I could not sit still. The teacher at the front of the room instructed the rows of stoic students sitting cross-legged to pay attention to the breath, to feel the coolness enter the nostrils and to witness the warmth of the exhale as it was released from the lungs.
I could listen. I could think. I could breathe. I could run and jump and sweat. But I could not sit still.
I allowed my eyes to open ever so slightly. A tiny slit revealed a room full of humans seemingly at peace with the silence, not moving, just sitting. I had heard the term ‘To Sit’ in meditation ad nauseum and while I understood the concept, the reality was foreign to me. As a young child, I was always moving around in my seat, getting reprimanded for wiggling and shifting. As an adult, I learned to quell anxiety, depression, loneliness, anger, hurt, shame, and guilt by moving. I walked it out. I relocated my home often. I was on a mission to not be still.
As the years ticked on, I experienced physical discomfort from all the walking, and constantly moving my residence was becoming exhausting. My hips and knees screamed at me. My home base didn’t feel homey. I kept walking to keep my sanity. But now I wasn’t sleeping well. My nerves felt like they were jangling inside me, a vibration that did not feel good. I was no stranger to holistic health. I had been studying and teaching about real food, supplements, and alternative healing modalities for years. Meditation was the one area that mystified me. I could not sit still.
I purchased meditation apps only to get annoyed by the instructor’s voice. I tried staring at a candle. I focused on the in breath and the out breath. I tried and I tried but the only thing I accomplished was feeling inadequate, frustrated, ruminating on thoughts, and subsequently giving up.
So here I was again, this time in a room full of stillness. I had strategically placed my cushion in the back corner near the door for an easy escape. As I peeped through the tiny window in my eyelids, something shifted in me. The room pulsed with an energy that I was unaccustomed to. This energy was not like the wild inside of me, but more like the energy of a thousand radiating suns. It was warm and bright, comforting and grounding, and vibrant without being chaotic.
I settled into my seat at my very first retreat in the jungle of Hawaii and closed down my eyelids. My mind took a pause, something I’m not sure it had ever done before. And I became still.
For the next 30 minutes I sat as the birds sang their symphony, not moving, emptied. When the bell rung to signify the meditation was complete, I looked at the clock and was shocked. 30 minutes felt like three, not 300! While meditation is not something that comes easy to me, and probably never will, it is a lifeline to my internal peace and happiness. While I do not aspire to plunk down on a cushion and sit in a temple meditating for hours, I can and do meditate daily. Walking is now a treat rather than a must. My home has become my sanctuary. Most significantly, my inner landscape feels like a place I want to retreat to, not escape from. Rather than run from myself, I choose to walk the path towards myself.
It was my first retreat that gave me this life changing experience. I came for the fresh coconuts, the ocean breeze, the magical rainbows, and the sea turtles. I left with so much more; a connection to like-minded humans and a deeply rooted relationship with the safe space in my Soul where no one but me can take refuge.
On the flight back to the mainland United States, I sat in stillness. And I smiled.