Last week I went to a half-day meditation retreat ran by Southern Insight Meditation. I’d been talking about meditation to a new friend who I met at the second Unchatter event (My 40th Year – July (month #3)), and she sent me the link as her neighbour is involved with the group.
It couldn’t have come at a better time. Life is busy and stressful, and I was feeling frazzled. I’m pretty sure I’m still burnt out from last year and trying to recover from that at the same time as living life and unable to take a break in the way I want to. The chance to spend half a day meditating without any distractions? YES PLEASE. I signed up immediately.
I haven’t done much proper mediation since my 10 day silent Buddhist retreat in India back in 2013 (which was life changing), so I was excited to get back into it. The Insight Meditation practice originates in the teachings of the Buddha (Dharma), which I find fascinating, and really resonate with.
Inside, we sat on cushions or chairs, and did some guided meditation. To start was a loving-kindness meditation – metta. “Metta is unconditional, inclusive love, a love with wisdom. It has no conditions; it does not depend on whether one “deserves” it or not; it is not restricted to friends and family; it extends out from personal categories to include all living beings.”
In the meditation, you direct metta to yourself first, because the point is unless we have this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it’s difficult to extend it to others (this is so true – put your own oxygen mask on first and all that). Then you include others (starting with people who are special to you), and, then ultimately, all living things.
It’s the same meditation that Unchatter start some of their sessions with, and it’s really powerful. For me, it conjures up visuals of wrapping myself in a massive yellow sunny fluffy hug, which feels so soft, comforting and just bloody LOVELY. Then I send that same thought/visual to other people and it makes me smile to think of them wrapped in a massive fluffy yellow thing that will make them feel bloody lovely. It really helps if I’m feeling pissed off with someone, as I can’t help but smile and feel charitable.
Then we did some walking meditation outside. I was pleased I’d already done this in India, as we weren’t given much guidance. Although, it was pretty obvious because you could just watch everyone else, but it’s more than just walking around outside. It’s about being deliberate about each step, feeling every movement, being aware of what your body is doing and feeling.
To anyone else outside looking in, it’s like watching the living dead; like zombies walking slowly up and down a patch of land. It’s strange to see, and can feel strange to do, but you just have to shake that off and go with it. It’s liberating.
There’s no talking between us all the entire time, everyone is silent (apart from the teacher). Collectively, we’re together, but everyone’s alone. In their own space, their own world, their own mind. I like this. I find it comforting and peaceful.
One thing I was also grateful for is just a few hours without my fucking phone. I’ve felt stuck to it a lot recently. My own fault, obviously. I’d got into a habit of being on it A LOT. Sucked into social media, which hasn’t been helping the way I’ve been feeling.
We break for tea, and I choose peppermint. I eat some dates and almonds. I don’t eat sugary things anymore, so I avoid the biscuits. They don’t feel like they would sit right anyway. I feel calm and like I’ve purged some of the crap I’d been carrying around, and I don’t want to put any crap back in.
We had some teachings about Buddha then, and more meditation. At that point I was so in the moment, so enthralled, I don’t actually remember now what it was about. But I’m pretty sure it would have gone straight into my subconscious so it’ll be there somewhere. Maybe we did the loving-kindness meditation after the break, not at the start. I can’t actually be sure, but it doesn’t really matter.
I do remember talk of Sangha. This means ‘company’ or ‘community’ and it’s made me question who my community is here in New Zealand. What do I feel a part of? I’m not sure right now and that feels a little lonely, especially as I’ve been here for nearly 4 years now.
This practice has prompted some questions around what I’m doing in my life and how I’m spending my time, and it was well-timed – just a few days after, New Zealand has gone into Level 4 lockdown because we’ve got an outbreak of the COVID Delta variant in the community. This enforced time to myself with few distractions will give me some time to stop and really think about it.
A couple of days ago, at the start of the lockdown, I switched my phone off, and haven’t really spoken to anyone. I’ve sat with myself and tuned out any distractions so I can work through stuff and it’s been bloody wonderful. Jeez, have I realised I need it.