1. The Importance of Listening

A week in silence brought me to a deeper understanding of human interactions. Even a quiet person like me is guilty of mindless chatter. Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with small talk, but am I present for it? Can I listen without interrupting?

Since the retreat, I’ve been more present, and I’ve developed meditation habits that stick while also finding my own balance regarding social interactions. Learning my own limits and boundaries has helped me give all of myself sometimes, rather than giving some of myself always.

2. I Never Missed My Phone

I thought being without my phone would be the hardest part of the retreat, but it was probably the most therapeutic and easiest task of the whole week. Following my week of no contact, I found that in my absence, the world didn’t miss a beat. 

3. If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again

I once believed that I would sit down to meditate and achieve perfection and bliss immediately, but then (gasp), that peaceful tranquility didn’t arrive. Meditation made me feel anxious, frustrated, even furious. Eventually, I found that I could settle down and sit with it. Acceptance ultimately found a place in my heart, but it was not immediate or automatic. Through purposeful practice, I’m enjoying where I am today. I have come to know that no matter how I feel – it is ALL okay.

4. I Am The Tree. The Tree Is Me

We were given an assignment to meditate for 20 minutes while in the presence of, or in my case, physically touching a plant or tree. On day three, I met my tree and met myself in the process. This poem excerpt reflects what I experienced and learned that day:

“Still I fought; Remembering what the tree taught
‘I am just living, and so should you;’ In my heart, these words grew
Feeling anew; Goodness shown through  
Because I am the tree; The tree is me
All at once we are free; No song left to plea”

5. Self-Care Is Not Laziness, and Equanimity Does Not Mean Apathy

In the past, I might have defined self-care in terms of turning off my brain, like spending a day on the couch after a hard week at work. Over time, meditation helped me become mindful of my body to know what it needs, not just what my mind thinks it wants. I’ve learned that what my body truly wants is balance and equanimity. 

The idea of equanimity is that all things are truly equal. It is an acceptance of the self and the world, as they are, without feeling the need to change them. It also comes from within and is not dependent on external circumstances. When I’m not worrying about all the minutiae, my mental energy can re-focus on things that really matter, such as calling my mother, holding a door, smiling at someone who needs it, and showing up for those who count on me for support.

6. Meditation Is For Anyone, but It Might Not Be For Everyone

While meditation is an accessible practice for most people, it might not be what they want or need. Silence helped me to accept myself on my path, and to accept those around me that want nothing to do with it. Teaching yoga gives me the opportunity to share what I’ve learned with my students, but beyond that, my personal practice is for me.

by Esther Ekhart

This article originally posted on EkhartYoga.com