Mission Accomplished: My Experience with a 10-day Meditation Retreat

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This year, my holidays were spent like no other.  I spent my Christmas Eve agreeing to enter “noble silence” for ten days, this included no communicating through cell phone, laptops or any other technological gadgets and no speaking or gesturing to those around me.  No reading or writing was allowed either (my jaw dropped with that one too.)  My New Year’s Eve was spent meditating in a meditation hall with about 100 other people for an hour and a half before our bedtime (lights out were at 9:30pm.) The only celebration was heard from the neighboring farm lands nearby in which the residents were lighting off fireworks as I laid my worn head to bed.

I had first heard about this 10-day silent meditation retreat from classmates at a local meditation group that I attend in Portland, OR.  When I had heard about their experiences with it, I was fascinated.  One of my classmates compared it to a Native American Medicine Journey, a journey where you go completely within.  I stashed the idea of it away in my brain as something I ought to try sometime, maybe in a couple years when I could accrue that many hours off of work.  My meditation teacher kept discussing it at class as the weeks went by.  I found out that the 10-day silent meditation was free and they also offered it during the holidays so you don’t have to ask for as many days off of work as you might need to otherwise. I signed up in May 2014 to attend a 10-day silent meditation retreat from 12/24/14-1/4/15, that May I remember thinking how I wouldn’t have to worry about it for quite sometime, as it was more than seven months away.  As the months and weeks crept closer though, I started wondering if it was that good of a decision. Everyone else would be spending the upcoming holidays with family and friends, while I would be falling off the radar.  As the week prior to leaving for the retreat came up, I received this text from my sister, who has attended a few retreats herself, but none longer than three days: “Sad, it kinda feels like you’ll be crossing over to the other side for ten days.”  When I received that text, I took a deep breath, I really wasn’t sure what I had signed up for.

When I first pulled up into the land that the Northwest Vipassana Center is located on, the whole vibe of the land and the building was incredibly peaceful.  After registering inside and getting the itinerary booklet (see picture below) I made my way from the building to the women’s residential suites.  As I walked along the pebbled path towards what would be my home for the next ten days I saw a couple of deer eating alongside a marsh area with the peak of Mount Rainier in the back round.  I remember feeling elation and getting the sense that the next ten days were going to be very relaxing.

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I made my way back to the building after setting up my bed and meeting Kate, my new roommate whom I found out was also on her first 10-day retreat and had traveled down from Seattle with her best friend of years and years. I sat in the dining area of the building, sipping on hot tea and chatted with a few girls that were sitting near me.  I had found out that two of them had done a 10-day retreat before and the girl sitting across from me, Lacey, was at her first retreat.  Lacey and I interrogated the girls that were veterans of this retreat, asking them what we should expect, what had happened for them last time, and more. One of the veteran girls seemed a little distraught as she mentioned “I don’t know if I’m ready to go through this work again….” with a far-off look in her eyes.

The last of the meditation-goers were checking in and trickling into the dining area.  We were provided a light dinner and instructed to get anything we needed from our cars afterwards, to make sure all of our technological gadgets were handed in to the staff and to meet at the meditation hall in about a half an hour for the first group meditation.  There was a frantic energy in the air, it seemed that people were gabbing just for the sake of noise because we all knew that the “vow of noble silence” would start after our first group meditation.  I used the time to meet a few more new people and to get acquainted with where everything was on the premises.

The time drew near 8pm, the big moment of our first group meditation and the official end to communication of any kind. We stood outside the meditation hall, awaiting the teachers to enter first.  I met two girls and spoke nervously with them, one had mentioned that she and her boyfriend decided to sign up together for this, the other girl mentioned that a friend in Portland had told her about the retreat.  We seemed to be talking just to talk, just to get the last words out we could, all of us knowing that in less than ten minutes we would have to be mute for a week and a half.  The teachers entered the building and close to forty of us followed them in.  We took off jackets and shoes and were instructed to grab any pillows, blankets or chairs that we would want to use as our meditation tools for the next ten days.  One of the assistant teachers started calling out names, and one by one people were directed to their assigned seats.  I remember a thought crossed my mind in which I felt that I was at Heaven’s gate or something–waiting for my name to be called to enter a whole other world.

