I broke my silent retreat cherry this past weekend (3 days). I went on the Self Realization Fellowship’s Encinitas Retreat in San Diego. The retreat was right on the ocean. I had a small but nice room with a twin bed and tons of spiritual literature to read in the room. It was quiet and peaceful.
Note to those who are thinking about doing a silent retreat where there are hours of meditation, you gotta build up to it! Thank God that is what I did. My meditation practice started years ago with 5 minutes a day, then 10 minutes, 20 minutes then I got all the way to 2 hours!
What helped is that I started the lessons by mail from the Self Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles. In the lessons are various meditation techniques. Another note to those who are new to meditation…learn techniques so you’re not just sitting there trying to clear your mind. Meditation takes practice and time to get good at it.
I will probably never be a yogi who spends 18 hours a day in meditation but now I know I can at least do three hours in a row and 6 hours a day. That’s not bad!
I decided to do a silent retreat because I get stressed out really easily and I suffer from an anxiety disorder. I shouldn’t say I suffer from an anxiety disorder because that means I identify with the anxiety and that it defines me or is my identity. No, it doesn’t define me but I do wake up with this small amount of panic now.
But the main reason that I went on this retreat was to deepen my connection with God. I had read this little book called, “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence before the retreat and I shit you not, my guru (who wrote about it in the pamphlet on my desk in my room), all the nuns and all the monks talked about that book. In my world there are no coincidences in life and I find that when my higher power wants me to receive a message he literally hits me over the head with it.
So, I got the message. It’s also in in the 11th step of Alcoholics Anonymous – Where we are to seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God. Improving my conscious contact with God was the biggest lesson I took away from this retreat.
What I also learned is that it’s really uncomfortable having silent meals with 22 strangers. I had no idea where to look and people have really annoying eating habits. For instance one chick sitting in front of me had cheese all over her face and wouldn’t wipe her mouth. It’s not like I could say anything to her! Then this other chick was a food hummer. “Mmmmmm mmmmmm” after each bite.
The food was really great though I have to admit. Vegetarian fare and they had this mint alfalfa tea that sounds really nasty but it was delicious!
I had no idea what time it was ever because I don’t have a watch and I wasn’t allowed to use my cell phone or anything electronic for that matter. I couldn’t use my hair dryer either. One of the nuns would ring a gong when it was time to eat, to do energization exercises or to meet in the chapel for meditation.
Midway into the second day I really missed talking but that passed. We were quiet so we could devote all of our time to our connection to God. No internet, computers, news or clocks. I have to say it was fantastic. When you’re not immersed in Facebook, phones, social media and time you realize what is important in life. You also realize that sometimes your thoughts are really dark and if you said those things out loud, you might get arrested.
I mention time because time is really dangerous and we’re a society obsessed with it…We’re all obsessed with looking young, so many of us have fears of death and we live in the past or in the future. There is no greater obstacle to God and spiritual progress than focusing on time. The body is just a temporary hotel we live in but our souls are eternal.
I have never meditated so deeply as I did on this retreat. I got to that 4th dimension where I felt utter bliss and connection to my higher power. It was a life changing experience and I can’t wait to plan my next one.