That was an experience.
I have come out of ten days of silence; no speaking, no eye contact, and none of the distractions I live and rely on. Meditation, yoga, a notebook, my mala and me.
To put this in context, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do this meditation retreat. I was scared and doubtful of the whole thing. I still hadn’t meditated longer than half an hour without feeling anxious. I’m completely addicted to distractions, I thrive on multitasking and filling my time with tasks or social interactions, and the idea of ten days in my own company seemed like it would be torture and I could never handle it.
Spoiler alert: I was right… well, kinda. 😉
I don’t think I have the right words to describe the experience I ended up having. So, instead of using new words to talk about it, I want to share some thoughts and feelings as they arose; what was alive for me at the time. I poured a lot of the inner monologue that was overflowing from my silent self on to the pages of my notebook. Of course, I did not write down everything that happened, or all the things that went through my mind, but some little thoughts, quite a lot of rants, internal ramblings, some creativity, mostly lots of swearing, and a few deep contemplations and realisations did make it to the page.
I’m not going to share everything I wrote as you’d have to have ten days to hear it. I decided not to edit these extracts though, so some of it’s a little raw… if you only want to know the beautiful stuff you’ll have to skip to Day 6 onwards, most of the first five days are just pure anguish!
Universe, I’m still not exactly sure what just happened but here’s a taste of my journey…
Courage. What a load of shite. Yesterday I picked this word out of a bowl and thought, ‘Yeah, I can do that, have courage.’ There’s nothing to be courageous about though. It’s more like endurance, survival. I’m tired, I’m pissed off, in pain, and I couldn’t give less fucks about meditation. Why am I doing this? Well, I’m not actually doing it so far… I woke up at 6, went to the hall, warmed up, trying to wake up, sat down ready to meditate and then just sat there for two more hours doing bugger all. I cried straight away at the thought of being stuck in the hall, then cried for the rest of the first hour thinking about all the hours I will be feeling like this. I already don’t care. All the reasons I came up for doing this have completely escaped me. Everything in me is just fighting the urge to run out of the room and get away from being here, doing nothing. I’m really hoping this is just because I’m tired and hormonal. Every minute of the day I feel more and more angry.
When you are asked to visualise or do something you don’t understand or can’t do, you end up sitting not meditating. I keep hearing: “there’s no such thing as a bad meditation” – they are talking crap.
Well, that wasn’t hugely successful. I sat and counted the minutes through the meditation, I wrote in my book throughout the lecture, I did one asana in the yoga, then sat doing nothing, I slept through the next meditation and then ate so much it made me sick, felt like giving up, smoked a cigarette and came to my room to hide. Currently sucking on a lolly and wondering how I am possibly going to get through another 9.5 days of it if it feels like this.
Showing up is already a success.
Showing up is already a success.
Showing up is already a success.
Showing up is already a success.
Show up. Keep showing up.
Upside-down Hridaya logo look like an angry guy with a big nose, whistling.
Surrender. Always the same. Talking about surrender, It shouldn’t be a verb, you are not doing anything, it’s a lack of doing. I wish they’d stop telling us to surrender as if you can do it. It’s like a secret club; you either understand and know how to surrender or you don’t.
It’s like a long-haul flight. Everything I hate about long-haul flights. 12-15 hours of feeling like you can’t move when you want to move, you can’t sleep when you’re tired, you can’t escape. But it’s one step worse than that. You have all the horrible feelings that come up and can’t get away from, then on top of that you have no distraction to make it easier. It’s my torture. That’s what this is to me, it’s putting myself through my own personal nightmare. Torture for seemingly no reason.
Why am I even doing this? Sleep deprivation, pain, anxiety, claustrophobia. Why? What for?
I will never say I’m bored again. I am so bored. There’s nothing life-changing about being bored. I am not still. I am not at peace. I’m too tired to try to do yoga, I’m too tired to concentrate. Such a pile of shite.
“Nothing great has ever happened without enthusiasm.”
