“Mom, there is no way you can stay quiet for an entire day!” – my 13-year-old daughter
I like to talk. And day-to-day my life is full of words. Not only do I love chit-chatting, but I also use my voice to make a living as a narrator and voice over actress.
So when I found out that one component of my Mindfulness Meditation course was to participate in a silent retreat, I had mixed feelings. How would I handle a full day without saying one single word from 9am to 5pm? I mean without me- who would pepper my children’s day with gems of wisdom? Who would tell my husband what jobs need to be done around the house? Who would shriek at the dogs to stop barking?
I approached the retreat with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. As much as I relished the idea of not being responsible for anyone but myself for the day (a true luxury for a mom of 3), I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle it and would blurt out something inappropriate. I had a vision of myself surrounded by serene people seated in lotus position with their eyes closed and me screaming out “I can’t freakin’ do this!” and bolting crazily from the room.
But despite my fears, on a beautiful sunny day in November, I joined 18 fellow meditators at a studio along the shores of Lake Ontario. We were equipped with yoga mats, pillows, blankets, water bottles and lunch bags to fortify us through the experience.
To my surprise, the day flew by and the hours unfolded in strange and wonderful ways. Our teachers had led many previous retreats and confidently steered us through the hours with ease. We transitioned through gentle yoga moves and guided and silent meditations with the soft “ding” of a bell. We sat in chairs and on the floor, reclined on our mats and wandered through the gardens surrounding the studio.
Now don’t get me wrong- there were definitely some uncomfortable moments. My leg fell asleep during a cross-legged meditation and I kicked the man across from me when I stretched it out. A lady seated next to me ripped a fart part way through a “loving kindness” meditation and it took all of my strength not to burst into hysterical laughter. And a passerby asked me for directions as I sat on a bench eating my lunch and I had to gesture like a crazy person to try to help him out (despite my prowess at charades, the poor guy ended up shaking his head and storming off angrily. Sorry buddy!)
At the end of the day, our instructors had us break the silence and invited us to share our reflections. And as you can imagine, everyone had a different take on the experience. Some had really struggled and others said it was the best day they’d had in ages.
For me, the day shone a spotlight on how rarely I take the time to really pay attention to my thoughts, my body and my surroundings. What an opportunity to immerse myself in things that normally zoom past in a flurry of activity.
I noticed the feeling of my butt on the hardwood floor, and breath moving through my lungs. We were encouraged to pay attention to our steps as we wandered around outside and to savour each bite of food as we ate our lunch. I stopped to gaze at flowers in the garden and spider webs hung in rafters of an old art gallery on the property. I paid attention to my arms and legs as we stretched and contracted our muscles. And I watched as thoughts came and went – some old tapes that I’ve been noodling around in my brain for years and other new ideas that popped up unexpectedly.
I drove away from the retreat feeling renewed. I secretly wondered if my family would look at me differently when I returned home – if I’d radiate an ethereal glow from dwelling on a higher plane of existence for the day.
I burst through the front door and the dogs started barking, my youngest was fighting with his sister and the sink was piled with dirty dishes. “Mom-what are we going to do for dinner?” my oldest asked. Nope, apparently not hovering on a higher plane. But I took solace in the fact that I did it – eight hours and not one single word was uttered from my lips (in your face 13-year-old daughter!) Namaste. : )