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[image from: Anubhuti retreat center]

Last Saturday, I experienced something I had wanted to do for a long time: a silent retreat.

A lot of silent retreats are entire weekends, but with my own personal anxieties I knew only a few hours would work best for me and get the results I was looking for. Back in October I took a 8-week Mindfulness / Stress Reduction course. Built into that course was one free silent retreat where all of the lessons were combined into a span of 6 hours.

To be honest, I almost talked myself out of it. My personal (irrational) fear of being away from home almost made me send a cancelation e-mail to the retreat director. I fought against it and drove the 25 minutes to the yoga studio. When I walked in, the instructor told me she was so happy to see me again. Although we would not be talking once the 6 hours began and I was in a room full of strangers, I felt comfort in the company of a familiar face.

The entire day, as it was explained, was about us. Spending time with ourselves and if someone did not smile at us today or look us in the eye, it was not personal; we were all there, quite simply, to be alone.

And from there, we did several guided meditations, walking meditations, light yoga and yoga nidra. We also had 1 hour for lunch where not a single person took out their cell phones to scroll through social media, no one made a phone call, no one took out a book or magazine. We ate in silence, scattered around the studio and some of us (myself included) sat outside. After I ate, I took a 30 minute walk around the area.


WHAT I LEARNED


I didn’t have an enlightening experience where I suddenly knew my life purpose or heard an inner voice tell me something life-changing. Instead I learned that I have complete control over my experience at any given moment.

I am lucky enough to live the kind of life where I can leave a place when I am uncomfortable, jump in my car and drive home. I learned that my anxiety can no longer control me like I believe most of the time. In fact, I have control over my anxiety because in any given moment I have a choice: to stay or to go. And whatever choice leads to reduced anxiety (obviously within reason), I will do it.

I felt the exact moment when my anxiety sparked: At 5:15pm.  We were in the middle of Yoga Nidra. After dozing for a few minutes, I woke up in a cold sweat and a state of panic. Before I even realized it, I was already planning my escape.  Fear took over and the sense of being trapped consumed me. (I am not a huge fan of Yoga Nidra, therefore, looking back on this it is no surprise the anxiety hit when it did.)

I realized completely that when that anxiety pang hits, it hits and hits hard. I am no longer a 31-year old woman but an 8 year old stuck on a Girl Scout weekend trip, stuck with a partner who is annoying and annoys everyone else.  Or a 9 year old on yet another Girl Scout weekend where I am being made fun of for having a stomach ache and taking up too much time in the only bathroom. I am the 5 year old who wants to brave staying overnight in West Virginia with her grandparents only to wake up at 1 am wanting to be home with mom and dad.

I learned that as an adult I am in complete control of my enviornment, whether to stay or to go. I don’t need to ask permission or call someone and beg for a ride home. So, after Yoga Nidra ended and the instructor announced a quick 10 minute break, I grabbed my yoga mat and meditation pillow and headed out, leaving the last half hour of the retreat behind without regret or permission.

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We are in the final 2 weeks of 2016 and while many of us have our finger poised over the reset button for January 1st, I hit the reset button many, many times throughout the year. And today, I just hit it again. Well, last night.

Yesterday I posted about my personal winter guide  and how I manage to not crack apart and turn into sand during these dry, dark months. The outside is important, but even more important is the inside: our mind, our spirit, our organs and general functions of the body. We often forget that the outside is only as good as how the inside operates and that is what I am hitting the reset button.

My diet is the best it has ever been in my life, but something is off. This time of year I gravitate toward foods that are not the best, loaded in cheese – aka fat – and sugar because treats are abundant around Christmas.  While I have not “over done” anything in these areas, I feel a general sense of heaviness.  The rest button pressed today is a button to lighten up.

Reset my diet in a way that limits those oh-so-tasty, fattening and sugary foods that slows down digestion; get to bed earlier and work on getting a quality night’s rest; get back into my full workout routine (which has been sporadic at best); meditate daily and free my mind through writing.

 

Eating a meal, alone, without a book, cell phone, or crochet needles is unnatural for so many of us in the 21st century.

