Just Sit

When I think about stillness, my participation in a 10 day silent retreat comes to mind. One might think it's like going to a resort to unwind, but on the contrary it's the hardest challenge I've every completed. It's very exhausting and a lot of work. Ten hours of sitting daily is the torturous. I was instructed to focus on my breath and body sensations---noble silence---but all I could think about was the pain. I would obsess about the past and fantasize about the future, craved everything I couldn't have. The more I thought about the 'what if's ', the more distractions I experienced. The challenge of sitting still is not to remove external stimulation, but to defuse the extremity of it. The way to balance out the external noise is by doing the exact opposite.  Through meditation I learned this can be a coping skill and when it's done appropriately as a daily practice can be very helpful. When I observed my thoughts, scanned my body and observed instead of reacting, I was able to gain mastery over my mind and attained greater ability to focus, think more clearly.

I have tons of funny stories about this experience I can share. In a nutshell, I always say I will never do this again, but I keep going back. There are a lot of benefits in sitting still in silence: it brings you the present, it can help you get in tune with the body. Different sensations reduce activity in the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for flight or fight), and increases activity in the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest and digestion). it also helps you pay attention to details. It opens the possibility of listening to the small voice within and allowing what is. It's easy to be in the noise, it becomes a habit. Mindfulness or long period of stillness can help reduce inflammation associated with certain diseases like cancer. Many studies have indicated mindfulness meditation is an alternative form of healing.

The most difficult practice for this culture is to sit still and do nothing, everyone is caught up on their phones or devices everywhere you go. I observe how people are not about to wait on a line without checking their phones. I see it all the time at the grocery stores or bank. Sitting is boring.. it's all about pleasure seeking, keeping active. People meditate for different reasons---for relaxation, spirituality or to stay away from the outside world. Whatever reason , it's benefit are ever ending. Sitting still is universal and simple. It doesn't have to be attached to any religion or practice. Formal meditation practice might not work for everyone. It's difficult to block things out of your mind. Ruminating and anxiety is inevitable at times, for that same reason, I encourage to just "be here and now," and sit still.

"There is a common misunderstanding among human being who have been born on earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable. You see this in insects and animals and birds, all of us are the same. A much more interesting, kind of our curiosity is bitter or sweet, to lead to a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on own terms, to lead a more passionate, full and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is" Pema Chodron