3 Things I Learnt On A Mindfulness Retreat
The other day a friend said, “You look really well. You look super present”. This was 3 days after my husband asked me “you seem to be less stressed lately, why is that?” Compliments on my hair or my outfit are NOTHING compared to the pride I felt in those moments. These were compliments of my existence, not merely my appearance: the ultimate compliment in my opinion! So, what’s my secret?
For the past year I’ve been investigating the concept of mindfulness, and about a month ago, I attended a Mindfulness Retreat run by For You Workshops. For You Workshops are a young enterprise with a mission to give-back to communities and the environment by empowering change. They were the perfect hosts, and it was the perfect weekend.
Around 18 of us retreated for 2 days in the most gorgeous location: you can read all about it here.
My less stressful and more ‘present’ lifestyle did not come about over night, or even simply from the retreat. The retreat was just a big part of it. It was the tipping point for me; the moment I realised a few things that I had been struggling to tangibly pinpoint or activate.
In the spirit of learning and hoping you’re on a mindfulness journey that will benefit from my learnings too, here are three things I learnt while on the For You Mindfulness Retreat.
I enjoy my own company
I’m a raging extravert. I go a bit crazy in the head if I haven’t conversed with others for longer than 12 hours, and you’ll find me in the middle of all parties, talking to everyone in the room (even if I’m just there as a plus one). I adore communicating and connecting, but sometimes it’s too much. I’m prone to burn my candle at both ends, and say YES to social activities and events with out thought of rest time. There’s rarely a time I sit down with my own presence instead of someone else’s.
The For You Mindfulness Retreat allowed that. We had free time for a few hours on the first afternoon, and noble silence (where you don’t talk or look anyone in the eye) for half of the last day. Being a technology free weekend too, I had never experienced such serenity and deep alone time. Not only was I alone literally, but I was alone without a phone buzzing or anyone wanting anything of me. It may sound like a silly thing to say, but I really enjoyed my own company.
I liked the new thought processes that went on in my head simply because I had space to converse with myself and properly think. I laughed at my internal dialogue, and I was patient with myself.
Turns out, I’m an okay person to hang out with.
The world will not end if I am uncontactable for 48 hours
I own an in-home childcare company with 18 employees, and 200+ clients, plus I’m 24/7 on call for allocating babysitters. I’m an 'Instagram influencer’, blogger, writer, social media manager, journalist, consultant, wife, and owner of 2 birds and a very needy puppy. I have a lot of responsibility. Going into a social media free retreat made me slightly anxious.
Thinking back, I cannot remember a time I’ve been uncontactable for that long. But it was only 48 hours! How stupid is that? The retreat made me realise how much more time I could spend off my phone without things falling down around me. The world was (relatively) fine when I returned! I’m going to try this more often.
Mindfulness is not a practice, it’s a lifestyle
I thought practising yoga and sitting on a meditation cushion for an hour a day was the ultimate mindfulness; it’s not. I do believe yoga and mediation are great for the mind and body, but I now know mindfulness is not just about that.
Mindfulness is taking conscious breaths, monitoring your self-talk, reflecting on what is in the present, observing sensations in your body, understanding what you are consuming in all senses of the word (food, words, images), and ultimately stopping in the present. Stopping doesn’t even have to mean physically stopping. The other day I was in the middle of a presentation to a room full of people, and my mind stopped to obverse my surroundings and take a second to be mindful. This was while I was presenting, in a heightened pressure/stress state. See? It’s possible- and it actually benefitted my presentation.
Mindfulness is a lifestyle, it’s for everyone, and it changes your life for the better.
If you ever get a chance to attend a mindfulness retreat, please do. Don’t hold all your hopes on one single weekend, but take the opportunity to invest in yourself, which ultimately flows into your career, study, home life, and relationships.