I started 2017 sitting in Vipassana, which if you don’t know, is a 10-Day silent meditation experience. Ten days, sitting in meditation with nothing but your own head, thoughts and ideas swirling around you. No books, no reading, no talking. You eat, you sleep, you meditate. It was life altering.
I can’t wait for the next opportunity to go.
I took away a few tremendous lessons from this experience that most recently, in all of my angst, have come back into my awareness - as if to say hey - don’t forget what you learned…I want to share these with you.
The first of those lessons is that silence and space are healing.
My nick-name growing up was motor mouth (or M&M as my Dad would call me). I earned this name because I never stopped talking. I have also been known to talk very quickly and, if I happen to be extra passionate about a topic, appear to be able to speak without breathing. It’s an illusion people have called me out on many times.
I remember telling my Dad I was doing Vipassana and he laughed at me and gave me 48 hours before I cracked from my need to speak. It turns out that I love being in silence.
After Vipassana, I committed to taking one 24-hour period of silence each month this year. I did great up until the summer. I loved my silent sessions.
If I look back on the mounting angst and swirl in my life and the subsequent pain and emotional turmoil, it’s no coincidence that they align to the timeline of when I took the priority away from my periods of silence.
On the backside of this Thanksgiving holiday - Saturday evening, on my drive back from Portland where I had spent the weekend, I did 14 hours of silence. It wasn’t the full 24 but it was a great reset - and a lovely reminder of how much silence can heal.
I actually turned my cell phone off and relied on the universe to guide me safely home and then wake me in the morning in time for my appointment. It didn’t fail - a dog bark came at the perfect time.
The second major take away from Vipassana was the reminder that everything is always moving and changing. Things don’t stay the same, ever. As my dear friend Brandi and I were walking along the river trail along Portland’s Willamette, we walked in silence for most of the 3 mile trail.
Silence allows you to hear the messages of the universe more clearly. I heard many reminders on this walk. The one that triggered my memory of Vipassana was the reminder that things are always changing.
If you touched your fingers in the river, as I did on Friday, and then a moment later, put your fingers back in the exact same spot, the river water would have changed already and your fingers would be touching something different.
The same is true of life. Stand still long enough and what you are looking at will alter itself around you. And because of this movement, you too, even while standing still, will change. The wind will brush your face differently or your breathing will change the air in your lungs, your blood changing with the exchange of O2 and CO2.
Sometimes when we find ourselves stuck somewhere we don’t want to be, we struggle so much to “get out” or to “force” our way through we often don’t recognize that sometimes, standing still is the best way to move.
The third reminder and big lesson I took from Vipassana was that we create our own misery. We do this in one of two ways. We are either actively craving something we can’t have, and our want is so great that it makes us miserable or we are actively trying to avoid something we don’t want which also makes us miserable.
The remedy is to approach everything with an equanimous or balanced mind. Now, I’m zodiologically a Cancer, prone to mood swings and influenced by the moon cycles. (Seriously, my last menstrual cycle backed itself up a week to align with the last new moon.)
Balance isn’t fundamental to me. What IS fundamental is being swept up in the current and allowing my passions to show through, as well as my emotions. I’ve received feedback that it’s hard to keep up when I go from crying to laughing within a moment or two.
All that said, what I’ve finally found, and yet often need a reminder of, is that the path to balance is through surrender.
When something is causing me pain, sadness or aggravation, instead of fighting those emotions to try and stay in an equal mind, I allow them to come.
Here’s the thing that amazes me most when I release the need to fight it, the big feelings last maybe 90 seconds and then I’m “right as rain”. (I think whoever came up with this colloquialism never lived in the Pacific NW).
So as I step into the last month of the year, and out of the November that brought up so much, I was gently and gracefully reminded, during my periods of silence, of the lessons I have learned this year.
- I was reminded that space and silence heal.
- I was reminded that surrender and being in-flow heal.
- I was reminded that everything changes (and I don’t always have to be the one to change it).
- I was reminded that standing still is sometimes the best course of action.
- I was reminded that being in silence makes you a better listener.
- I was reminded that the universe always has my back (and yours!). (I especially love that it was in the form of a dog barking.)
- I was reminded that the lessons I learn are more effective if I integrate those lessons into who I am instead of trying to change myself to make them work.
- I was reminded that if I show up in my full authenticity, nothing external can dim my light.
- I was reminded that if I have the courage to shine my light, that those who need it will find me.
- I was reminded of my roots, the power (and progress) of my journey and my desired destination.
- I was reminded that my stories and experiences are valuable. Even more so when I have the courage to share them.
Thank you for being a safe place to share. For your encouragement and love. I am grateful for you.