As I reflect on my recent 10-Day Silent Meditation retreat and reintegrate into the “noise” of the busy world, I have been contemplating the subject of boundaries—more specifically, the lack of them and the inadequate understanding of what healthy boundaries are.
My 10 days of silent meditation under the guidance of Dr. Rick Hanson, one of the greatest proponents of positive neuroplasticity in the brain, began with a sense of overwhelm after a hectic work week. I arrived at the retreat center just before the required check-in time, after navigating the busy highways, multiple construction zones, and everyone on the road anxious to “get” to their own destinations (and listening to the news on the way didn’t help!). I entered the first evening talk with Rick and the meditation session feeling polarized: overexposed and raw on one extreme, and frantically “trying” to be calm and go inward on the other.
The first three days were spent working on retrieving my own scattered energies—some of them had escaped to other dimensions—and getting a clearer sense of my own boundaries. In silence, I coached myself not to “pick up” other participants’ energy, health concerns, and sensitivities. But as I sat in the room full of well intended mediators from all over the world, I noticed my own body beginning to hurt. During those days, my body became riddled with severe pain from the room full of collective struggles. But I charged ahead, sitting up straight on my cushion, profusely taking notes in the evening, and setting my alarm early to go for solo dawn hikes and bouldering to see the sunrise.
On the fourth day, I took my meditation cushion and several others around me outside for a cleaning. As I held my breath and banged them together, I watched the early fall’s gentle breeze carry away our mingled human dust. I felt myself gently shift into being here, reconnecting with my own boundaries. I was exhausted, and realized that I had been for a long time. I decided to skip a couple of afternoon meditation sessions and took long naps instead. The severe pain began to move out of my body like the steam off of a cup of morning tea. I still managed to go for a dawn hike the next morning, but when I arrived at the destination after the sun had already risen, I decided to simply sit on one of the rocks and sing the Loving Kindness meditation, which calmed my spirit like a cosmic lullaby.
By the time the meditation retreat progressed to the seventh day, I began to plan less. Although the retreat schedule had been the same every day, I had relied on checking the posted schedule regularly, but now I moved seamlessly from one sitting period to walking meditation, gentle morning yoga to evening talk. I listened to my body and skipped several meals, stopped taking notes every evening, opted to sit by an ancient ponderosa pine instead of a yoga class. All of this created space inside my body and mind. I woke up without an alarm, and after a couple warm glasses of water, I tied my hiking shoes and headed up the trail to the same spot where I had been welcomed by the sun—no matter what state I had been in on each of my climbs.
I realized during the last days of the retreat that I had been journeying through three stages: Doing, Being, and Emptying. I began my 10 days with boundaries that had been tattered and blurred, where I had collected an overabundance of external stressors and even pain. My gradual letting go of the addiction to “doing” gave way to simply “being” and reclaiming the sense of my own edges. As I reconnected and began to manage my own space in each moment, I also softened my grip on specific outcomes. On those last days, I heard inner whispers telling me, “Now, Emptying…”. So I followed their guidance, traveling deeper inward beyond my own boundaries, and just let each moment show me what wanted to happen.
I wonder what would happen to you, if you took yourself on the journey from doing to being, and from being to emptying, and allowed the unfolding of this moment to guide you?
How would you reconnect with your healthy boundaries? Perhaps you, too, may rekindle your True Nature, whose still, soft voice is difficult to hear in the midst of so much daily noise.
I wonder, what would your inner whispers tell you?