We met in the meditation hall three times a day, at 8:00am, 2:30pm and 6:00pm.  Our days consisted of ten hours of focused vipassana meditation, the first three days we focused on the sensation of our breath and the area near where we could feel the breath the most–the area on or near the nostrils.  The middle of the ten days, days four through six we started doing focused meditation called “body scanning” which consisted of placing our awareness on each body part.  With body scanning, we would start at the top of our head and move down piece-by-piece (the forehead, the ears, the nose) just noticing any sensations, be it pain or tingling or anything.  We were instructed not to label anything, but to just be aware of it and notice it’s changing form.  The last three days we were taught of “free form” body scanning which consists of starting at the top of our head down to the bottoms of our feet, scanning up and down in more of a flowing fashion.  If we had troubles with this, we were instructed to go back to body scanning piece-by-piece.  We could also speak with the teachers after the evening group meditation or during lunch break if we were having any particular troubles with the meditating.

There were a couple major moments that stuck with me the most during my 10-day retreat.  On night three and five, I had incredible dreams and also visions as I tried to fall asleep.  On night three, every time I tried to close my eyes to get to sleep, there was a light show going on beneath my eyelids.  There were magnificent colors swirling and dancing, if I didn’t know any better, I might have thought someone had spiked my evening tea with magic mushrooms.  Then, on the fifth night I had what I can only describe as a deeply spiritual experience which I found to be extremely comforting.  On that particular night, I had some troubles initially falling asleep, but I finally did drift off at a relatively early hour–around 10:30 p.m. or so.  I had a very vivid dream (it seemed as real to me as me typing these words out and hearing the hum of the washing machine below my kitchen floor right now feels to me.) 

In the dream, I headed to the group meditation hall, walking the pebbled path from my residential suite to the building, everything covered in dew from the damp weather that early morning.  I sat down in my assigned seat, wrapped my blanket around me and was aware of all the other meditators around me.  We all closed our eyes to start our meditation and immediately I got the sensation of no longer having a body, I felt so light and free.  It felt so completely right, as if this was what I have been longing for my whole life.  I then realized that I had dissolved into oneness with all of the other meditators.  I then darted awake in my bed and looked at my clock–it stated “12:30 a.m.”  I then fell asleep again and had this same exact dream three more times, always darting awake as my conscious mind realized the feeling of oneness, I awoke again at 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 a.m.

I went into the ten day retreat with expectations that it was going to be easy for me since I have been practicing daily meditation for two and a half years, but it was far from easy.  When I came back to Portland and was asked multiple times about my experience, the best way that I could describe it to people was that it was tormenting, yet transformative.  I didn’t have too much trouble with the no-talking rule as I am an introvert, but I did miss my phone a lot and not being able to write or read was excruciating for me.  The retreat really instilled into me the changing nature of reality: physical pain, emotional pain, food, people, circumstances, ideas, locations–all of this is coming and going continuously.  The retreat got me more comfortable with the idea of impermanence and it also reminded me that we can start over at any moment by focusing on our breath.

I highly recommend these types of retreats for anyone, it is not affiliated with any religious sect and accepts everyone from every back round.  The facilities are run off of donations, but no one is turned away for lack of funds.  The way that I am going to donate and give back is to be of service at future retreats.  One thing that I have mentioned to friends or family members that have expressed interest in this retreat is to realize that when you attend one of these, you are not going for the purpose of rest and relaxation (I had that wrong estimation myself.)  What these types of meditation sits truly do is break down a ton of barriers within you and can create profound healing.  It brings you into acceptance of what is, as the itinerary booklet states, “Vipassana means seeing things as they really are.”

My Three Go-Tos

I was on a date recently where the guy goes, “so, are you like a health nut?  Like….do you drink green smoothies and run five miles a day?”  I had to pause and think about it until it dawned on me that yes, I actually have become the health nut-type. When I was a teenager I used to make fun of  the health nut-types and I thought a lot of them might have a stick up their butt, but come to find out….looks like you can become what you hated, hehe.  It took some years to catch onto it, but now I completely understand why there is a hype to creating healthy habits. The high vibration I feel after downing raw veggies, fruit, and nuts daily, the endorphins that get released after I go on a long run, and the way anxiety floats away after meditating all feel really good.