If we look at pain as an intensity, not as being bad or suffering, then we let it free itself. If I could see it like that, there would be freedom. The light is always there.
I just had a full panic attack after one hour of ‘meditation.’ It wasn’t meditation again, it was waiting. Sitting with the feeling of anger, frustration, panic and wanting to scream. If this is resistance, how long will it last? How am I meant to go through it if I can’t meditate and I’m always just sitting, waiting. I close my eyes with the intention that this time it will happen, I will be relaxed and follow the words to focus on my heart, then count my breaths. A minute in (or sometimes just couple of seconds) panic starts arising so I open my eyes and try desperately to calm myself down. I rock, I tap, I twitch, I play games in my head, I breath deeply, I cry, I hug myself, I start feeling more and more angry, anxious, or tired. If I calm myself down enough, I try again and the whole cycle starts again. If I’m lucky, I exhaust myself out so much I just feel tired and sleepy when I close my eyes. We are not allowed to lie down, and we have to stop ourselves from sleeping so I deprive myself of sleep and rest, and then feel almost delirious with sleep deprivation. I open my eyes and sit crying and waiting.
I try to let these thoughts be, or pass, and focus on the present moment, but the present moment is painful, so giving attention or awareness to it makes me want to cry uncontrollably. I can’t cry uncontrollably because I’m surrounded by people and cannot disturb then in this way. So, I rock, I tap, I twitch, I breath, I cry and then if I’m patient the time finishes and I can escape. Then I put myself through it all again. How am I meant to keep doing this? Isn’t it the sign of insanity, doing the same thing again and again expecting a different outcome?
My nature is love. I am safe.
Please don’t let this be for nothing.
I liked walking meditation. I was calm all through it and felt the same as everyone else. I’d really like that feeling in the rest of the day.
I sat with pain this morning for longer than I have so far. It feels like I have endless crying to cry. Surges of energy that go through my body and have to come out somehow. It’s not thoughts, just painful energies that need to leave my body. At one point I thought I could feel the emptiness I always describe. It was like this empty hole inside me was filling with pain, tears and tension. Maybe if I keep giving it the attention it’s asking for it will dissolve. I am strong enough to feel pain, I know because I’ve felt so much pain I thought I couldn’t survive, but I did. I have to do this if there’s a chance that this experience will somehow start to fill the emptiness inside me. I have to try.
I am so angry. I have so much hate for everything. I hate mediation. I hate yoga. I hate all the fucking people who can sit still and silent for hours and hours. I hate hearing about love when all I feel is hate. I hate being stuck in a room for no fucking reason. I hate closing my eyes. I hate the pain. I hate my mind. I hate the idea of staying here. I hate that I want to give up. I hate time. I hate that I chose to do this. I hate all the arseholes who can do this. I hate the fact I seem to be the only one who hates every second of the day. The anger is just festering inside and getting stronger and stronger. I’m not allowed to scream and I’m not even feeling like crying anymore because it makes no fucking difference.
Universe, if you are listening, please make tomorrow go a little faster so I don’t go insane.
I feel like a child here. I have no knowledge to draw from, I have no experience, I am scared like a child, I have to be brave like a child, I have a new appreciation for how frightened a child must feel and how strong a child is to face the world.
I managed to meditate for 25 minuntes.
I started thinking about forgiveness in meditation today. One step up from obsessing about the time I guess. It’s still thinking, and not really meditating, but at least it’s moving on from anxiety and total absorption in whatever emotion I’m feeling. I’m not thinking about forgiving and then getting an intense sensation of hurt or anger. It’s more questioning and longing to feel love.
Random reoccurring thoughts: I really want to buy that scarf I saw on Etsy, I’m running out of cigarettes, shit, I really need to brush my hair, Christmas food, I wonder if I’m missed.
🎵I want to break free I want to break free I want to break free from your lies You’re so self satisfied I don’t need you I’ve got to break free God knows, God knows I want to break free🎵
Some fuckwit stole one of my babybels. What a wanker.
