After our group hellos we had an introduction with Hamid, a Zen Buddhist Monk and our facilitator. It was in this moment I felt a sinking sensation from the realization that from that moment on, there would be no talking, no music and no laughter. I was looking forward to the experience but I could feel the resistance building. Three days felt like a long time.
Unaware of the schedule prior to the retreat, I soon learned we would experience seated meditation in two hour blocks, four times a day (consisting of 30 minutes seated meditation punctuated with ten minute walking meditations) or eight hours a day. Yes, eight hours! Currently having trouble with bursitis in my hip, sitting for such long periods was not a comforting thought.
The first session I experienced a lot of discomfort and found it hard to take my awareness away from the aches and pains in my body. As each session went by it became a little easier, however I did seek whispered permission after a couple of days to take a break and lay down to relieve my hip, but only did this for part of the three or four of the 30 minute sessions overall. The walking meditation gave you time to stretch your legs, I loved this part of the process. Walking very slowly with your breath and your hands at your heart.
One of things I was finding it difficult to acclimatise to was silent meals. And the first one was strange. I noticed every little sound, the cutlery on the plates, my chewing, the shuffling of chairs. But I also noticed how good the food tasted and how appreciative I felt to be sharing such beautiful food. Without the need to engage in conversation my other senses were firing.