Moments of Mindfulness
I wasn’t sure if took a wrong turn up the muddy path and walked into a seance or a romantic proposal set up, until a retreat leader, clothed in the same gauzy white pants and top that I wore, walked through the back door with our cushions. Yes, this was the evening meditation session in Center Hall, the stilted glass box surrounded by thick greenery. Candles flickered in the darkness, giving the space a relaxing and borderline eerie feeling. Under the guidance of a smiling teaching monk, patient in his abstract explanations and kind in his philosophy, we began our first meditation.
Each session was work, not simply sitting around doing nothing. I had to focus on letting go of focus and think about not thinking. It took discipline, but it also required gentleness. Clear and bright, I’d repeat to myself as I pushed away thoughts of my family back home, an itchy mosquito bite, or that hilarious vine video I had to show everyone after the session. After a few sessions, it became a little easier to set these distractions aside, finding new ways to mentally shift them into a Think About Later bucket.
Where our silent days lacked in conversation, they were abundant in internal dialogue. For me, this was a time of reflection, a place where I turned inwards to learn and observe. It was myself and my own thoughts that I was observing and the unfamiliarity I felt when doing this was striking. This awareness is a focus and intention I hope to continue.
Although certainly mellow, this wasn’t a relaxing retreat. We struggled, we learned, we massaged our sore backs, and we almost burst after a silent day. It was a challenge, a tough but memorable journey to a place I had never spent much time previously— the present.