My Day 4 Take Home Messages from the Mindful Self-Compassion Workshop
Today was the retreat day for the mindful self-compassion workshop, meaning we were in silence all day. I was quite apprehensive about this, as I have never done a day of silence in my life. I was unsure on how I would cope during the day, but I was willing to embrace it and see what would happen. Other aspects which I was not expecting on the day of silence was that we were encouraged not to make eye contact with others at the workshop or touch (e.g., hug or handshake) other participants. So we started at 9am and finished up at 4pm, and had a 5-minute discussion at the end about our experience.
Our day was full of formal meditations, but we also had a number of informal meditations, for example mindful walking and mindful eating. At the beginning of the day I was doing great with the silence, but after about an hour I really wanted to look around the room and make eye-contact with others and smile with them. But of course I had to refrain from this action. Mindfulness of the breath was very helpful at these times, as I was able to focus my awareness on my breath, recognise my thought – my desire, and was able to sit with the urge until it passed. Typically I would attempt to distract my mind or suppress the thought, however this time I allowed it to just sit there, I made ‘room’ for it, was able to accept it, finding comfort in my breath. That was a very insightful experience, and gave me confidence I could do it again at other times in my day-to-day living.
My take home message for the day though was the mindful awareness of a sense and savor walk. The idea being you really take in what you are observing whilst walking, with open curiosity, being mindful of the things around you. I’ll give you an example of what I mean. When I was walking down the main street of Byron Bay I stumbled across a beautifully hedged tree. When I looked at the tree I was able to notice patterns in the bark, the slightly differing colours of the leaves, and the ants crawling all over it. But what I also noticed when looking at the hedged tree was the ‘non-hedged tree elements’. Stay with me here, I know that sounds a little weird. But when looking at the tree I noticed that for the tree to be in existence in the middle of the sidewalk on this main street of Byron it needed the dirt in the ground, the rain from the clouds, and the rays from the sun for that tree to grow. It also needed the skillful hands of a gardener, it needed the teacher of that gardener, and the parents of the gardener for the tree to be hedged so beautifully. It also would have needed hedging clippers or secateurs to be able to shape the tree with that hedged look, which would have meant iron ore from the earth. And there are countless other things necessary for that tree to be in existence on that sidewalk. By being able to see the tree and the non-tree elements in that sense and savor meditation walk gave me a much greater appreciation for the interconnectedness between all things. That was somewhat of a revelation for me. And now I find it hard not to apply this type of contemplation to all the things that I see. See if you can do the same in your walks.
In terms of the rest of the day of silence – well I found that relatively easy. There were no real times where I was like “I just have to speak to somebody right now”. That was quite a comforting thing to recognise about myself. However, if the workshop had been a full week of silence, well I don’t think it would have been so easy. In fact I know I would have really struggled. When it came time to talk, it also made me really appreciate the miracle of speech. We had to do an exercise at the end of the day where we spoke for 5 minutes about our experience. The previous day we had to do a similar exercise and I found I didn’t have enough time to finish what I wanted to say, but today, I found I was much more efficient with my words. This wasn’t a conscious decision, I just naturally came to my conclusion and there was still about 2 minutes left to speak. I was speechless with this outcome, sorry for the pun. I always find it remarkably easy to speak. It made me realise that sometimes less is more, and despite the natural urge to try and fill the remaining minutes with words I decided to refrain from doing so, and just sat in silence with my partner for the remainder of the exercise.
Well tomorrow is the final day of our workshop, and I am sad it has gone by so quickly.
Extra note: the photo is of the building where we have been doing the workshop all week
Extra extra note: I found it quite difficult to order a coffee at the cafe not using my words, but the waiter was extremely accommodating, and gave me a free biscuit with my order.