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During the hustle and bustle of life and ever-changing moments it’s so easy to get caught up and lost in it that we forget to take care of ourselves.  Between busy work schedules, commuting, remembering to call friends or family on their birthday, getting back to text messages, and so many other things that come up it’s so easy to forget about ourselves. Extremely stressful times seem to be when we are most prone to forgetting about caring for ourselves.  Divorce, break-ups, losing someone close to us, moving, starting a new job, raising a family, and whatever other major life change we are going through can test our limits and push us to the brink of insanity. What has helped me for times of intense life debacles is what I call my “Three Go-Tos.”

My “Three Go-Tos” are the three things that I try to do on a daily basis without any hesitations or reservations.  When life is going really well, things are going smooth, and I am managing time well is when it’s most important to do my “Three Go-Tos. ”  These times are the most important because I definitely notice that healthy habits seem to slip through my fingers when things are going so seemingly well for me.  It’s so easy for me to think “accccckkkkk, I am feeling good and things are grand, I can skip my 20-minute morning meditation today…” and then those kind of thoughts can easily become a habit of their own.  When things are going nicely in life, it is most important to keep up the healthy habits so that when life does throw those curve balls we can stay strong and remember the sources that help us.

So everyone’s “Three Go-Tos” are going to look differently, but my three that I don’t even think twice about anymore would be: having a protein-filled vegetable and fruit smoothie daily, meditating for 20 minutes in the morning, and running daily.  I have noticed in the last year how clear-minded I have felt and how focused I have become with these daily habits.  They have become so ingrained into me as daily activities that I feel weird if I skip one or two on any given day.  I do try to give myself a break if situations come up, it’s best not to become so strict that you end up becoming a “Go-To” robot, but it is great to keep in the habit.

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^^^ One of my fav go-to smoothie recipes^^^

Do you have some daily “Go-Tos” that have been getting you through this crazy journey of life?  What would be three of them if you had to choose?  If you can’t think of anything off the top of your head stop by this post to see if it helps to get your brain juices spinning: Never Underestimate the Healing Powers of…  I would really love to see what helps you guys and get some new ideas so that maybe I can switch up my “Three Go-Tos” from time to time.

Thanks for reading 🙂 Peace!

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Lucid Dreaming

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“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”

–Edgar Allan Poe

I have had a bit of time off of work, so I have finally gotten to catch up on one of my favorite past times: reading!  I have been holding onto this book, “Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming”, for almost two years since a friend so kindly lent it to me (I’m usually not that bad with borrowing stuff, but what can I say, he’s a nice friend….) I have been into all things metaphysical since I was a young child, lucid dreaming being on the top of my list.  I started jotting my dreams into journals when I was eight years old.  When I was a teenager, I would have piles upon piles of metaphysical books underneath my pillows and to the side of me.  I recently joked to my sister that my mom never had to worry about me sleeping with boys when I was in high school, however she maybe should have been worried that I had the book “Life After Life” by Raymond Moody tucked under the covers with me for the majority of my 17th year on this planet.

I would try to bring up metaphysical subjects with my mom or grandma growing up, but they would usually either leave the room or tell me that I “shouldn’t be thinking that way.”  That was when I started writing in dream journals, regular journals and then finally finding a few others with similar mind sets as me in junior high to discuss all things metaphysical with.  It was great to be able to find these kindred spirits and to not feel as if I had to hold back on discussing things that had bothered me since I was a child.  To be able to ask my friend “what if there was just absolute NOTHINGness, like….not even the color black or white because if it was true NOTHINGness there wouldn’t even be colors…” and to not be looked at as if I was crazy was just great to me.

Now that we are living in this huge technological era, I have discovered there is a plethora of people that think like me and have been questioning the same things.  It’s so wonderful in this blogging community to come across metaphysical subjects so readily and have long drawn out conversations with someone across the world about “why in the hell are we here?”  I feel that in general, the world is opening up to metaphysical lines of thinking.  I feel that five years ago I would have been way to shy to be writing about what I am about to write.  What I really want to do in writing this is to help someone, even if it’s just one person reading this right now, to let them know that they are not alone.

