For the end of my book Mindfulness for the Frazzled I wanted to be my own guinea pig so had a brain scan done before and after a silent six day retreat practicing mindfulness eight hours a day. It's a mental boot camp called Tigonos Retreat Centre somewhere in the back hills of Wales, it's August and it's winter. As soon as I get there I realize I'm sick to my stomach and have to lie down. This could be because I find out about the daily schedule.
I get up to my phone alarm at 6:57am for 7am mediation (I like to cut it close for adrenaline rush reasons, even in a retreat), so I scramble into the large meditation room where people are already sitting; some wrapped in shawls in Buddha positions, some on cushions and some on the latest in meditation accoutrements for your bum; a zafu (google it); it's a cushion. I took to a chair, just to rebel.
I'm not having the greatest time. When you sit for more than three hours, your internal voice is screaming for it to end and begging for the 'ting ting' that signifies the sitting is over.
After sitting, walking, sitting, finally there's a' ting' to have lunch. Everyone waits in the queue, no one pushes, everyone's considerate; opening doors for you, handing you cups. I like all these people mostly because I don't have to talk to any of them. Your eyes never meet because as you don't have anything to say, there's no reason to look at each other. You save so much energy when you don't have to say, "Thank you" or "Sorry" all the time; it's such a relief. So now all I have to do is focus in on what I'm eating.
Today I fall in love with a digestive biscuit. I've had them before... but not like this. I have one bite and I almost tip off my chair with the burst of salt and sugar and crunchiness; it is perfect. I never want it to end. You start to slow down your chewing and stop thinking about taking another bite before you've even swallowed what's in your mouth. (My mode of eating). You savour the moment because the experience is so poignant; letting the taste, better than anything a five star restaurant could offer, become your only focus of attention; all thoughts are gone. I end up wrapping the other half of the biscuit in a napkin, saving it in my shoe for a special occasion. And then the 'ting' happens to indicate lunch is over and like in a zombie film, we all go back into the room to our special zafu, or chair in my case.
I start nodding off while I'm sitting on my chair, thinking that time is going so slowly but even here it still moves on. (I think I am being very profound). To cut a long long story short I lived to tell the tale. For what happened next read my book...