"Two and a half days? Not speaking at all? You?"
My friend's question is not as ridiculous as it seems; anyone who knows me will tell you that I generally have a lot to say for myself, so to be totally non-verbal for anything more than about ten minutes is quite an achievement.
However, that was part of my meditation retreat and despite my apprehension about whether I'd manage it or not, I decided to throw myself wholeheartedly at the task. And was amazed to find that it wasn’t as difficult as I expected. In fact, I found it totally liberating and think it should be compulsory for everybody, especially busy Mums just before Christmas!
The point of being silent on the retreat is to remind ourselves that the source of all emotions comes from inside us. No one else can make you feel anything that you don’t want to, so when we are upset by something that has been said or done, it’s our choice to be upset. When we laugh at a funny joke or situation, it’s our choice to be amused by it. It’s a strange thing to think that the ultimate responsibility for how we feel is actually down to us, not anyone else.
This is not a situation that’s exclusive to meditation retreats; it’s how it is all the time – and that is also very liberating. We no longer have to be offended by people who say the wrong thing at the wrong time, or wait for someone else to cheer us up when we’re feeling down. We become free to feel exactly what we want to feel, and that also sets other people free as they are no longer responsible for our emotions.
Actually putting this into practice isn’t always easy. We still have to consider other people’s feelings when we speak, be polite and respectful. However, for big daughter who spends her days at school with over-emotional and over-sensitive teenage girls, it could be something of a blessing. Imagine how much simpler life would be without over-analysing every conversation or expression! Imagine being happy with how you are instead of letting your own insecurities get the better of you and needing compliments to boost your self-esteem! And imagine how much easier life would be for those of us who still do that even though we left our teenage years behind many years ago!
The kind of retreat that I went on isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and that’s fine; it’s everybody being different that makes the world go round. But what it has done is taught me some important lessons; we shouldn’t wait to praise something that’s good, we should take time to praise ourselves as that’s our way of giving thanks for what we have, and we should appreciate that the source of joy and every other emotion is within us and within our control.
I know that it will be very easy for me to get caught up in the day-to-day busy-ness of the year and forget, but this year I’m going to do my best to try to remember these lessons. They can only benefit me and those around me and, of course, are just part of looking for the extraordinary in the everyday!