 

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[image: etsy.com]

I am currently enrolled in an 8-week Mindfulness Meditation course and one of the first lessons was mindful eating. Now, I’m not one for eating in complete silence, counting the number of chews and feeling every textured nuance, but I do agree eating without doing something else is important. I’m no expert at this by any means. In fact, I started to really try this out this week during my lunch break. My lunch hour is my sanctuary hour. It is the hour I can close out the entire world and all the people in it and just be with me. So why rush through it? Why clutter our eyes and ears with junk when most of us put thought into what we put in our mouths?

I believe it is a fish-out-of-water feeling to eat and only eat at meal times because we are always plugged into the news cycle. And to do something alone is like being naked! This week I made a solid effort to sit at lunch and really eat. I did respond to a text message that popped up, but I did not scan blogs, scan the news, watch anything on Netflix.  Eating is a time to nourish our bodies and what we take in our eyes and ears at that time, I believe, is also being digested.

My experience this week has been great. Today, for example, I had soup and a salad. It took me 35 minutes to eat it. If I were watching something, I’m sure I would have finished the final bite at the 15 or 20 minute mark.

 

Elegant Place Setting with "Reserved" Sign --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Elegant Place Setting with “Reserved” Sign — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

When we eat distracted we miss our meals and the gratitude of how lucky we are to know where our meals are coming from, the fresh food we have at our finger tips. We completely miss out on the mental rejuvenation we need in the middle of our workdays to help us tackle the second half of our days. We pittbulldoze past an entire free hour where we have no obligations to anyone but our stomachs.

Why let someone cyberspace rob you of those precious 60 minutes?

Do I always eat without watching TV or reading? No way. Sometimes that hour is when I can do those things uninterrupted. But lunch is the time where I can. And therefore, I should. We owe it to our minds and bodies to give them at least one mindful meal.

One of my favorite YouTubers, Melissa Alexendra, recently posted a video on her Top 10 Feel Good Favs for a Bad Day. I was inspired to share mine. Be sure to leave a comment to let me know some of yours!

 

  1. Movie  It goes without saying that anything with Jim Carrey in it is my feel good go to. Image result for jim carrey 2016I remember when I got an expander (a hunk of metal put in the roof of my mouth to expand it….yeah…) to prep for getting braces, I called my dad crying about how much it hurt, how uncomfortable it was and he said, “Go watch a Jim Carrey movie; you’ll feel better.” So I popped in Ace Ventura 2 in the VCR (Oh yes…) and it took my focus from my mouth discomfort to Jim. He has been my hero since his days on In Living Color and I still love and admire him to this day. He is a talented artist, always gives me a rush of excitement when I see him on TV, and he is also a deep thinker. This talk alone will show you how deep his mind and spirit goes and his amazing talent in painting.  My others are: Weekend at Bernies, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Tommy Boy. Anything that makes me laugh out loud.
  2. Item to Wear: Fitted Tees and tank tops are super comfortable. I also like that I can dress them up for work by wearing a blazer or cardigan, clean, go out and do shopping or tasks. They are not binding and I feel free!
  3. Beverage Cabernet Sauvignon and Coffee. These need no explanation!
  4. Music I listen to a lot of instrumental music that are New Age or international. Right now, my favorite CD (yes, I still use CDs) is Land of Gold by Anoushka Shankar. It is so lovely. I also love Native American flute, Spanish guitar, and house music. My guilty pleasures are still the Spice Girls and Geri Halliwell, No shame                     Image result for anoushka shankarImage result for geri halliwell 2016Image result for native american music
  5. Book When I need a spiritual pick-me-up I go to “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching” by Thich Nhat Hanh. Is is so detailed and thorough yet so manageable and inspiring. I also recently discovered and love Mindfulness on the Run by Dr. Chantel Hofstee. A very user-friendly guide to daily mindful actions. She really breaks it down in a way that is perfect for everyone. There are drawings and charts and great for all ages                                     .Image result for the heart of the buddha's teachingImage result for mindfulness on the run Image result for just for the record geri halliwellImage result for how to be parisian wherever you areImage result for messages for lightworkers patricia hawse       Others are: “For the Record” by Geri Halliwell; Lessons from Madame Chic / At Home with Madame Chic by Jennifer Scott, “How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are” (this is a tongue-in-cheek book that really made me laugh), “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work” by the late Richard Carlson, Ph.D.  Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl (puts my problems in perspective! What a beautiful spirit she was…); Some brain/science books: “The Mood Cure” and “Your Brain at Work” and “Messages for Lightworkers” by my friend and spiritual mentor Patricia Hawse. As for fiction, “Chocolat” is a book I read every year around Lent/Easter. if you know the story, it will make sense why. 🙂
  6. Activity Drawing and sketching. it puts me into a place of quiet and concentration like nothing else.
  7. Food Cheesecake. That is all. 🙂
  8. Quote I’m not really a “quote person.” I will hear them and think, “That’s nice” but I don’t keep a collection of them. My inspiring quotes are more like mantras or daily thoughts to have a good day or little reminders when things get too “heady.” One is when someone is annoying me I think, “That is THEIR lack of mindfulness.” it reminds me that I am not responsible for their behavior and it should have no direct impact on my mood or thoughts. This isn’t to say people do not piss me off or get on my nerves, but once I realize someone is annoying, I try to remember that.
  9. Candle Anything unscented.
  10. TV Show “Castle” (duh); Poiroit, and Frasier

