I spent my weekend all by myself, away from my family in silence for 2 days..
Some of you might wonder, what kind of craziness is this and why would you just go somewhere and not talk or do nothing, where is the fun in that? I guess “fun” holds very different definition for different people and me for, the silent retreat was just what I needed to recharge. The retreat I went on might not be a appealing to everyone but it was honestly the most restful time I had in a very long while. As a mum, there is constant chatter and a million questions thrown at me each day. Just being able to slow down is gold. We talk a lot about how we lose a touch of ourselves because of the responsibilities we have as mums, a weekend like this I just experienced was a moment to go, “oh hello me, I have missed you, how are you doing?”
I had never parted with my kids voluntarily before. The last time I “flew solo” I was stuck in a hospital bed in another country and force to stop and do nothing out of sickness of my body. Since then, I have learnt that time for myself is very important – to rejuvenate my mind, body and soul to do the work I want to do and to be the mum/wife I want to be.
In a society where every media outlet is trying to get your attention, every business wants you to buy their service or product, and kids/spouse needs your attention, it is very easy to just keep the ball rolling all the time and not have much downtime. But when you go to a place like Jhana Grove, it is really like time just stops. This particular retreat I attended was organised by Kalyana Mitta group in Perth. It is a social group that has been meeting every Saturday for the last 10 years at the Buddhist Society in Nollamara from 5-6pm. Interested parties gather and have a very informal chat with a monastic where they can ask questions in an informal and intimate setting. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to attend and they also do not impose Buddhism on you. For more information about such retreats, visit https://bswa.org/location/jhana-grove-retreat-centre/
What I did during the retreat?
Upon arriving at the center, I was greeted by the lovely hosts and handed a key to my room. At Jhana Grove, there are 60 individual rooms with en-suites to give each attendee the most private and comfortable experience.
As I walks along the pathway in rather excited footsteps, the vibe of the place just sort of gently nudged me to S L O W D O W N. As I past each adjacent cottage, I finally arrived at number 4 and found my room. The room is what a minimalist would love, it has a single bed, a bedside table and a rack to put your belongings and clothes on. Coming from a household with two kids, the simplicity of the room was just delightful.
Once I settled in, I headed back to the dining hall for a light supper (delicious heart warming soup, too hot for the weather but it was very tasty), and then into the air-conditioned meditation hall for our first session. All together, we had 5 education/meditation sessions with the teacher, ordained monastic Ajahn Brahmali over the weekend. He spoke about meditation and how to do it and also touch on some Buddhist teaching which sounds like pretty logical thoughts about how we should treat others and ourselves. My favourite bits were about loving kindness and compassion to every living things, even people who you might disagree with. All in all very insightful and helped me with some of my residual anger issues from the past.
On Saturday morning, I attended the teacher led slow flow yoga class at 6.30AM before breakfast, then we had the scheduled talks and meditation session and was treated to a evening hike to an spot for a sunset mediation before supper. The peacefulness in nature was just divine. While I was in a group of over 50 people, everyone was respectful of the noble silence and the atmosphere was really special. When everyone has an understanding and are there for similar reasons, everything feels effortless.
Come Sunday morning, I took a hike back out to the same lookout, overlooking some hills and did some yoga alone, just me and the trees. Throughout the weekend, we were also spoiled with delicious vegetarian meals cooked and prepared by a lovely volunteer, Aunty Visaka. She made some amazing curries and this OMG fried mushroom condiment that goes beautifully with rice or over a salad. I got the recipe off her and will share it shortly!
In a nutshell, this weekend away for myself was very nurturing and very grounding. I also finish reading a book entitled “The Joy of Less” and helped me put a plan in place to simply my family life even further. So that we can enjoy the truly important things in life. One of my favourite quotes in the book,
Live simply, so that others may simply live.
My meditation practice revamped.
Prior to this, I meditate regularly, since being sick last year but this retreat has opened my eyes to another level of meditation and made me realise how “noisy” my meditation had been. I often utilised audio guides to help me through the process of meditation but at the retreat, there was no guide, no one talking you through the process of it, we literally all just quietly sat ( which is the direct translation of the mandarin phase for meditation). The effect was next level. I also realised how much I was pushing and putting expectations on my meditation practice and how that was actually hindering me form attaining the sense of calm and peace that meditation brings.
We were introduced to walking meditation, which is a method Ajahn Brahmali suggested if sitting meditation was too uncomfortable. Essentially, you determined a length you wanted to walk and then focus in on the sensations of the two feet from heel strike to support to toe off. I gave it a go and man, did i struggle with this. My footsteps was too quick to sync with my breathing. And this was the first time I realised it.
So to help me slow down, I found myself a steep slope and took one step at the time, all the way up the slope and it did the trick. I was also looking for a way to get my heart rate up so it really worked a treat without affect the peaceful vibe of the place and without affect the peace I was getting within. The thumping of the heart was strangely soothing.
By Sunday lunch time, the retreat was almost over. We all cleaned up our rooms and returned the keys and finish of the retreat with some tasty chai and a chat with the other attendees which I didn’t get to know because I was getting to know myself in the time of silence. Everyone commented how strange it felt to not get to know everyone but at the same time, everyone was so comfortable with each other.
Would I recommend this to other mums? Yes if you are an introvert needing a quiet peaceful place to recharge, with no obligation to get to know anyone new there. For others, you may find the retreat too boring. Find what works for you 🙂 and carve out time for you.