When I mention that Brad and I spent the Christmas weekend sitting a Zen retreat, most people say, “Oh, that sounds so nice and relaxing.” And they are right…and not right. The rigors of a Zen retreat include waking up at 5am (without coffee!) and then managing to stay awake and upright during a full day of meditation; not moving on the cushion and then briskly standing up for walking meditation when your legs are asleep; being in silence even during work period and meals; being too cold sometimes and too hot sometimes and in general, not indulging an internal drama about any of it. We practiced simply being quiet together with other people and paying attention.
This kind of retreat is called a sessin, which means “a gathering of the mind.” And the only way to do that is to relax into it and at the same time, to stay awake. This is the exact equation that we call YOGA. A state of union, integration, harmony; a meditative state of relaxed wakefulness. So, although the structure of the sessin is intense, the experience of the meditation practice itself is refreshing. The more you meditate, this quality of refreshing presence infuses your life.
Isn’t that what we all want when we make various and sundry New Year’s Intentions? Whatever form you choose – eating better, doing more yoga, being a better friend, working less – these are all channels for us to experience more presence in our life.
This year I am offering numerous opportunities for you to begin or to deepen your meditation practice. Don’t worry – none of my workshops will involve getting up at 5am, but you will study and practice specific meditation techniques which enable you to make mindfulness meditation a real and significant part of your life. Even just by doing ten minutes of sitting a day.
If you can’t be with me in person, check out my Meditation 101 Video Series on My Yoga Online beginning this week: Jan. 8, 9, 10, 11. Meditation 102 will be up in February. See my schedule on the full newsletter for more and I’m looking forward to seeing you in this Year of the Sheep.
My next newsletters will cover what this new year is going to be about; the difference between heart and mind; whether you should do yoga when you have a cold; what I really think about hot yoga, and also, perhaps a discussion involving Heraclitus – so stay tuned!