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Yes, my friends, I am 22 days off You Tube. I thought it was going to be hard and I’d be bored, but honestly… I’m feeling pretty damn good.

The first week, though, was weird. The first full week I had no “desires.” After that first week, that little voice started to chime in. “Just watch one little video… it won’t hurt anything!”, “Instead of 30 days, let’s do a week.  A week is enough.”, “But I’m booorrreeddd!” I say about 2 of these 22 days I ALMOST gave in. But I stayed strong and willing and said, “No. I committed to 30 days and I am doing a full 30 days.” I am not doing this alone. I downloaded this cool app called AppDetox which allows you to set up a period of time to block opening an app or limiting the number of launches. I added the app to both my phone and tablet and blocked You Tube. Voila!

The only time I’ve used You Tube is to pull up my workout videos.I follow Tracy Anderson pretty religiously, but sometimes a girl just wants to grab heavier dumbbells and do some basic squats and dumbbell curls.

Why am I doing this detox? Well, there’s a lot of noise in the world and even louder noise in the internet world. From the moment we get in our cars until we turn off the lights for bed, we are slammed with ads, opinions, selfies, photoshopped images, instructions, and rules. For me, I was getting the usual daily dose but compounded by the opinions and rules of YouTubers. It’s not their faults either! I adore the few people I follow (all 8 of them) and I get a lot of value out of what they share. It’s just how my brain interprets their content that caused reason for a pause.

I needed to recalibrate my internal filter and hear my own voice and opinion again.

A few days into my “fast” I stopped doing a lot of the things I unconsciously picked up from bloggers and vloggers.

I stopped tracking certain things that frankly I do not need to be tracking or obsessing over. I won’t go into detail, but tracking something for the sake of tracking it based on someone else’s life or goals without establishing goals yourself is well… pointless and, quite frankly, stressful. For example, I love BlondeonaBudget’s blog. She is fantastic, but my finances are completely different from hers but I found myself trying to follow her example to the letter rather than pulling some great ideas and applying to the things I already do and know. I spent the first part of 2016 tracking every single penny, putting myself on a shopping ban and for what?

I don’t know? I don’t have any debt to pay off and solid in my savings because I already know how to manage my cash flow and I have for years. It was unnecessary. Sure, I loved creating my charts but it became yet another way for me to praise or punish myself. So, I stopped.

I stopped tracking a lot of things that I don’t need to track.

When I started the fast, I was not sure exactly what would come of it. I just wanted to stop wasting so much time and get back to ME. But when the 30 days is up, I doubt I’ll dive back in and chain watch every single video of my precious 8 (one of whom is my husband but I see those “live.”). Another 1 is a yoga instructor. So of the 8, there are 6 that fall within my no-watch category. Those 6 are like friends. But no matter how long I go without them, they’ll always be there for my viewing pleasure.