I decided to do a 3-day Mindfulness Retreat because so often I felt judgmental and negative. Numerous times a day I'd say, “That’s annoying,” to myself or others. The annoyance was often my dog’s behavior or being put on hold while waiting for customer service. Lots of things annoyed me, and I grew tired of reacting. Instead, I wanted to choose my response.
During my retreat, I would eliminate news, TV, social media, emails, and texts. Instead, I would spend my days running on the beach, walking my dog, reading, writing, playing the piano, and eating good food. I also planned on sitting quietly for five minutes every hour from morning till night. My outcome for the retreat was to be more present, hopefully, to bring more awareness. I went into the experiment without any expectations because expectations can cause annoyance.
Quiet day-time Quiet night-time Piano time
Here’s what I discovered. First, I learned the things I was annoyed about had to do with how I wanted things to be. That is pretty self-absorbed. Anytime I felt annoyed, my world had gotten tiny. If people annoy me, I’m negatively judging them. I don’t want to live in a small, negative, judgmental world. Second, I learned that most annoyances have a lesson. If my dog annoys me, it’s most likely because I didn’t train him to do what I want. If I’m annoyed about being put on hold, it’s a time I can learn to breathe and be patient. I want to be more patient, so it’s a perfect time to practice. If people annoy me, I can be patient with them, too; everyone has their own issues and problems. It's not somebody else's fault I feel the way I do. All of this means taking responsibility for my mood. Third, if I exchange the word annoyed with disappointed, it feels different.
Quiet backyard time Bird watching time Quiet backyard night time
In my book The Fork Trail Guide there are three questions to ask if we want to create change: Is it true? What else is true? What's truly important? There are two bonus questions: How important it is? How long will it last? During my 3 day Mindfulness Retreat, I discovered on a scale from 1-10, most things that annoyed me weren’t even a 1 which means they weren't important. I was letting small annoyances ruin my mood – every day – all day! If something is actually important, I know I can take action to change it if it's something I can control. If it's not, I know I can let it go by shifting what I'm focusing on. I write about this in my book The Fork in the Path.
In my gratitude journal, I wrote something I was grateful for using the entire alphabet - that was a fun exercise!
In Henry Yampolsky's book Dis-Solving Conflict from Within, Henry wrote, "Our ability to respond, or response-ability, means that in any situation we can choose how to be; that regardless of what is happening for us, we can choose our inner experience."
Reading books I wrote Gratitude Observation Journal Henry Yampolsky's book
An important thing I learned, by sitting quietly, was that I want to be a more enlightened person. Enlightenment for me is about becoming aware of what’s true.
Over the three days, I did become more aware. I noticed when I'd start to get annoyed, and I'd stop myself by shifting what I was focusing on, my perspective changed and so did my mood.
I am feeling calm, relaxed, and peaceful. I feel free – free from the constant chatter about what I don’t like. I feel grateful. I notice good things everywhere. I hear birds singing, frogs croaking, and children laughing in the park. I see clouds shifting, and leaves turning colors; even food tastes better because I am present while eating it.
Even frogs like to read Clouds change all the time Thai food
I have a choice to respond to things by connecting with positive energy or negative energy. I feel joy with my new awareness. Pema Chodron wrote, “Joy has to do with seeing how big, how completely unobstructed and precious things are . . . We can use our lives to wake up to the fact that we are not separate; the energy that causes us to live is the energy that creates everything, and we’re part of that.”
Connecting to all the positive things in life has allowed me to like myself more, to like others more, and to like life more.
Running on the beach The sunrise My favorite Fisherman
I know I need to consistently practice what I write about which is being quiet so I can gain awareness. That’s when I experience connection, freedom, and peace. And when I do that then I’m able to give the world what I have to give.
Everything is made up of energy, and we are all connected. I want to stay connected to the positive energy of the force of life. As planet Earth spins through the universe, I want to stay grounded in these truths.