There I was, sitting on my cushion, looking forward to 10 days of silence. Ah, the inner world, my favourite place, where insights and Aha’s arrive like popping candy.
I’ve been an on-off meditator for about 20 years and had previously been on a 3-day silent retreat, which resulted in me annihilating a planet of angry (that’s for another time). Those 3 days were an amazing and powerful experience and I was keen to have more. So as I sat on the hard floor, perched on a large square cushion I wondered what 10 full days of silence could elicit.
Maybe this time I’ll encounter a sanctuary of inner bliss? Or a cathedral of white light that illuminates my inner divinity?
As the allocated meditation hours – 14 a day – passed, I was increasingly surprised at what my mind was producing. Namely, reems and reems of erotica. Sure, I’d fantasised before but never in 14 hour stints, while sitting like a statue of Buddha.
Around me my fellow meditators piled on extra cushions and requested the small wooden back rests to ease some of the physical pain of sitting all day. Me? I couldn’t wait to get back in the cold, dimly lit room and see what else my mind had in store.
To clarify; the idea of a silent retreat is not to let your mind wander and especially not to engage with it. In fact while I was mentally ravaging an assortment of hot men, the guru was instructing me (and my 100 fellow sitters) to focus on the air between our nostrils and top lip.
At a stretch I probably spent about 10 of the 140 hours concentrating on my ‘nostril breath’. The rest of the time I was ahem otherwise engaged.
As the retreat came to an end, part of me felt bad that I hadn’t focused enough on the actual meditation. Yes, I had sat upright for 10 days, not spoken to anyone, practised physical austerity and only eaten two meagre meals a day. But my mind, well, that was less Thousand Petal Lotus and more Lotus Finds Love – in Vegas.
The upshot? Meditation is a journey and it’s not what you might expect. Learning to sit in stillness, be it on retreat or at home is really a process of coming to know yourself. I’ve practised for years and even facilitated meditation groups, and although it’s a constantly changing landscape (that hardly ever includes more than about 1-2 minutes in a row of actual mental silence), I’ve never, before or since, had the erotic experience I did during those 10 days in the Blue Mountains. (Blue indeed).
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So if you’re tempted to cultivate your own practice, my advice is this: do it consistently and you will definitely experience results. But here’s the caveat: don’t be surprised if you find there’s more to your inner world than meets the third eye.