am I here? Why am I here?
Why do they even HOLD weekend meditation retreats?
Why didn’t I go chanting? I LOVE CHANTING!
I need to GET OUT OF HERE.
AAAAAAaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

The second thing I heard the teacher say was that they discouraged anyone doing yoga postures during the weekend.

What? They want us to sit for 16 hours per day in silent meditation and not stretch our bodies during the breaks?

AAAAAAaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I felt like a caged animal.
How had I gotten myself into this predicament?

Here I am on my BIRTHDAY with a whole bunch of my friends that I LOVE and that I can’t TALK to at all.
Now, I even have to SNEAK AROUND if I want to do my YOGA practice!!
And I can’t leave because I don’t have my car!

AAAAAAaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

The weekend didn’t improve from there.
I was screaming inside my head the entire time.

…Until Sunday morning, when things seemed to calm down a bit.
I finally settled into the practice and wasn’t nearly as miserable as I had been since the Friday night start.

Was it because I knew that it was soon to be over?

Or was it because, as the teacher’s teacher had prophesied,
‘By the time the mind starts to calm down, you go home?

Maybe both.

I had persevered and survived the silent weekend with the now overly-familiar lunatic raging in my mind.

When I got back in the car for the ride home though, I was strangely calm.
Had that brutal amount of practice actually benefited me?

I’ve noticed through these many years of practice that while I’m in it, I might not notice a shift happening.
While I’m in it, it just feels like my same distracted mind.
But after the practice is completed, I often feel a difference in myself. Something in me has settled and I have created room for something new to blossom and grow.

Deepen your relationship with yourself by adding a meditation practice.

Take time daily to be quiet and still. Ideally, sit in the same place at the same time each day.
Commit to practice, commit to yourself.

Please note: The time on the below video just “happens” to be 3:33!

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