3 lessons from my recent silent meditation retreat
On rest, habits, boredom, showing up for community, understanding our history, and getting around paywalls
Two weeks ago, I went back to Insight Meditation Society for a week-long silent BIPOC meditation retreat and it was very powerful. For those of you who have followed my meditation journey, IMS was the first stop of my 2019 “Eat Pray Love” journey. After years of lockdown, global pandemic, and a ton of time sitting with myself at home, it was a wonderful opportunity to practice meditation back in physical community again.
It took about three days to fully settle into the retreat. As soon as I gave myself permission to rest, my body simply collapsed. In between meditations and meals, I took full advantage of the time to nap and sit with my tired body.
A few insights coming out of retreat…
1. We rarely give ourselves permission to rest.
And when we do, we dangle rest in front of us like a carrot on a stick: “When I’m done with X task, I can finally rest/sleep/nap.” On top of this, working long hours every day build an “autopilot” mode, desensitizing us from how we are truly feeling fatigued and drained through the day. How atrocious is this?
Yet, we as a society continue to celebrate those who survive on very little sleep (“efficient”), those who work 16+ hours a day (“productive”), and those who align their life closely with labor exploitation and capitalism (“successful”).
Lesson: rest more, without reason.
Life is too short to not give ourselves the rest we are deserved for simply existing. We do not need to validate our need to take care of ourselves. Centering our rest is not only healing, it is justice within a system that demonizes our rest as “lazy” or “unproductive”.
2. We try to build “perfect habits” around shame.
I have a love/hate relationship with food. Especially when stressed, I overeat and binge on pre-packaged and sugar-dense foods. After the stomach ache and bathroom trip that follows, I shame myself with criticism and negative self-talk: “you should have known better.” It’s gotten better over the years, but still far from perfect.
One of the main reasons that I chose to go back to IMS was their food (delicious vegan food at each meal). Slowing down my days gave me an opportunity to reflect on my eating habits and make more conscious decisions.
Lesson: embrace imperfection with compassion.
Even if I slip, avoid shaming myself and forgive myself to do better next time. Shame takes us out of the present moment by focusing on and critiquing our past. Conversely, the grace of compassion allows us to come back to the present moment, empowered to make a different choice that serves us.
3. We fear boredom.
In our hyper-capitalist, outcome-focused society, lounging around and doing nothing seems to get an awful rap. While on retreat, I remembered how important it was to do absolutely nothing. Our minds freely roam, our creative ideas simmer and take shape, and our energy replenishes itself.
Lesson: embrace boredom.
Especially with our mobile apps vying for every second of our attention, our time and energy have become important commodities to protect. While it seems counter-intuitive, boredom is a way in which we can reclaim these resources for ourselves. Coming out of retreat, I now block out time each day to simply be bored.
Do these insights resonate?
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What I’m up to
In the spirit of rest, QTBIPOC Design is on summer break for July and August. 🏳️🌈
For our community
For queer Asians: Thu, July 14 - Yellow Glitter Sparkles
For Asians: Wed, July 20 - Asian American Healing Space
(✨New✨) For BIPOC: Tue, Aug 23 - BIPOC Healing Space (with Miraj Jiwani)
Something to share
With all the things happening around us, we have to be even more diligent with how our time is spent. A poignant point made by one of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow - Dr. Ayesha Khan @wokescientist, infectious disease specialist and social justice champion…
Something to read
Given the state of our country, this recent article resonated deep within my soul. ‘They are preparing for war’: An expert on civil wars discusses where political extremists are taking this country by KK Ottesen for the Washington Post interviews Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego, on how civil wars are predicted:
And what scholars found was that this anocracy variable was really predictive of a risk for civil war. That full democracies almost never have civil wars. Full autocracies rarely have civil wars. All of the instability and violence is happening in this middle zone. And there’s all sorts of theories why this middle zone is unstable, but one of the big ones is that these governments tend to be weaker. They’re transitioning to either actually becoming more democratic, and so some of the authoritarian features are loosening up. The military is giving up control. And so it’s easier to organize a challenge. Or, these are democracies that are backsliding, and there’s a sense that these governments are not that legitimate, people are unhappy with these governments. There’s infighting. There’s jockeying for power. And so they’re weak in their own ways. Anyway, that turned out to be highly predictive.
Originally discovered from this Twitter thread.
Something to discover
Annoyed with article paywalls? I ran across two websites that help you get around these pesky ads: 12ft and Archive.ph. Also, I’ve found that if you search for the article title in Twitter or Reddit, some people post gift links (non-paywalled articles like the above).
While I am always for democratizing knowledge, if you do have the financial ability, highly recommend subscribing to publications or donating directly to authors to keep good writing afloat!
As always, thanks for reading!
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Have a beautiful day!