A few weeks ago I wrote about a new therapy I am experimenting with called Mindfulness. It is a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and meditation. The therapy consists of weekly meetings with a group and one hour of private meditation practice per day. The process has been harder than expected to this point – one free hour a day is even more elusive than it sounds, and when I do find the time, sometimes sitting still in silence makes me more anxious than I was at the start.
I have been apprehensive about today since the course began: the silent retreat day. I have just come home from six hours spent with twenty strangers in a classroom with no talking. The instructors guided various meditations in hushed voices, but all participants were encouraged to keep mum. I was nervous about the silence; not being able to express if a meditation strikes a nerve and makes me sad or anxious or uncomfortable was a scary thought. I thought I was just going to have to deal with whatever came up all by myself. However, once I was there, a sense of calm came over me and by the end of the first guided session much of my stress was melting away. To boot, I learned some unexpected things.
I Talk Too Much
My parents like to say that I have only been quiet for one extended period of time in my life; I was three years old and we were watching the Beauty and the Beast stage show at Disney World. Since then, I’ve been pretty chatty. So I was very surprised today when I felt relief at not having to make small talk with people. Taking away the social pressure to talk about the weather or the commute was liberating. It was so relaxing not to worry about remembering people’s names or finding some tenuous thing we had in common to stretch into a five minute conversation. I was just present and quiet and it was lovely.
My Sandwich was Delicious
I ate my lunch alone, looking out a window at the fall colors. I had a boring turkey and cheese sandwich, a bottle of water and forty-five minutes to kill. Having no one to talk to and being banned from my cell phone I simply ate and stared out the window. My sandwich was unexpectedly delicious. I am always doing something while I eat; I work while I eat lunch at my desk, I watch a movie while I eat a snack or a chat with a friend over dinner. I usually check Instagram over my cheerios. Today I just thought about every bite I took, focusing all my attention on my simple food. It was the best lunch I’ve had all week.
I’m Addicted to my Cell Phone
Today I was told to leave my mobile at home and I am so glad I did. Much like not making small talk with my peers, it was so nice to ignore the rest of the world too. Totally disconnecting from my calendar, email, texts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and phone calls meant that the work I did in the meditations themselves didn’t have a time limit or an urgency. I wasn’t constantly listening for a little ding or a vibration. When I got home there wasn’t nearly as much waiting for me as I had expected. So much of my constant connection through my mobile is self-inflicted. Today I learned it’s actually pretty nice to tune it out.
For a meditation retreat, I didn’t actually learn that much about meditating. I did learn that it is really beneficial to fully unplug sometimes. Maybe you don’t need to sit in silence with twenty strangers for six hours to take time for yourself, but then again, maybe you do. This forced seclusion was the first time I have felt disconnected in a good way for as long as I can remember. I loved the freedom from the weight of expectations. For just one day I was free from the stress of being pulled in all directions except the one that will make me happy just because I’m trying to please everyone else first. Today I let go of friends, work, cell phones and even illness just for the day and I feel so much lighter because of it.
About Sarah Lindsay
Sarah Lindsay is in her mid-twenties and lives in Toronto with her boyfriend and their dog (who also has some anxiety issues). Sarah was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2005 at the age of 16 and is still trying to figure it out. Follow Sarah’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog, or additionally you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or check out her new website: SarahsMoods.com