I opened up “Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming” last night, read the first chapter (which included one detailed exercise on becoming aware in the precise moment of wherever you are while reading the book) and fell asleep.  It was a shock to me, but I experienced a lucid dream immediately (I guess I have a knack for it?)  I had quite a few lucid dreams in the last few years, but this one in particular had both the lucidity and the feeling of a very thin veil between dimensions.  I wrote it down right away after I awoke and this is word for word from my journal:

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Okay, I am for SURE going to need to get a separate dream journal!  I only JUST started reading this lucid dream book last night and as soon as I fell asleep I already had an experience!  It started with me drifting off to sleep (having random thoughts) and then as clear as day, the song “Black” by Pearl Jam came into my head and then the White Stripes “Hardest Button to Button”, it was really rather goofy.  And then a strong awareness came over me, I realized that I was lying in my bed and that I was in my new studio apartment that I just moved into.  I got the sensation that, especially compared to my old apartment that I just moved from, I was in a space that has very good energy.  I felt wrapped up in a warming loving energetic embrace and realized I was up near the ceiling and saw my body in the bed below.  And then there was what felt like a shift (kind of when your ears pop when you’re rising in an airplane) in frequency and I felt incredibly light and free.  I felt as if I had a gigantic smile on my face, I felt so excited and then I darted across the room to pet my cat.  As I was petting him, I noticed that my arm was transparent and I realized it was just made of light.  I started to get so energetic and fascinated that I could roam free anywhere I wanted, but then a voice softly said as clear as day “we can hear you, but calm down, you’re going to wake people up” and then I darted awake.

So, take that as you will (yes I’m hearing voices, but at least it’s while I am asleep ;)) I just couldn’t stop thinking about it all throughout the next day.  It seemed so incredibly real to me and I know in the past lucid dreams had always been like this, it’s almost as if they feel more real than “real” life.  Now that I have all this time off for the next few weeks I am going to try a few more of the exercises.  As I have paged through the book, I have noticed that a lot of the exercises consist of meditations, so it will be interesting to see how deep I can go doing my regular 20-minute morning meditations along with the meditations in the book.

“I believe in everything until it’s disproved.  So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons.  It all exists,even if it’s in your mind.  Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?”

–John Lennon

The Meditation Continues…

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It has been a long time since I have written a post!  I never wanted this blog to become one of those stagnant websites you come across where you check to see when the last update was and it states it was years ago.  The only way I would let that happen is if I were to pass away, then it really will be a website locked in time.  Although, the website address might change if I were to pass, as I am paying $18 a year for my website name (let’s be brutally honest here hah…) So here it goes, I am feeling the inspiration and flow to get some words out again.

I have been a bit silent lately because I have been dealing with some life changes and anxiety (those two really go hand in hand don’t they?)  Old destructive thought patterns have been coming up for me again and I caught myself on the teeter totter of desiring past addictions, but fortunately as time passed the cravings vanished.  I kept remembering that just because in one moment I was craving a past addiction, it doesn’t have to become a big story.  It was just one moment, one passing thought, one passing craving and the next moment starts anew.

My meditation practice has been the same (20 minutes on most mornings), but with that I have felt that I reached a plateau and haven’t gotten as much out of it as when I started a few years ago.  I guess I had some fantasy when I first started practicing meditation that it would lift me up fast and that life would be like heaven every day.  While there has been some amazing transformation within me since first starting meditation, life as a human is still exactly that.  I have to feed this body, excrete stuff from this body and care for this body……honestly, it’s a lot of work!

The other fantasy that I had about starting a meditation practice was that I thought it would help me to elevate my consciousness to such a degree that all my dreams would come true and that everything would be happily ever after.  Hah!  Just typing that out makes me crack up, because in reality it did the complete opposite.  It shattered the idea of my dreams, it made me realize that a lot of my dreams were actually never even mine to begin with.  It ripped apart the idea of what I thought I was supposed to be and do in this life.

