A fly alights on my face, right next to my left ear. Just then my meditation teacher says “Feel Everything.” So I resist the impulse to swat it away and patiently sense its little feet pattering across the curve of my cheek towards my nose. I wonder if for the fly the down hairs of my cheek seem like dense underbrush? As it approaches my left nostril I take in a deep breath, and exhale forcefully. Thankfully it flies away, only to land on the back of my right hand where it continues its journey. Rats, apparently this fly is here to show me how to be present.
For 10 days I am in Noble Silence. Alongside 56 other participants I get up at 4:30am, meditate six hours a day, do four hours of yoga, eat fabulous vegan meals, weed the garden, and swim and snorkel in the ocean – on a gorgeous beachfront property in Maui. We are not to speak for any reason, nor write or even read a book!
We have all committed to exploring what happens when we stop interacting with others, and tune into ourselves. The promise is more awareness and equanimity, and at this moment this wretched fly is my teacher. The good news is, if I have to endure insects and even worse, the machinations of my mind, at least I can do it in paradise!
You’re probably wondering….. why would I choose to do this? Doesn’t it feel lonely to not speak with people? Don’t you get bored?
Imagine your mind slowing down until all you hear is the sound of birds greeting the dawn, waves crashing on the shore, and your breath. Imagine your body waking up so much you can feel blood moving through your veins, space opening up behind your eyes, and your back ribs expand and contract with each breath. Imagine allowing yourself to sit with super uncomfortable aches in your joints that you would do anything to not feel.
There were moments when my right knee would scream with pain, or worse, a single thought would catapult me into a pit of despair, and more resultant physical pain. When I didn’t give into the impulse to move or distract myself, and stayed exquisitely present for what was arising, the pain would miraculously melt away.
There were moments when all I experienced was pure pleasure – the sensation of water caressing my body as I swam with translucent rainbow-colored fish, the moist grass cushioning my feet as I danced in the rain, the distinct taste of every bite of a delectable meal that was prepared with total love. Moments when my mind was quiet, there were no thoughts, and I felt the boundaries of my body dissolve into space. Moments when I was utterly myself without thought, judgment, or patterned behavior – SIMPLY ME.
You might also wonder, well that’s easy enough to do in such a pristine environment away from everything but……… what happens when you return to your ‘regular’ life? Well…. that’s the whole point – and the challenge!
Now that I’m back, here’s what I’m noticing: Everything feels a bit easier. Things that were stressing me out – computer issues, crazy drivers, complaining neighbors, clients canceling – don’t bother me. I’m not rushing around, much more productive in my work, more present for my clients and friends, and super chatty with everyone I meet. I wake up feeling excited for what the day brings, and have an abundance of energy. I’m happy for no reason!
I’ve also upped my daily practice: I get up before dawn, feed my kitties, stretch, sit on my meditation cushion for 45 minutes, and take a yoga class. EVERY DAY, well almost! Throughout the day I remind myself to Say “Yes” to Feeling Everything – notice what I’m sensing in my body, and what’s going on in my mind. Track how every thought, every story I tell myself, has an immediate impact on my body; then do my best to drop the thought and Say “Yes” to the sensation. It’s not easy – and it’s liberating.
I invite you to try my Say “Yes” Practice. Though it’s not the same as being on a 10-day silent mediation course, it is a super easy method that can help you let go of emotional and physical discomfort so you can have more mental clarity and be at peace. Try it out and let me know how it goes for you!