A Wake Up practitioner shares her experiences of attending the Wake Up retreat in Mountain Lamp Community in September 2014.
When I sit down with food, my thoughts are full of anxious thoughts, or judgments, or comparisons. “Why did you get that much? Don’t eat that. You’re eating more than her. You are being too strict with yourself. Why don’t you just eat what you like? Why don’t you cook yourself a proper meal? I wish I was with people. I wish I was alone.”
All of these things are running through my head, instead of appreciating the colors and textures and flavors before me. I don’t consider the sun that grew the food, or the hands that harvested it, or the energy it took to bring it to sit in front of me, or my own efforts of taking care of myself by eating. I notice myself be swayed by passing fears or insecurities or shame, and my stomach tightens, my breathing shortens, and I eat faster, not tasting it, or push it away, denying myself.
Coming back to my breath with each bite helps me choose how to act. If I have stopped enjoying it, I can breathe and check in with my body and ask why. Mindful eating has been a very empowering practice for me. It lets me see how many voices in my head are fighting against my own well-being and happiness, and by choosing to enjoy my food I am making the choice to notice and enjoy my life.
The Dharma discussion was a powerful space for me. Voicing our inner experiences helped me in making the practice more personal and compassionate. It calmed the part of my brain that wants to do everything “the right way” or who takes authority too seriously in order to “be enlightened.” It made the practice real and approachable, and I felt a deep connection when everyone expressed their experiences. It helped me feel like I could continue my practice compassionately.
I have more of a relationship with my body and breath now, and hope to continue to listen deeper. This practice has brought up how disconnected I can be from my breath and my body, and then I am leading my life with my thoughts, instead of my intuition. These practices have been very empowering for me to trust my inner experience, and have given me more voice in my decisions in life.
As I continue to pause to notice the beauty and mystery of life, I find myself being caught in moments of spontaneous gratitude and amazement at the complexity and generosity of life. This practice is helping me sit through the difficult feelings, too, and to pay attention to the needs that are behind them. Whether I am feeling stifled, or frustrated, or sad, I see that it is a passing feeling, and that I can stop to breathe and give myself compassion for the pain that I am feeling. I no longer want to run away from the suffering I feel, but want to feel brave enough to experience it and understand the suffering that our planet it going through.
How the retreat nourished me
It helped me slow down. As a young person who cares very deeply, becoming more mindful of the conditioning of the culture I was brought up in to consume, to be “stressed,” to judge myself on my exterior, to compare myself to others, to achieve, to be successful, to be financially secure, to be “the best” at anything, to have worries about money, the future, my relationships.
As I become mindful of my thoughts, I see how many ways I am living that are contradictory to what I value. I see how many things pull me out of appreciating the moment, and Mother Earth. I forget that I am a child of the universe, and instead become someone who needs to accomplish. I don’t want to be someone who lives their life as a to-do list, or based on what job I have at the time.
This retreat helped me re-focus the intention of my life around Love. It has helped me uncover what I really value, and I feel the world has opened up a little more brightly since I have slowed down and become best friends with my breath. I feel less of a need to have lots of things, or accomplish many things, or be praised by anyone. I am finding enjoyment in the trees and the sounds around me and the colors and mysteries that I see. I am feeling less attached to ideas of “right” and “wrong,” and am learning to listen to my body and trust that there is no destination besides where I am right now.
Thank you so much for the insight, support, and light that you have shared through the community of Mountain Lamp and the practices that you are spreading into the world. I deeply appreciate the experience I had last weekend, and hope to also be an integral part of the community in sharing this practice and values.
With Love and Light,