When I wrote my blog post yesterday, I promised to tell you about the second lesson I learned during my torturous 48-hour silent retreat, but since then, more have popped into my head. Ten is a nice round number, so here are my learnings:
1. A firm ‘no’ is worth a thousand maybes.
I am not good at saying ‘no’ and when I do, I feel the need to justify my decision. On account of the fact that both Marion and I are forgetful and I almost left my phone behind the last time I gave it to her, I decided to turn it off and keep it in my bag during the weekend retreat, even though mobiles were strictly banned. I found myself trying to justify this and when Marion said ‘I don’t want to argue about it’ I was floored. Why? Because I didn’t either. This happens to me a LOT. It’s because I tie myself in knots trying to explain myself. I don’t have to do this. My husband never has this problem. He says ‘It’s a no from me I’m afraid’ and then proceeds to stare at the other person in total silence. It makes me squirm, but boy is it effective. People take note when he says ‘no’. I need to remember this lesson.
2. A calm mind will find peace anywhere.
The retreat centre looked like the backdrop to Dr.Phibes Rises Again, but this only bothered me. Why is that? You see the world through the glasses of your own state of mind. I was fearful, so therefore noticed horror around me. Be filled with terror and anxiety and the world will look like a horror film. A calm mind will find peace in any environment. There are two things that calm my mind, namely gin & tonic and meditation. I guess I’d better stick to the latter.
3. If you want to worship anything, make it kindness.
My eureka moment at the silent retreat, was that I don’t believe in any of the stuff I’ve been trying to latch onto. I can’t do religion, I don’t think God exists, there is no afterlife…etc. However, one thing I have learned is that kindness is everything. When I give it I feel great and it’s a wondrous thing to receive too. If that is the only thing I take away from this spiritual mentoring year, then it will all have been worth it.
4. Stop and be still if you want to be more compassionate.
Now we are on the subject of kindness, I have discovered that after long periods of silence or meditation, I am a much nicer person. I am a better listener, I feel more empathy and am more compassionate. I told a woman I loved her on Sunday – in a non-sexual, heartfelt way. I rarely do that. If everyone in the world stopped and was still for a little, or even a long while, I believe it would be a better place. You don’t have to tell everyone you love them – a smile will do.
5. Never judge a book by its cover.
In a previous blog post I joked that my spiritual mentor would ask ‘What is Love Island?’ when I confessed to my addiction. Turns out that she enjoys it. She loved Big Brother too, for all the reasons that I did.
6. All religions, no matter how strange they seem, say the same thing.
Whether you worship the teachings of a woman who thinks she is the reincarnation of Mary Magdalene or are a Christian, Hindu or Buddhist, the message is basically the same. Be kind to one another. You see, we’re back to kindness again.
7. Change your perspective.
There was a circular walk at the retreat centre with nine benches at various points on which to reflect. It looped around a field and I sat on each seat to survey the scene. There was a particular tree that drew my attention because I loved the way it moved in the wind. It looked different depending on where I was sat. From one vantage point it was like rippling water, from another, it appeared heavy and sad. I think it is worth looking at things from a different perspective whenever possible, even simple things – like your own house or your walk to work. Go a different way and you might see something you’ve never noticed before. The picture accompanying this post is part of a tree that I spotted when I took a different route on my walk. It looks like a mouth with a shut eye to me – a sleeping tree root. What can you see?
8. Keep on looking.
It’s amazing how you keep seeing new things, no matter how many times you’ve been over the same ground. I did the retreat’s circular walk many, many times but managed to see something new on every occasion.
9. Love your inner child more than anyone else in the world.
One of the exercises we were asked to do at the weekend was to talk to our inner child and ask what she wants. That sounded bonkers to me, so I slapped mine and told her to stop being such a wimp. Tsk. Scold your inner child and you scold yourself. I can see I must try harder with this one. Today, I’ve told her she’s funny and given her a hug. I would let her have an ice-cream too, but sadly, it’s a fasting day.
10. It’s good to talk.
Anyone who knows me will testify to the fact that I love to talk. I was born to talk and have never enjoyed it more than the moment when our 48-hour retreat was broken. I love the sound of my own voice more than ever – which might not be good news for friends and family.
There were other realisations over the weekend too, such as ‘I can never be a vegetarian again’ through to, ‘sleeping on a hard bed is a killer on the neck’ and ‘You can’t have too many hot baths in one day.’ It was the hardest silent retreat I have ever done and I am not quite sure if I regret going yet. I have a four-day silent retreat lined up for the end of September and I am seriously wondering if I should bail out. Am I tough enough to be quiet for that long or will it finish me off?