On Friday I set off on my very first meditation retreat up at a lovely estate called Lorne House in Holywood Co. Down. First things first I will tell you a funny story before I get to all the details of the weekend.
I arrived super early at 17:30, about half an hour before we were due to meet, standard Karen, I really am my Father’s daughter. Anyway, when I pulled up I thought to myself, ooh this looks very grand, pebbled driveway, all very plush, I could see cleaners inside, and assumed they were preparing for our arrival. I sat in the car for a bit, no-one really likes to be the first to arrive do they? I listened to an audiobook and texted my brother, it came to about 6:05 and I still hadn’t seen anyone arrive. I thought this was a bit strange, so I got out, over night bag in hand and strolled in through the open front door. I walked down a short corridor, and past two very well decorated rooms, one with a massive wide screen TV, and the type of furniture that is straight out of a show room, or the type of room your parents call the “good room” and you’re not allowed in. Still no sign of anyone, I peeped into what was the kitchen and saw the cleaners at work, they didn’t see me, so I walked back out. As I wandered out to my car again, I saw a Porsche up near a double doored garage, and after a bit of pondering it dawned on me….. I had just driven into a private driveway, sat in it for half an hour and strolled into someone’s house, had a wee nosy and walked out again …. HAHA brilliant. So to cut a long story short, my smart phone maps app had taken me on the wrong route, also in my defence the house was called Lorne Estate, so I’m not totally stupid. With a bit of help on FB and using my sense of direction (sometimes it works) I found the correct place.
I was greeted by a couple of lovely people, one who I’d seen in my work before, Paul, a very welcoming man. I was shown 3 different rooms to pick from. I had paid for a single with ensuite, but ended up in a room with 3 beds, all to myself and no ensuite! All was good, I was happy and did have a bathroom across the hall to myself.
Supper was ready for us to help ourselves to, as a vegetarian retreat I was intrigued as to what would be on offer. I had some carrot and coriander soup and mountains of salad, I enjoyed it and didn’t miss the meat.
Below is a pic of the tiny little book I brought with me, (shows the rough schedule of the weekend) I wanted to document my time there as much as I could. You know yourself, it’s super hard to go back into your head and remember how you felt at the time of certain events. Plus I wanted to take extra notes on the specific meditations.
At 20:00 we had our introduction to the weekend. I have noted in my book that I felt peaceful and was looking forward to reading afterwards in the “‘silent room”. It was raining outside but I felt cosy in the grand house, I noted down what I wanted to leave the retreat with, and that was clarity & an open heart. I will come back to that again of course at the end of this post.
The meditation room smelt like perfume, on day two I figured it was probably incense. I went in and picked up my cushion and sat on a seat that I would continue to go to for the next few days. I used the cushion for my feet, I’ve been to a few classes in the past and that’s just what you do, I guess it helps lift your feet a little making it more comfortable. Instantly there was a really nice vibe in the room, everyone was there with good intentions and there was a real sense of we are all in this together. I felt grateful to be there and have the opportunity to experience something different.
Now my notes on the actual meditations are a little sketchy, it’s difficult to note down exactly what happens, they are long and your mind can wander and stay still throughout. I will try my best to describe regardless. The first session touched upon happiness being a state of mind, it lies within and not externally, we have probably heard this many times before, however it certainly doesn’t hurt to hear it again, and especially in a meditation setting. By meditating we create a clear mind, a mind that is pure and better equipped to deal with circumstances regardless of how difficult. First takeaway point, stuff doesn’t make us happy, perhaps that’s why we have been doing a clear out in the house, a cluttered house could well be a reflection of a cluttered mind.
I read for a little in the silent room after meditation, there were a number of Buddhist books available to leaf through, plenty of info. to ponder over as you head off to the land of nod. That being said I had a horrible first nights sleep, I always seem to be like that the first night in a foreign bed.
As I was so tired in the morning it was probably a blessing that we were to remain silent right up until 1pm, other than the guided meditations there was no spoken words. I sat down to my porridge and coffee at 7:45am, the silence was just beautiful. No forced sleepy conversation, just utter tranquil silence. I went for a walk outside in the beautiful grounds, I came across the Brownies play park, so naturally had a blast on the ropes, haha.. Walking around and not talking to people is the strangest experience, not awkward, just different, I probably could have done that the entire time, but then again when you have a nice mix of silence and genuine conversations it works well, I spent some more time reading in the silent room, I wrote down this one sentence:
Cherish others more than ourselves and you will be on the path to enlightenment
The next meditation focused on the fact that we can either accept a scenario for what it is or do something about it. So regardless of what it is we are going through we can be at peace by getting out of our heads and in touch with our hearts. If you truly want to change something, do it, and if you cannot, we must be at peace with it.
