Life has been pretty chaotic lately and I couldn’t help but thinking about a saying that goes along the lines of, ‘You should meditate for at least 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy…then you should meditate for an hour’. I felt so full of work and other stresses that it came as a relief to have a silent retreat last Sunday. Today’s post is about mindfulness, meditation and stress reduction.
I was in one of those modes where you simply can’t shake off the weight that you’re carrying. Your body feels heavy and whilst you aren’t screaming or shouting with stress, it feels like somewhere inside, your stress is storming around. I’ve mastered enough not to so frequently allow stress to control my life, but still found myself feeling very full. Each day I woke and practiced mindful movement and sitting meditation for an hour and still I felt heavy and like there’d be no end to the weight I was feeling. With stress reduction in mind, I felt the only option was patience to wait for the feeling to pass. However, I was aware that similar situations usually led to burn out or an emotional eruption.
So the Sunday retreat arrived and I felt it a good opportunity to test the theory of simply meditating for longer during times of stress and feeling emotional full. Admittedly I was sceptical that even six hours of silence could make anything shift. I was aware of my striving for the meditation to take away the stress, which was somewhat in opposition to mindfulness.
So there I sat, mindfully. I felt the striving for the stress to go begin to dissipate as I let the stress’ weight live inside me. I noticed the clenching of my jaw and tightness in my chest. The shallow rise and fall of my breath. The almost inner shake from taking on so much. Somehow by seeing it, I noticed the physical stress soften.
When I ate mindfully, I enjoyed the texture and satiation from eating a lovely sandwich made with granary bread. I enjoyed the full redness of the strawberries, the colour of which was so happy that it started to make my spirits lift at its beautiful simplicity.
I walked, taking in one of my favourite sounds as I walked through the park: rustling leaves. I felt the brush of the air against my arms – the breeze always acting like one of my mindfulness bells – making me alert to the present moment.
Then some simple stretches and movement that made me realise the tightness in my legs, which again softened as I stretched for longer. My energy started to brighten and my spirit seemed thankful that I was dusting off the cobwebs of its home. For so many years, being a very mind-over-matter kind of person, I haven’t appreciated or valued my body much. But it’s the only home of my spirit and out of respect to my spirit, I’ve been trying to treat my body better these days.
By the end of the silent retreat, I felt light and bright. The saying seemed to be true in this case. I’d been so stressed and busy that in my case even an hour of meditation was not enough. But six hours of meditation and mindfulness did the job and reduced my stress! I’d silenced my inner storm.