On August 14th I decided to take a break from “the world” for a month and turn my home into a retreat. My goal was to stop watching all news channels, read empowering books and essays, meditate, contemplate and practice yoga. I wasn’t looking to achieve any kind of great spiritual insight. I just wanted to see if I could deepen my practice. Going to a real retreat was out of the question because I like staying home with my husband and critters. Five years ago I left them for three months to look for work eight hours away and I vowed to never do that again. I missed them all too much! Hubby is gone most of the day working so for the most part, it’s just me and the fur babies. They have been good teachers when it comes to relaxing and living in the moment.
The first few days of my retreat went well even when my monkey brain was busy filling my head with all kinds of negative, petty crap. Instead of shooing them away, I took the time to observe them and see them for what they are… just annoying thoughts. Before I learned about meditation and more specifically Buddhism, I didn’t see them as thoughts; they were reality or as some people say,” the real world.” I am learning that my reality might not be your reality and all of our thoughts are based on what WE THINK is the only reality. There are as many different realities (perspectives) as there are people.
As the days went on, the monkey quieted down a bit making room for me to think about what I was reading. I had time to mull over what each author had to say about Buddhist thought, spirituality and consciousness. Trying to stop thinking while I was meditating has been a problem. For now, I will be happy thinking positive thoughts instead of fighting to keep my mind “blank” and if I do stop thinking for a few seconds at a time, that’s an achievement.
When I first thought about doing this I thought it might be boring but the days have gone by quickly. There was always something to do; a dog to walk, cats to feed, another book to read; my yoga practice became longer and I managed to work on my collage art.
There are days I leave and run errands, so I get some human contact besides my hubby, although, to be honest, I’m not as social as I was a few years ago. I am picky who I spend time with. There seems to be too many people who like to either gossip or complain or both. I just don’t have time for that anymore.
It’s day 12 and I seem to be calmer and more aware of my surroundings. The other day I noticed (stared) at two different women (around my age) talking loudly in their Smartphones as they shopped in the grocery store. I don’t know if I would have noticed them before my retreat. Yes, I found myself judging them and I know that’s a no-no but… couldn’t they just shop and experience the moment, instead of yelling into a large flat screen phone in the produce section?
Staying away from the news was easy until two days ago; that’s when I told myself it was OK to watch local news to find out the weather forecast, which if I was honest, could be done on the Internet. Then I looked to see what was trending on Twitter which got me interested to see (for a minute) what the cable news stations were reporting. I did pretty good when I saw it was the usual over reported news that does not affect my daily life. But then I looked what was happening in some political Face Book groups and that’s when Monkey Brain came back to hang out for a while.
“Just look at those posts and comments. They call themselves progressives? They sound more like hypocritical, petty, judgmental whiners.”
Mind you, I’m not a member of this group or any other political group on social media. I think it was Monkey Brain who thought it would be fun to see what they were up to. There are spiritual and Buddhist groups that I belong to, so I still read what those people are posting. Reading uplifting comments and memes help me with my practice but I am limiting the time I spend even with them.
Taking a month off might have been too long but I did feel better those first days into it, so I will keep trying and see what happens.