Dr. E’s Silent Meditation Retreat…plus Meditation Tips

Dr. E’s Silent Meditation Retreat…plus Meditation Tips

Chiropractic Vernon BC Meditation

Written by Dr. Elliot Lysyk, DC ~ Vernon Chiropractor

I recently attended a silent meditation retreat—no talking or screen time for seven days. And even though I have been meditating daily for many years, for 30 or more minutes each day, it was a profound experience.

Since I have a reputation for being chatty and spend a lot of my day talking with patients, the general consensus was that I would struggle. But the “silent” part was actually easy, even refreshing.  No conversation or screen time means very few distractions, giving your mind a chance to rest like sandy water settling. You begin to notice how your monkey mind continuously grasps for branches of thought—replaying past conversations, anticipating future events, and just thinking, thinking, thinking, when all you need to be doing is focusing your mind on each breath. It seems so easy but can be extremely difficult.

But it was the 10-12 hours of dedicated seated meditation each day that was the real struggle. My leg would go numb, my hip burned, my back strained, and there was no position my head could occupy where my neck wouldn’t ache. Judging by how my fellow participants shifted and wriggled, I imagine everyone struggled to maintain any form of comfort. But here is where the profound part begins.

When we feel negative sensations arise in our bodies, most of us will shift away from them. We will take action to move away from discomfort while following more pleasurable sensations and letting those ones linger a bit. The deeper you meditate, the more obvious this simple fact becomes, both in the thoughts that we generate and in the sensations we end up feeling. We are constantly reacting.

Through meditation, you become very aware that how you feel follows very closely to the quality of thoughts arising in your mind. And since most of us can have poor quality thoughts arising constantly, we tend to feel anxious or restless a lot of the time. This makes us seek distractions, like mindlessly eating in front of the TV even though our bodies are not at all hungry or in need of nourishment. Or we spend hours scrolling social media—anything to make those feelings of discomfort disappear before we start getting twitchy again. There are so many examples of how people react and take actions to mask the negative sensations and thoughts that keep popping up in their minds and bodies—food, fantasies, drugs, alcohol, phones, video games—any distraction to avoid the things that unnerve them, without ever really exploring what those things are.

But what if you could learn how to observe these sensations and thoughts as they arise without having to react to any of them? What if you could see that each sensation or thought, no matter how “good” or “bad” you have labeled them, could all have equal merit? What if you could see that each moment you are living right now is equally valid compared to any other moment you have lived, or will ever live through? If we could develop the awareness that no matter what sensation or thought arrives at this moment, we can simply observe it without judging it or needing to react to it in any way, then maybe we could cultivate a more balanced mind. This mind would be able to accept things just as they are, right now, rather than how we would like them to be.

Meditation cuts right to the root of where these cravings and aversions begin. It allows you to see, through direct experience, how your reactions to various sensations and thoughts continue to tie more knots deep inside of you, creating more agitation in your life and ultimately more misery. Regardless of one’s religion or belief, meditation allows you to focus your mind on the direct awareness of how you cause yourself to suffer and offers a way out.

We spend so much of our time having thoughts about the world around us, and taking specific actions to alter the conditions of our lives “out there.” You tell yourself, “When I get that loan paid off, or when the baby grows up and stops crying so much, or when I get a better job, then I can finally be happy.” We are dedicated to altering the conditions of our lives so that when this happens or when that improves, all will finally be well. But more things to “fix” inevitably arise. And we end up missing the point—that it is our reaction inside to what arises that determines our ultimate state of joy. It’s madness to think that you can affect everything “out there” in just such a way that all of your preferences will be met and you will finally get the joy you seek.

Now, sure, you might still prefer a cup of hot chocolate on a winter’s day to having a rock fall on your foot. But through meditation, perhaps you will start to recognize that more joy can be felt if you stop reacting to every little sensation and every single thought and just began observing your reactions as a silent witness to yourself.

Want to find out how unsettled your mind really is? Try this simple exercise:

  • Find a quiet area and sit in a chair (or cross-legged on a pillow on the floor) with a straight back and close your eyes.
  • Focus all of your mind’s attention on the feeling of air moving in and out of your nostrils as you breathe.
  • Count each in-breath up to 10.
  • See what surfaces in your mind in that short time. If a thought arises, let it go, and start over from one again, counting 10 in-breaths.
  • Try this exercise 5 or 10 minutes each day until you can sit for stretches at a time with no thoughts. This blissful feeling is what will ultimately attract you to meditate daily, and help settle inner agitation.

There, you are basically meditating!


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