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Retreat Post Compilation

2011-05-04-1SpiritRockNow that I am unplugged from my devices and to-do lists, I get to find out what my mind is really like. And who I really am.
I tend to feel very mortal when I’m on retreat. Without to-do lists, email, blog posts, relationships, calendars, there’s just my basic human mortality – the pulsing, vibrating, sensing of pleasure and pain in the body, and my mental habits. There is nothing else external to distract you from the simple truth of body sensations of pleasure, pain, and neutrality coming and going, mental states of grasping and aversion coming and going. It’s all very elemental. You see yourself as being a natural process which is limited in duration. The preciousness of life becomes abundantly apparent.
When I sit with all my mortalness in meditation, I am apt to reflect on the things I am doing in my life and whether they are an adequate expression of that precious mortality. Am I living the right life? I don’t tend to ask this questions when I am caught up in the everyday details of my life. But on retreat, with nothing around to mirror my assumptions about what is important and worthy of my attention, I am forced to become intimate with my elemental aliveness – to be intimate with the simple fact of being human. And when I can do that, the great questions start to resonate.

Take Time to Be This Holiday Season

This is the time of the year when everything seems to get intensified. Our work schedules are usually extra busy with end of year or seasonal deadlines. Add to that all the events and pressures of the holiday season, whether it’s your office party or planning for the holiday dinner you committed to make or sending out cards or shopping for gifts. There’s a certain joyous frenzy to it all. It can be a fun time of year. But it’s just as likely to be a very stressful time of year when we find ourselves going through the motions of the season without any presence of mind, in a kind of dissociative trance. We become so wrapped up in doing things that we forget our being completely. We become completely unbalanced.12-28-09 ornaments083.jpg

Paradoxically, this is a great time of year to just let yourself be. Taking some time each day to sit and breathe is critically important especially during high stress periods like the holidays. Even ten minutes a day of breathing can make a huge difference. Who has time for that? you might ask. How sad that we so often neglect to connect to ourselves. What does all the giving of the holiday season mean if you’re not able to give yourself the gift of your own attention? You’re not being selfish. You’re honoring your own mental and physical health by taking time out to breathe. To become still, silent, and simple. In that silence and stillness we can reflect on what’s important to us, about the kind of year we’ve had, about our successes and failures and our aspirations for next year. Even during a busy day you can remember to practice STOP whenever you feel you need it — just noticing your breath, your body sensations, and acknowledging whatever thoughts or emotions happen to be present, without needing to change how things are but simply opening to how things are.

So please, give yourself the greatest gift in the world this holiday season – the power of your own attention and self-care.