As I was meditating on a hill overlooking the beach this morning thoughts kept popping into my head. That always happens when you meditate and it’s a common reason why peoplethink they can’t meditate because thoughts are impossible to stop.
Just like the waves that were breaking on the beach below me the thoughts keep right on coming. But that’s okay. The point of meditating is to become aware of the thoughts, to accept that thoughts are just thoughts and to practice concentration by gently returning your attention to the breath each time.
We think we need days, weeks or months of uninterrupted time to relax and recover from the stress of our daily lives but we don’t. We can’t wait for holidays and time off to retreat because then it’s often too late. We have to make time for a micro-holiday or micro-retreat every single day of our life.
Here’s how you can make every day a retreat:
1. Connect with the loving peace that’s already inside you
So there I was doing all that and doing nothing at all. I could feel the sun burning the left side of my face, I could hear birds tweeting and I could feel a fresh breeze blowing my hair.
Then there was a rustling noise in the grass close to me. I zoomed my attention in on that noise and I could hear heavy breathing too. I guessed it was just a dog and tried to ignore it but I couldn’t.
You see this popular beauty spot and vantage point is much loved by humans but some of them sit in their car to admire the view and let their dogs out to roam around. The dogs go about their canine business which of course includes doing their business and although I love this spot I do not love dog poo. So naturally this annoys me.
In fact when I first got here I’d looked around carefully before lying my blanket down and hadn’t seen any dog poos. But as soon as I closed my eyes and drew that first meditative breath I noticed the smell of dog poop.
Disgust and anger had washed over me and although I’d got over that now I couldn’t ignore this doggy noise because I was wondering if another dog poop was about to be deposited in this beautiful place.
So I opened my eyes and saw a large sandy dog sniffing around the grass. It circled my blanket aware of me yet ignoring me and and I sat on my blanket aware of it and wishing it would go away.
Seconds later I had been practicing a loving kindness meditation, silently repeating to myself:
“May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be healthy and vibrant.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.”
Now I was feeling annoyed, preparing for the possibility that the dog might poop and deciding between putting up with it or confronting the owner whoever they might be.
Then I realised that I was thinking about the future, solving a problem which might never happen and causing myself stress for no reason.
The dog carried on snuffling around and then wandered away from me. I closed my eyes and smiled, reconnected with that small oasis of loving kindness in my heart and directed it inwardly to myself and outwardly to the dog and its owner, wherever they might be.
2. Snatch moments of peace everywhere you go
Then I started thinking about how I’ve been meditating now every single day since the beginning of March. I’ve probably spent around 5o hour meditating since then.
I thought about how one of my deepest fantasies during the depression I’ve experienced this year but which truly seems to have lifted now is to go on a retreat. Check out my travel bucket list and you’ll see I dream of retreats of any kind: silent, spa, yoga, raw food or meditation.
I don’t care what kind of retreat I go on, I just want to retreat from the real world and its problems. I want to be immersed in peace and quiet, I want to be surrounded by beauty and free of all worries.
And I realised that during my these months of repeated and concentrated meditation I have created a retreat for myself, a portable retreat which I can go to here on the hill over the beach, at home in bed or even in the kitchen while the children argue and fuss because they are hungry and tired.
I’ve made a meditation kit which I keep in the boot of my car so I can whip it out at a moment’s notice. Any time I have a spare 10 or 15 minutes and I’m stuck somewhere I grab the bag which has a blanket to sit on, a blanket to wrap round me if it’s cold and a cushion for me to sit on and I meditate. If time’s short or there’s no where suitable to go I might just meditate right there in the car.
Ideally I find a quiet spot or a place I love then I close my eyes and just breathe. I don’t care what people think any more. I sit down and I meditate because I can, because it stills my mind and soothes my soul.
3. Create a space for doing nothing in your home
So through daily meditation I’ve created a spiritual retreat for myself in my own body but I’ve also created a physical retreat too for emergency purposes.
A few months ago I cleaned out a room that hardly ever got used and turned it into what I call a women’s retreat by simply cleaning it, hanging new curtains and adding a few cushions and throws.
There I read, meditate and do yoga. I downloaded the Tune In Radio app and listen to classical music on a radio station in France and new age healing music on a radio station in Canada because I read that listening to music with no words helps you get in touch with your emotions.
I added a plant and candles, a sequinned cushion for me to meditate on and some pictures on the wall. It’s a place for me to retreat to which is free of family messes and family problems. It’s a place where I can be me. It’s that room of my own which Virginia Wolf said all female writers need.
You might not have a whole room in your house to dedicate to creating a retreat but you don’t need it. A bathroom would work if there’s a cupboard where you can keep your meditation kit with cushion, blanket and candle. A corner in your bedroom which can be screened off will do the trick.
And any time, wherever you are, you can retreat into nature, to the beach, woods or pond. To the river, garden or park. If all else fails just step outside and look at the sky, a bush or tree.
Even if you are stuck inside in an office, on a plane or in your car you can retreat into your body, into your breath, into your heart where you’ll find the solitude, peace and happiness you need. It’s all there.
You can make every day a retreat, you just have to gift yourself some time alone. It’s a thought and process we should all get attached to.
Do you have any tips for making every day a retreat? Being in nature, plants, music and most of all time have helped me. How about you?
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