Meditation has quieted my mind and has helped me to focus in on what my true desires are.  It has helped me in becoming patient with what is in any given moment or situation, be it blessing or a curse occurring.  Meditation has shown me many things that I need to work on and many things that I have avoided for a good majority of my adult life.  It has made me realize that you can shift everything around in your outer life all you want to try to find happiness, but truly….everything is actually discovered when you go within.

I actually just made three major changes in the outer circumstances of my life, so I am being a little hypocritical with the above statement, haha.  However, I feel that meditation helped me to focus in on what I truly want to do with my life, so I have begun taking the steps and signs have come along with that informing me in a synchronous matter that this is the path that I need to be on right now.  I’m sure that some uncomfortable things will come up on this path too, but that will give me the experience I need to keep on my path of following my bliss.  I am excited for this new path and am going to try to post more frequently!

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Feeling Some Good Vibes….

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Feeling so many good vibes today. So many ideas and concepts are coming to me. Vast, eternal, life is so much more in this new mind frame. Layers are shedding off. I am realizing how much easier life is when you let go of attachments. You can read a ton of books and blogs about walking this path, but oh boy is it amazing to FEEL IT! I am so grateful, sooooooooooo grateful to have stumbled into the world of meditation. The planes I reach through it vary, sometimes I go back to lower vibrations: to the feeling of wanting this or that, not being where I am supposed to be…..but when I reach these good vibes, I remember.

I want every single living thing to understand what it is I am feeling–that’s a bit of an attachment, a want.

I want to scream to the world what I finally understand, but I don’t even think that words can explain it and since everyone is experiencing reality different, my words will only resonate with some.

Much Love All!

Life is….

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Life is….

The pain, the joy, the sweet smells, the luscious green grass, the animals, the children’s laughter, biting into a peanut-butter filled chocolate truffle, the tossing and turning at night, the smile on his face after something I said, the fleece blanket I was curled under as I read “Desert Solitaire”, the shadows against the garage at 6:00 in the evening, the pain in my leg muscles after an indoor soccer game, the depression I felt on a beautiful sunny afternoon, the longing I feel for a place that I remember I came from, the attachments that I feel towards my dreams, the sounds and smells of my housemate cooking, the cute little eight-year old girl that just came knocking at my front door to break me out of my musings to ask, “Do you have a plastic fork or a balloon, I’m on a scavenger hunt….” Aren’t we all? The sounds of cars speeding down the road, the hum of the lawn mower two houses down, my cat meowing—begging that I let him outside, the beautiful black crows ascending and descending from the tall Oregon fir trees, the illusion of being alone, the grumbling coming from my stomach, the dust on my windowsill that I have been meaning to wipe down for the last three weeks, the realization that there is so much yet to learn, the memories, the pulsations throughout my body, the gratitude I feel, the art that I need to work on, the breathing that I concentrate on, alert, I am awake….for now. Every single thing—all of it, it’s amazing and miraculous.

This Place….

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There’s This Place that I go into, a place where my sense of reality changes, it might be considered by some a trance, maybe?  In This Place, everything makes sense and there is no worry….in fact, worry seems so laughable in This Place.  This Place envelopes me and I become so at one with it that I can’t imagaine a place other than it.

And then…..I get attached to this place, I cling to it and realize it could leave and once I think that, I snap out of it and get back into “the real world.”  I truly do love This Place though, because This Place is pure love.  This Place is gratitude, joy, love, and freedom all mixed together to make the most beautiful feeling.  In This Place, I remember the divine orchestra of life, that every single thing is just as it should be.  No regrets and no frets….This Place is a reminder of what has been forgotten and I’m forever thankful for it.

In This Place, my past, present and future are nonlinear.  In This Place I remember that we are all eternal.  I remember that just as every single leaf, every single blade of grass, and every single dot of dust had so many different things happen to make it exist, we are alike.  We are just like that leaf, just like that grass, just like that dot of dust, so many different things had to happen to bring us to who we are RIGHT NOW.  And who we are RIGHT NOW is going to be so much different from the person we are going to be at 2 PM tomorrow, circumstances and situations are constantly changing who we are in the moment.

