Having just returned from a 10 day retreat on Meditation in the desert of Northern Territory I can honestly say that it was one of the most challenging things I have done. Each day was broken up into 45 minute meditation sessions, including walking meditation interspersed with other activities.
The first thing I found challenging was the environment. Beautiful as it was in a very raw and earthy way it was also very hot and windy and it was the first time I had needed a fly veil to practice my meditation. (very annoying when the little devils managed to sneak under occasionally and get trapped!!) Needless to say here I had the opportunity to reflect on the importance of creating an environment conducive to meditation and then settling in to “as good as it’s going to get” It was interesting to watch my ability to develop a “let go” approach to all things beyond my control. A great start for any meditation practice!
The second challenge was the sheer number of meditation sessions. I like to practice meditation in the mornings before breakfast and last thing at night. Now I found myself doing 5 or more sessions a day and again there was a learning opportunity here. Why was it that I felt I should be doing something else? It seems that I had placed a value on meditation only if it fitted in with the rest of my life. Well of course out there in the desert there really was nothing else I had to be doing but I was somehow conditioned to feel that simply sitting doing “nothing” was idle of me!! This took a few days to leave me and once I settled into the pace of the desert I found it much easier.
The final challenge was actually getting sick whilst I was there and wrestling with my ego’s need to be “doing everything” and my body’s need for time out to rest and recover. I had to find that compassion for myself….to let go once again!
So whilst I did not wander the desert eating locusts and wild honey I did experience the soul-searching that occurs when you remove yourself from the familiar and your comfort zone.
So what were the benefits you might say?? Well it is a truly wonderful experience to meditate with others. We had a big group of about 40 people and the positive energy of the group was just marvellous. I would recommend group meditation to anyone who is thinking about beginning a practice. You may have even begun some meditation practices in your yoga class.
Another great benefit was having the opportunity to practice walking meditations. I have done some of these at the Ashram before but have never really integrated them into my practices. It was exciting to walk in such an ancient land and feel the connection to the earth below whilst carefully focusing on the breath not the scenery and then when we did some whole senses walking I was amazed at just what I could see, hear, smell, feel and even taste (though I think this was mainly dust!) Opening up to all of your senses gives you the perfect opportunity to be fully present.
Each day we had a teaching session on meditation which built on my previous knowledge and gave me many new insights into ways to approach meditation. More on this in the next post. So to sum up for now …
- Meditation is about letting go!
- Meditation can help you learn more about yourself
- It is Ok to sit quietly in the moment…you are not being lazy!
- Maintain that compassion for the self!
- Meditating with others can be a very enriching experience
- Vary your meditation practice by including a walking meditation