Sunday, 6 March 2016

Ruminations On Retreat Part 1

People keep asking me how was it? And I do not know how to answer. Yes I was away on a retreat yet at the same time it was a teacher training for mindfulness. Do I say I had a good time? Yes,  I did ...I think, but that just doesn't quite describe it . It does not come anywhere near describing walking into a room full of folk that you have never met before, knowing that you are going to spend a whole week with them and that a lot of that time would be in silence.

To set the scene the event took place in Corrymeala a well known centre just outside Ballycastle on the North Antrim Coast. The location is superb and the room we were in had sweeping views of the sea on three sides. The stunning vista mixed with the ever-changing weather sweeping in from the sea on a particularly stormy week was some back drop to a week inner contemplation . Howling wind and gunshot hail mixed  with the brightest of sunshine and blue skies. The background scenery changing every few moments giving an unspeakable  depth, veracity and tone to our day to day activities.

Sitting in the room getting to know people, inwardly sizing them up, taking stock trying not to listen to the inner critic. Instantly forgetting names as they spoke, desperately trying to retain any fact at all about them. Wondering how long would I be able to sit? Would I be able to sit at all in meditation? Wondering about the leaders, noticing different accents from around the world. Wanting to be anywhere except where I was, asking myself  when would tea be ? Mindful .......not much.

7am next  day we get straight into it,  feet on the floor,  notice how I am feeling, what am I thinking? Feeling tense and anxious, thinking about everything ...from the colour of the carpet, to wondering had I turned off the light in my bedroom.  What are my emotions? That’s easy, only one answer in turmoil.   Turning my attention to the breath, allowing my awareness to expand to the edges of my body and the space beyond. Returning continually to the breath every time I lose the run of myself in my thoughts  .  Repeating this small ritual  again and again and again and again was to continue all week.  Somewhere in the room someone evidently has a heavy cold, as the noises one makes when one has a cold seem to be amplified in the silence. Faintly I think I hear someone snoring and congratulate myself that at least it is not me as I had slept badly the night before. Immediately notice that I am away off thinking about not sleeping and drag my reluctant ass back into the game of staying present. The minutes tick by following the led meditation, finally the bells went and we were able to go to breakfast. Eating in silence and  doing all the things that one has to do to prepare breakfast tends to concentrate the mind. Everything seems louder than usual from the person beside you eating, to the screech of chairs being pushed back on a hard surface.

Again I notice that I do not want to be here, so I get up and leave the table needing some space between myself and others, this was to be a pattern I would repeat all week until pretty much the latter end of the week. I seemed to need to be away from folk not wanting to engage in any way and anyhow there was little point as we could not speak. Later on that day after lunch I get out for a walk enjoying mightily the views and the  raw wildness  of the early March weather.  Walking up the road the sun momentarily breaks the cloud and the country is bathed in the kindness of a gentle light, blue patches of sky between the navy ragged grey of the storm clouds. To be continued.

Coastal walk near Corrymeala

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