It is so freeing in This Place.  In This Place, you can let go of everything so easily.  In This Place you remember that everything is flowing like a river, things are constantly changing, but it’s not scary: it’s absolutely, beautifully stunning.  In This Place I don’t worry about whether or not my toenails are looking like they’re in massive need of a pedicure, in This Place I’m not worried about what people think of my hairdo or the way I dress because in This Place I remember that none of that truly matters.  In This Place there is no judgement.

This Place overtakes me inside and out, in This Place I feel at one with everything around me.  This Place reminds me of how truly amazing everything is, how when there very well could be nothingness…there is somethingness.  It reminds me to take everything in with every single breath, the way my feet feel against the ground, the sweat on my skin, the colors surrounding me.

This Place, it is a beautiful place to be.  This Place brings me out of confusion, delusion and reminds me of how everything that I thought I knew, it was all just an illusion…..

Complete, Just the Way You Are…..No More Grasping.

skyopening“Well I met an old man dying on a train, no more destination, no more pain….” –Awolnation

As I was walking on the treadmill after work the other day, I noticed myself grasping. I was grasping for ways to escape the present moment. My muscles were hurting from the previous day’s workout, I knew I could only do a walking workout at this particular time and in all honesty, all I wanted to do was go home, crack open a beer and be lazy. I was bored! Walking this treadmill, feeling like some sort of lab rat, nothing of interest on the multiple televisions surrounding my vision 180 degrees. I kept picking up my phone, only to see that nothing had changed: no new phone call, no new texts, no new emails. I started scanning down old emails, trying to find something of interest that I hadn’t read yet…..only to find nothing. Bored! And then I stopped, I came back to the breath, came back to this meditation muscle that I have strengthened over the previous few months and realized: I could die this second. Enjoy…I remembered this simple word and this simple action. I took a look around and just shifted to a different paradigm realizing this moment will never happen exactly as it’s happening right now, ever again.

This is the beautiful part of meditation. It’s not just in the moment of meditation that you are gaining a keen awareness, it is in all of the moments of the day where you forget about awareness, and you bring yourself back to it so much easier than ever before. You remember. Every moment is so original, so unique.

One of my favorite meditations that I have done was one I learned back in Minnesota. I learned it at one of the first meditation workshops that I had ever attended. It was a meditation based from Buddhist tradition, I don’t remember the name of the meditation, however I do remember the monk that taught it–he was remarkable and I am forever thankful for his teachings. The meditation was incredibly simple and I highly recommend it. It basically goes as follows: after focusing on the breath for a few minutes, start to focus on the feeling of being complete. You have no need to eat anything at the moment, no need to drink anything, no need to need anything. You are fulfilled and complete just as you are, in this moment, in this second. Really take in the feeling of needing nothing right now, you are complete. Really focus on that feeling of completeness and anytime your mind drifts to other thoughts, just come back to the focusing on knowing you are complete. Nothing to worry about, because you have nothing to grasp right now, you need absolutely nothing.

The lyric that I posted at the top, every single time I hear it, it really reassures me. We are always fighting some sort of battle to be somewhere, to have something, to need something…….the struggle to survive, but death always reassures me. It reminds me that all is temporary. Every single want, need, desire….it’s all temporary, you’re not going to need money, food or shelter when you enter the next phase of existence. All in this physical world is temporary….such a beautiful thing to remember.

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Walking Revelations…

Yesterday afternoon I went for a two hour walk with a new friend at Forest Park, one of the biggest urban parks in the U.S. located right in the city of Portland, OR. Getting started on the walk, I noticed my sense of thinking forward, as in “I’m feeling kind of lazy and a little down today, I hope this is a quick walk.” Right as I noticed myself having those thoughts I snapped out of it. Noticing how vast this forest was, the happy dogs and people passing us by, I thought, “why would I ever want this to pass me by without taking it all in?” I’m truly starting to get the sense of what “being awake” really means, it’s definitely not wishing for time to speed up so that you can get to another desire, it’s not to dwell on the past and think of things you miss….it’s being fully present in the moment (even if the moment seems treacherous or daunting.)

As our walk went on, we had some of the most intense and deep life talks that I have had with anyone in a while. It was an incredibly meditative walk, the two hours actually ended up feeling like 20 minutes and we both came up with some deep realizations and revelations.

