I feel such gratitude that I have been able to use part of my vacation time this year for a 7 day silent meditation retreat at Vallecitos Mountain Retreat and Refuge in northern New Mexico. The location is stunning at 8,800 feet, tucked away in the Carson National Forest. Amid aspen groves, vanilla scented Ponderosa pines and a babbling stream, all 36 of us were immersed in silence, sitting, hiking, community meals and wonderful support from three dedicated mindfulness teachers - Trudy Goodman, Grove Burnett and Wes Nisker. We practiced formal sitting or walking meditation about 6-7 hours a day, ample time for me to "explore the anatomy of my mind/body". I learned that if I quickly shift my attention back to a body sensation right after noticing that my mind is lost in a story....and do this over and over and over and over again.....that my mind will eventually quiet and settle more easily. I also discovered how much time there is for my mind to wander and get distracted in a walking meditation between each slow footstep...even when I speak words with each step! "Safe....calm....healthy....whole"....oh the places my thoughts and feelings could travel in such a short space!
Such an intensive retreat experience is not for everyone. I recommend building your capacity to sit and be in silence in a gradual way, otherwise you can get overwhelmed with thoughts, sensations, story and emotion. Most people are unable to attend such a retreat, but you can create a simple version at home. Your daily sitting practice can be a retreat. Choosing to be silent during a meal can allow you and your family a new and different experience (though smaller children may not be able to do this!). Practicing a walking meditation in your yard in the summer while watching the stars emerge can be another refuge of sorts. Be creative to give yourself a mini retreat.... your nervous system will be very appreciative!