Monday, January 11th, 2016
My partner is really into her baths. When she’s overtired, cranky or frustrated, she doesn’t yell or grumble about it – she takes some “me time.” A kindle book, scented candles, a cup of tea or glass of wine – she shuts the door to the bathroom and it’s Do Not Disturb for a good, long hour.
I remember when the kids were little they would whimper and fuss when she kissed them on their foreheads and vanished into the steam: But you can’t tuck us in like momma does! Momma puts special stuff on our broccoli! When will she be DONE? Then, tentative and gripped with bewildered confusion, they would whisper the ultimate question: Does mom still LOVE us?
Of course mom still loved us! In fact, she took that solo time precisely because she loved us. When she came out of the tub she would be a different person – smiling, serene, and smelling like a summer bouquet. Was her “me time” selfish? Not at all! That “me time” was for the benefit of the whole family.
Refreshed and energized, she was now able to perform the super-special tuck-in and prepare the secret broccoli sauce – the grouchiness had melted away, and she was available to support the rest of us with an open-hearted joy and exuberance. And she made this change just by taking a little contemplative time “for herself.”
I got a litany of similar concerns from friends and family in the weeks leading up to my 100-day retreat: What are we going to do without you? How can you leave during the Holidays? It’s irresponsible to be away for so long! And, of course, the inevitable: Do you still LOVE us??
The intention behind a meditation retreat is not selfish at all – in fact, it’s one of the most selfless things a person can commit to do. I go on retreat precisely because I love my friends, family and colleagues; I care about all beings a great deal. I’m up here so I can learn and grow, hopefully to return to “the world” a better, saner person.
Sound kind of far-fetched? It’s not – it’s just like when you de-stress or re-energize with a few minutes of mindfulness practice or a lunchtime yoga class – only the commitment is deeper, and you have the time and space to take your practice even further. Here’s the deal:
If you believe that all things are interconnected – spiritually, intuitively, karmically, or at the level of quantum physics – everything you feel or do probably has some kind of effect on other people, things and even the very space around you. For instance, if you’re angry inside and act aggressively, you will harm others; if you’re content inside and act kindly, you will help others.
When you take (even a tiny) mindfulness “time-out” – you’re choosing help over harm: That belly breath prevents you from cursing at the reckless driver in front of you; a brisk walk around the block and you can return to an office disagreement with a smile on your face; a set of chi gong activation lets you overcome your sloppiness and inattention; a few minutes of Ride the Breath or shamatha practice and you can bring some calmness and clarity to almost any challenging situation.
In meditation retreat, you not only cultivate these good intentions, but you touch into the interconnectedness of all things, and practice being a more compassionate human being. Hopefully, when you come out of a long retreat, you move a little slower, act a little saner, and are a bit more mindful in both speech and action.
So, if you got in even a few minutes of meditation practice today – congratulate yourself! It might not seem like a lot, but you’re part of a team that’s making a difference. Because of our interdependence, each “mindful minute” adds to our collective goal. It’s something wholesome to understand and aspire towards, to strive to be a part of.
Remember that each minute of meditation is not just for your own well-being, but also serves to help others through our interconnectedness. Yes, your mindful minute really does supports my one hundred mindful days (and vise-versa). So keep meditating! We’re making the world a brighter place, and we’re doing it one mindful breath at a time.
Bill Filter, Trainer & Co-Founder, VUmind