Walking, although it’s pretty simple, can do some amazing things to our body and brain. Last Friday I took a half an hour walk around the block and although I started it in the same thinking mode as yesterday, the whole “I can’t wait until I get this done with,” after just 10 minutes thoughts started just flowing and I wrote all of this down when I got back to my house:

–When something is really upsetting you, or you can’t get your mind past the worry of it, remember that you were a baby at one point….right now, who you are is only temporary….so why let something get you down when you know that EVERYthing is temporary. Don’t waste that energy, let things pass and everything will become lighter.

–If you gain control of your thinking/analytical mind and realize that it has no power over you, you open yourself up to a world you have never noticed before.

–If you let go of the ego, nothing will hurt you anymore…you will have no regrets in what you tell people.

–If you quiet that incessant chatter in your mind, you really start to notice amazing things that you, at one point, took for granted: the way a shadow looks against the sidewalk, the shine on your dining room table when the sun is blaring down on it, the way the moon appears at 3:30 in the afternoon: as if it was drawn onto the sky with a small piece of chalk.

–If you are ever in a negative funk or you feel you are alone, realize that you can never be alone because you are all that you see and every living thing is part of you.

Easier said than done with a lot of this and of course many of these thoughts have already been stated, but remaining present and realizing everything is temporary….moments don’t own you, is ever helpful to remember.

Peace and love,
Ilona 🙂

P.S. in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day, I want to leave this with one of my favorite quotes of his:

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Letting Go

“There is no freedom in life, without freedom of mind…” –The Fire Theft

Last night and actually quite a few times this week I have been experiencing the feeling of being the observer. I have my thinking/rational/analytical mind and then I have the observer behind that, realizing that the thinking mind isn’t actually me. I mean it is, but I’m realizing that it’s not my TRUE self , it’s just this annoying voice that has to say something about everything. Stepping back and realizing this is SUCH a weight lifted off the shoulders, it’s such a relief to realize that I don’t have to believe anything that voice says….it’s just going to say what it’s going to say, but my true self knows that it’s not reality.

A couple days ago, my roomy and I were traveling with a Couchsurfing friend to Canada and he said something that really hurt me. At first, my reaction was to defend myself and I actually felt the physical sensation of my ego being hurt (for me it comes as a tightness in the chest.) At first I fought back and there was some bickering back and forth for a minute with him about it and then I just stopped. I told him, that’s fine he can say that, we would just have to agree to disagree. I realized I really didn’t like that feeling I had and didn’t like that it started a little fight, I could feel the energy in the car change–to this fearful, fighting mode. People are going to say things that will damage our ego, but it doesn’t mean you can control that situation, this is where clinging comes up–clinging to what we think we are and how we think other people should be to us. When I stopped fretting about it and just let it be, I felt a love and openness again.

Last night I was having a conversation with a new person I had just met and I could tell he wasn’t listening. One major factor in knowing he wasn’t truly listening was I asked him a question and he just nodded his head to me–this wasn’t a yes or no question, haha. Once I got that response, I repeated the question, but by this point he was completely absorbed in looking down at his phone and typing away. This continued on for the hour he was with our little group of friends, the rest of us would be having authentic conversations and he was completely absorbed in his phone. The voice in my head started judging him and saying things like “he is completely rude! How annoying. This guys is ruining my night. I can’t believe he has pretty much completely ignored anything I have said to him.” And the observer noticed this voice, listened to it, but then let it go…..like clouds drifting by in the sky. Truly, I didn’t know this guy, who knows what’s going on in his head, but I have no right to judge him. I just let him be, I forgave him (in my head) and I realized what a beautiful night I was having catching up with my other friends.

In the past I would let both of those situations bug me to the point where I wouldn’t let it go and I would get obsessed about it. I wouldn’t notice everything else going on in the moment because my mind would be obsessed in this judging world for so long. It’s such a wonderful thing recognizing this voice in my head, which used to create my reality, is just that–just a voice. To relax in this voice, to not let it hold so much power over me is so completely liberating!

“Why should anything that anyone says or does cause you to get disturbed? You’re just on a planet spinning around the middle of absolutely nowhere. You came here to visit for a handful of years and then you’re going to leave. How can you live all stressed-out over everything? Don’t do it.” –The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer