I recently took a giant leap outside my comfort zone and attended a three-day silent meditation retreat. It was held Prama Institute & Wellness Center in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina during the peak of fall foliage. It was quiet, serene and far-removed from the chaos of my everyday life of kids and work….and it was pure torture!
By nature, I am anxious, stressed, busy and perfectionistic. I’ve come a long way in my quest for peace and balance. I prioritize yoga and meditation, spend time in nature, try not to over schedule, and get help when I can. But this was a whole new ballgame.
The retreat promised and delivered fresh, vegan meals prepared for you, yoga classes, guided meditation, nature hikes, and lots of time for journaling, reflection, and relaxation. Sounds like paradise, right? I always think I would do so much more of those things “if I just had the time.” (*wistful sigh*)
The first two days, I felt like a caged animal. A lion pacing back and forth. Did I mention, there were no electronics allowed? No cell phone, no social media, no news about politics or sports, no Amazon or eBay.
I realized it wasn’t the not talking that bothered me, it was the not DOING. I wanted the yoga class to hurry and be over so we could meditate. Then for the meditation to be over (seriously I was screaming inside!!) so we could eat. I wanted to help clear the dinner dishes and get the next meal started. My brain and body wanted to go, go, go but I was being held captive, forced to just BE!
I recently read that people are bombarded by the equivalent of 174 newspapers of data per day. That’s a lot of information to take in and process. It’s no wonder we’re stressed, anxious, depressed and sick.
Believe it or not, I was exhausted by the end of the second day. I wanted to get in my car, drive home, turn on Netflix and browse social media while watching a movie.
But something had changed by the time I woke up on day three. Yoga class started at 7 a.m. in a dome-shaped room with windows all around, overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was dark when we started and the sun slowly rose over the mountains as the rhythm of our movements quickened and intensified. It was as if our bodies were slowly waking up in tune with the rest of the world. I was completely in awe of the moment. Perfectly content to just BE exactly where I was. No need to hurry or control. It had taken me that long to unplug from my artificial life.
It is when all that chatter quiets that you can actually be present and enjoy your life. We miss out on the moment if we’re distracted by worries about the future or regrets of the past. If our minds and bodies are always busy, we drown out our own intuition and block connection with our higher power. We spend all our time reacting instead of being in the driver’s seat of our own lives.
I have taken that feeling of peace and connection home with me. Of course, life is still hectic. Now I realize much of that is self-inflicted. So I will continue on my journey, striving for progress, not perfection.
Two things I am doing in my life right now as a takeaway from this experience:
1. Set aside a specific time each the day for social media, checking email & internet surfing and limit it to only that time. We fool ourselves into thinking virtual reality is equivalent to taking a break but it actually creates information overload and stress. If you’re waiting in line or during a commercial break….just BE. I know it’s hard at first but you will notice better energy throughout the day when you are actually resting during breaks instead of filling every possible moment with activity. Instead of going online, which actually drains your energy, do something that replenishes it, like take a slow walk or engage in face-to-face conversation with someone who makes you happy.
2. Incorporate a daily meditation practice. More and more evidence proves that meditation has a profound impact on sleep, stress, happiness and overall health. If you’re new to meditation, there are tons of apps available with meditations that range from only 1-3 minutes to up to an hour. I love Deepak Chopra and Oprah’s free 21-Day Meditation Experiences (the next one begins Oct. 31). Or you can just breathe. Stop what you’re doing and take five deep breaths in and out. You will be amazed at the difference it makes!
I would love to hear how you are managing stress and exhaustion in your life. Be sure to post a comment below in the comment section.
Wishing you joy and abundant health!
P.S. - If you struggle with stress and creating a balanced, healthy life, I can help. Come see me for a FREE Healthy Breakthrough Consultation.