I’ve got an awesome little chair that sits on the ground flat, and then your body weight keeps the back of it up! Gonna have to put it back after the lecture so someone else will get it tomorrow. Live in the now, dude. Fucking awesome now.
“Not only the thirsty seek the water, the water as well seeks the thirsty.”
Longing is a sweetness. My longing is a pain, is that the same longing you talked about? It’s like a yearning for love, to be love, to feel whole. Is that actually a longing for the spiritual heart, a bigger connection?
I had a glimpse of hope. I believe things are meant to be, and I think I know why I’m meant to be here. I have an aspiration that I didn’t even know I had; a longing to know something bigger than me – Love or the Universe, whatever I call it – I know I want to feel it. I have had this emptiness inside me for as long as I can remember. It’s not that I haven’t been happy, I am full of joy and enthusiasm for life all the time, but I feel like I’m never content. This emptiness is like a space inside me that I am incapable of filling. It is a void that aches so much sometimes, it feels like physical pain. I’ve tried to fill it with addictions, distractions, love, passions, learning… but it’s still there. The only time it was close to being filled was when I was in so much pain, I allowed myself to hold all the grief I was feeling, and it felt like it was temporarily satisfied with this extreme emotion. Even then though, the feeling came back when the extreme emotions disappeared. It feels like a yearning, a longing, a desperate need for something, and I’ve always thought that if I had true love in my life it would be enough to fill it. I think the truth is that this feeling, this energy or longing, can not be filled. Instead, it needs to be loved and accepted as a longing for something bigger, a yearning for the divine maybe? Maybe it really is about surrender. I want this emptiness to not feel painful but instead embrace the fire, feel the yearning and love it.
Rumi made me cry today. I don’t know if it was sadness or happiness…
There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled. There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled. You feel it, don’t you? You feel the separation from the Beloved. Invite Him to fill you up, embrace the fire. Remind those who tell you otherwise that Love comes to you of its own accord, and the yearning for it cannot be learned in any school.”
It’s day seven and, other than a reduced anxiety, I’m still having the same thoughts I had on the first couple of days.
I’m not feeling the magic that people talk about when you see the beauty in a little moment of nature cause you have’t got the distraction of everything else and you are so connected to your heart. The closest I come to that is looking at the stars when I’m smoking last thing at night and thinking how awesome they are. That’s no different form how I normally feel.
Prayer to the Universe,
I’d like to drink the Kool-Aid please.
I’d like to stand with my face to the sun and truly believe it is filling my soul with light.
I’d like to flick the old energies off my body with real intent, not just pretending to brush dust off and hoping to feel something.
I’d like to hug a tree without a bit of doubt that I’m being a fool.
I’d like to kiss the ground while walking with no hint of wondering “what does that actually mean?”
I’d like to ask Who Am I? and the thought not even to cross my mind that I don’t really care.
I’d like to be upside down with my legs in the air, thinking about which chakra I’m opening, and stop questioning ‘If I lose weight, would I be able to breath properly in this position?’
I’d like to close my eyes, feel my heart open and experience love, instead of darkness.
I’d like to sit in nature and feel inspired rather than wondering what’s for lunch.
I’d like to not have a doubt that this prayer is just a waste of time, and know something bigger than me is listening.
I’d like to truly believe in you and not be embarrassed to call you God.
Turns out that this ten days, of what seems like an eternity, was just another version of a quick fix in my mind. I thought I’d rock up, go through some suffering and intense pain and then all my problems would be gone. Stupid really. Of course that wasn’t going to happen. I can’t lie, I had really hoped for a really clear break-through with something – forgiveness, self-love, personality transplant, spiritual awakening – but really I’ve just had little moments of clarity, seeing some patterns, and then continuing as normal.
I don’t want to be here.
I might have lost the plot a bit. I walked in the woods today as fast as my little legs would take me just so I could feel a different king of pain. My heart was beating so quickly that eventually I had to scream. I screamed so hard, so loud, so vicariously that it echoed everywhere in the valley. I began to cry and kept walking till I came across a donkey (a donkey everyone talks about and I’ve never found). I was so relieved to find him that when he came to say hello I burst into tears.
