One Year After My Silent Meditation Retreat

In the Midwest, when the sun punches through months-long grey skies and warms the earth to a tepid 48 degrees Fahrenheit, thousands of previously hibernating humans crawl out from their shelters and brave the outdoors to embrace it. We roll our car windows down, don light jackets, and ignore our bright pink faces protesting against the frigid wind. Such was the case last week, when my good friend and I made the voyage to a nearby botanical garden. First stop? The Japanese Garden.

I read something once that said Japanese people are born Taoists and die Buddhists. I don’t know how true this statement is but of course, spying the massive head of the Buddha during our trek brought my mind back to the many depictions of the Buddha I saw less than a year prior. There really is something quite relaxing about gazing upon his likeness.

Last August, I wrote a post marking Six Months After My Silent Meditation Retreat. I wanted to reflect on how my life had changed and what pieces of it I had incorporated into my life. Now that I’ve reached the full year mark, it seemed appropriate to visit this idea again. It’s been on my mind, leading Sara and I to talk about it as we sat by the Buddha statue. She said something that immediately struck me and I knew would stay with me for some time: “The impact it had on you was definitely noticeable.”

It’s funny to think that prior to the retreat, most everyone in my life was very concerned about it – including me. Now I wish I could go on another. I’d pack my bags and leave tomorrow if it was possible. And I genuinely believe, especially in this overly saturated world of constant social media bombardment (the irony is not lost on me here), that almost every human alive would benefit from such an experience if only for the sensation of a true internet detox. It really can’t be expressed in words the subtle yet powerful effect having tiny computers in our hands or pockets all day does has on our brain. Only when it’s been cut from you like an unwanted yet seemingly harmless growth do you realize how it has changed you.

Anyway. That’s not really why I’m writing today.

First, We’ll revisit The List (from six months ago).

  • More phone calls, less texts
    • I’ve been doing really well on this, actually. Caitlyn, Cassandra, and I video chat from time to time and I’ve had a few phone conversations with others in my life as well. It’s been very refreshing.
  • Uninstall… lots
    • My list of social media on my phone just keeps getting shorter and shorter.
  • Keep Social Media but continue to be mindful & limit usage
    • See above c:
  • Uninstall Snapchat
    • I doubt Snapchat will ever go away. It’s okay, my list has been trimmed to the point of like, 12 people.
  • Look at Nick more
    • I’m very good at this one.
  • Practice everyday mindfulness
    • Often. I share these moments, too.
  • Eliminate beef & pork
    • About once a week, I eat beef.
  • Less OW
    • I play maybe twice a week now.
    • This gets easier and easier with time.

Interestingly absent from this list is anything about actually meditating. This year has brought back a renewed fervor for it though I’ve sort of given up on obtaining enlightenment or anything like that. At this point, I sit because it helps me cultivate a calm mind and have more control over my emotions, my impulses, my knee-jerk reactions. I’m attempting to maintain a streak, though coincidentally I messed it up this weekend. It’s okay, I’ll just start again today. Every day is a new day.

Though less tangible, it’s obvious to me that my silent meditation retreat experience left a huge imprint on my being. Perhaps most important of all was this moment of truly, emotionally realizing how much excess we have in our lives. And how self centered we are usually. Though I don’t think that’s our true nature, just how we’ve been conditioned. After all, how can you sell things to people who don’t care about how they look, how they’re perceived, what they own?

Hopefully I’ll get another opportunity to do a silent retreat. In the meantime, I’m grateful for the chance I did have and the moments of mindfulness I’ve learned to cultivate since then. You don’t need a special silent refuge to reap the benefits of meditation, after all. So if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my daily sit in now.


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