I’m not sure.
I said to the leader during our 15 minute interview – one of the two times we were allowed to interact verbally – “I’m not sure this is working.”
She listened sympathetically, nodded and affirmed my not knowing. “I once sat a three month retreat, experienced one moment of hell after another, and didn’t feel the full effects of my sit until afterwards. But I know that it made a difference.”
That was somewhat reassuring, though the skeptic in me wants to dismiss that as ‘salesy.’ Of course you’d say that. Who wants to think that such a large investment of time and resources wouldn’t have a more specific outcome?
Yet, I’m in no way disappointed, although I was hoping for an epiphany or two while I was there. That didn’t happen.
In my body, I actually feel more grounded. Each of my cells feels slightly weightier than before I did all that sitting. It may be physiological–all that gravity being still for so many hours.
But I do sense something slowing down inside me in a good way. I felt no desperation to respond to every email or phone message that was waiting for me as soon as I got home. I have a greater sense of clarity about what’s next for me–and that it will all work out in due time. No rushing.
The retreat itself was magnificently run. Because of the silence, there’s exquisite signage. My retreat service work was as a vegetable cutter every evening for 45 minutes along with a group of 5 other female retreatants. We were permitted speaking in the kitchen, but only regarding the task at hand, nothing about our experiences on retreat. “Where do the broccoli heads go? Do the leeks need cutting, or only rinsing?” There was a step-by-step operations manual we were handed during our training session for this job. I made a mental note to share this with my entrepreneurial clients who have any employees. IMS trains new attendees every week. This notebook was invaluable.
The meditation hall was simple and elegant, expansive enough to comfortably seat 97 of us either on cushions or chairs. I selected a chair for the duration, a bit envious of all those who could sit cross-legged throughout the 30-45 minutes ‘sits’ which occurred about 8 times a day.
The property of Insight Meditation Society (IMS) is beautiful, though not overly fancy. It’s well maintained, and there are lovely walking trails behind the main building. These are well-marked including approximate mileage and timing, so if there were a 30 minute break, you knew what you might undertake. It happened to be a gorgeous week weather-wise, so I took advantage of being outdoors between our meditative stretches.
I had the good fortune to have been offered a round-trip ride to Barre via the IMS ride board with a gentleman in SoHo. He was a very experienced meditator–over a dozen retreats attended–and an excellent driver. Two younger passengers in the back seat added vitality and diversity to the trip there and home. The time flew by each way.
I don’t feel like the gymnast completing her routine who dismounts the horse or bar and raises her arms with a “Ta-dah!” victory for her accomplishment. Rather, I’m experiencing a sense of peace and tranquility and a centeredness that I hope stay with me for a long time.