I am so angry. I have so much anger in me. It feels like it’s burning. It’s not an anger directed at anything. It has no focus. It just burns.
I want this to be over.
It takes half an hour to draw a hand.
Blow on the embers of your heart. I don’t get it. Blow on what? Visualise it, imagine it?
Being bored is a state of mind coming from a lack of presence… but what if you are just not that into it? Surely if you are aware of everything there are still some things that are just boring?
Drop the story.
Here is my dilemma.
Please help me understand.
Your Love is a healer,
your Love is a wise master,
your Love is radiant,
your Love is delicate and
is soft in its essence.
I would gladly endure all this fire,
all this yearning,
all this burning,
for your Love.
But if your Love is so pleasant,
why does it hurt so much?
Love says ‘I am everything.’ Wisdom says ‘I am nothing.’ Between the two, my life flows.”
– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
I felt something! I heard and felt my heart in meditation tonight! I was so lost in whatever the feeling was that I missed the bell to say the meditation was over. I felt it move, I think, even if I imagined it, it was absorbing. I was totally absorbed. It slightly hurt, like a numb pain from being so intense. And it wasn’t constant like a heart beat should feel. I must have come in and out of concentration but I felt so still. When I had the choice to come out of it, I almost chose to stay in the stillness.
I was focussing on my heart this morning and trying to feel a feeling of love. So, I tried to bring to mind a moment of love. I thought of moments with my family, loved ones and friends and then one moment with my little niece came to mind and the memory filled me with love. It was when I was in a lot of pain last year and I was visiting my brother and his family, I was a mess and I was unable to hide this pain and hurt from the children. I was crying alone on the sofa when Arrietty came in and sat on my knee silently. She looked me in the eyes, played with my face and didn’t make a noise. It was beautiful and made me cry even more, but she did not run away from my pain. It felt like unconditional love from a three year old, was pure and healing. This love filled me up, not because someone was just loving me but because it was Love. Just love existing. When I was in this time of grieving and suffering, the emptiness in my being felt like it went away. I had thought that I was so full of pain, extreme emotions, that that was why it had left me. I realised this morning it wasn’t pain that was filling it up. It was love. I had never felt so unconditionally loved as when I was going through the worst moments of my life. Even when I was at my most broken I felt this love, returned the love and I realise now that it was the openness to this love that filled me up, not the pain.
What I wonder is how to live with knowing Love is there all the time? Not just in crisis or when people show you their love, but in every small moment. It’s different from needing someone to be or show you something in a certain way to feel like you are loved. Just that love is there all the time. Know that Love is there all the time.
Either way, it’s beautiful, inspiring and I feel a real connection to my heart right now.
Let life be beautiful like summer flowers and death like autumn leaves
🎵Spend all your time waiting For that second chance For a break that would make it okay
There’s always some reason To feel not good enough And it’s hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction Oh, beautiful release Memories seep from my veins
Let me be empty Oh, and weightless, and maybe I’ll find some peace tonight
In the arms of the angel Fly away from here From this dark, cold, hotel room And the endlessness that you fear You are pulled from the wreckage Of your silent reverie You’re in the arms of the angel May you find some comfort here🎵
Sitting in a hammock watching the wind blow like crazy around me. The trees are bending so much that they look like the branches might snap. They don’t. They go with the flow.
The day after the retreat I was so full of love for everything that the energy was bursting from me. The day after that I had my spiritual hang-over and my body felt like crap but I was still full of joy and love.
I was right… it was torture, and I couldn’t handle it. But I did. Because I persevered, I had moments and feelings that meant the world to me. The experience gave me something I can’t quite put my finger on, and I’m still feeling the echoes of it now. It feels amazing. It was so much more than I wrote in my notebook, more than I tried to share with my family, more than I really understand with my mind. My heart seems to understand it though. It feels open.
Thanks for putting me through this,
P.S. So glad it’s over though!