During the meditations there were long periods of silence and at first I found it difficult. Then on reflection it reminded me of the active listening skill I learnt in a counselling course. The more you listen and stop incessant chatter and distractions the more you open your mind and the more the thoughts you truly want flow in.
The next meditation I noted down even at the time is difficult to describe, I shall try my best. If you have read anything about Buddhism you will know there is a lot of talk around attachment. So we become more at ease when we are less attached to something or people. It doesn’t mean we love any less or start abandoning people in our lives, we just don’t base our happiness on them or rely on them to make us complete. I have obviously expanded on topics in my little book, but my expansions shall remain private 😉
Our first lunch together was an extremely spicy number, it even had me coughing, haha. Still it was a tasty veggie chilli type affair with lots of salad to go along side it. I was grateful for the hearty feed. Even though I was super tired I wanted to move my body so I did a little 20 minute yoga session in my room. I then sneaked out in the car to buy dark chocolate and decaf coffee. How very rock and rock, you probably expected me to say vino there.
The next sentence I wrote down in my little book was:
Heal my mental conundrum
Sounds about right eh? Silence the inner chatter and enjoy the simple things in life.
Sitting down to the next meditation I notice the woman in front of me doing a bent right over yoga pose, she must have been in her 60’s, puts my flexibility right to shame, must do work here, try harder! This meditation focused on kindness and giving plenty to others, I noted down that during it I felt like I had an enlightened moment, but it slipped away again, shame. I blame the tiredness, once or twice I did that jolt you do to stop yourself going to sleep.
Before dinner I was practically nodding off in the conservatory and one of the guys asked if I wanted to head down the road and pick some blackberries, of course, I said! Just a simple and fun thing to do, and they ended up in the apple pie for dessert later. Dinner incidentally was a veggie Thai curry, super tasty and hit the spot. At my table I introduced some people to my 100% dark chocolate and I think I have a few of them convinced!
Moving on to the evening meditation, this one centred around empathy for others. This was a good one, we often don’t understand other people’s reactions or moods because we are looking at them from our own point of view. Therefore what we must do is exchange ourselves with others. Or more eloquently put, “decent our mountain and ascend an others”. Everyone is going through their own troubles and inner frustrations, we cannot know exactly what is going on in there, however we can try to get out of own heads, take some space and think, why is this person acting in such a way? They have their own past that is playing on their mind, their own identity, and experiences. Empathy is a huge skill to acquire, and I want it!
I slept much better last night, in fact all the way through the night, perhaps because my body needed it, or maybe because I felt a little more content.
We started the day straight in with a super early meditation at 7:30 before breakfast. I don’t have many notes on this one, however it was about developing our compassion towards others. We all have compassion, we have it routed deep inside us, we maybe don’t always see it, or perhaps people bury it through years of negative beliefs and suffering. However we always have a choice, think of this equation for a moment
LOVE + AWARENESS OF SUFFERING = COMPASSION
If you love someone, and take a moment to be fully aware of their suffering you can bring compassion and help them move along their journey to enlightenment.
The very final meditation of the retreat was at 10am this morning, and pretty much all memory of it had gone, haha. Perhaps that’s called meditation overload, or I’m just not used to such much a lot at one time. The only thing I have noted down is to project myself as who I want to be.
I did have an interesting visual as I was doing this last meditation. I visualised coming out of myself and actually looking at me walking into the room and behaving how I would like to behave, does that make sense? So basically if I was watching me from a far I would want to be seen as welcoming, friendly, open and chatty. I want to be fun, and a compassionate listener, always there to help, be a person of wisdom and a bit of a sage. Sometimes you get so caught up in your own heard you forget how you are coming across to other people. You may say you don’t care about what other people think of you, but I do, I want to show up in the world as my best self, it’s important to me. This is not coming from a place of low self esteem, it is just who I want to be in the world. I think over the years I have become a little cold hearted, and closed off, and what good does that do anyone?
This weekend has as I had hoped been a real awakening for me. I may not have total clarity of where to take my life career wise, but I do know the type of person I want to show up as in the world.
Thanks for sticking with me on this long post..