De-Cluttering the Mind

It’s funny but when I need a break I really know it. I don’t want to see, talk or visit anyone. I need to completely switch off and that’s it. A friend suggested a ten day silent retreat; it was appealing as I’ve done plenty of meditation before and know the benefits but the thought of sitting in meditation for around 10 hours a day, for 10 days, not speaking to anyone, seemed like hard-core practice. So I decided on a 5-day retreat; but not silent and being pretty good at self-discipline, I planned my own routine. It went something like this –

Yes, I was meditating 4 to 6 hours a day. I needed to switch my mind off from the external world and also my internal world, the latter taking a lot more effort, even now after years of practice.

I’m lucky that I live only 20 minutes away from one of the most beautiful meditation halls in the country - Harnham Buddhist Monastery. In the heart of the Northumberland countryside it provided me with precisely the stillness and peace I was looking for. All my senses could breathe again - taking in the quiet, light, air after coming from the congested depths of the City. The environment makes a big difference, I read in The Art of Meditation that going on a meditation retreat is like going for brain surgery; you wouldn’t want surgery in a backstreet shed – get the right tools and place around you. I liked that.

A Tidal Wave of Thoughts

I really wanted to deal with some recent anxieties in my life - I have them too, it’s the way our minds work; a busy place for most of us. Initially you feel like the tidal wave of thoughts just won’t stop, you even go into various conversations in your head about this and that but you always come back to the focus which is your breath. I liked that too. It’s just so simple.

In fact what it comes down to is consistent practice. As in my yoga practice I notice at the beginning some muscles are too tight or some postures are just down right impossible, this is the same for the mind – it just won’t get peaceful. Then a little encouragement, softness and ah being, suddenly there’s space, a space filled with no thoughts just awareness, at that moment when you think you have it you then find yourself wondering what’s for dinner.

Reducing Stress

This is kind of how it goes until you have more space than thoughts. The whole body becomes quieter and you notice you’ve reduced a huge amount of stress. Your nervous system relaxes, heart rate eases, emotions calm and you feel that sense of being able to deal with life again and nothing bothers you.

In the process I got lots of inspiration too which was great. My creativity came through boundlessly, it’s like getting several "aha" moments all in one go.

Back in the midst of my work now it feels like I’ve never been anywhere yet something is different, a shift has happened, a reboot. Everything is still the same but I’m functioning more efficiently. Maybe deep maintenance work has taken place during my mediation; not something we give time to in our busy daily life.


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