5 Nov Give yourself the silent treatment.

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I’ve just returned from a 10 day Vipassana retreat – no talking, no eye contact, no gesturing or sign language, no intoxicants, no sexual misconduct, no devices, and no killing. Where’s the fun in that?

To be clear “no killing” means treading lightly, avoiding insects and eating an all vegetarian diet, rather than refraining from murdering other students, tempting though it may be. You can’t even flick them the finger if they take the last ladle of lentils or pinch your favourite pillow in the meditation hall.
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Ten days without talking is quite a stretch and the relative quiet only makes you realise just how much chatter is in your head before you even open your mouth. The “monkey mind” they call it. If my experience is anything to go by then taming your monkey mind is harder than bringing down Godzilla. For eleven hours each day we would wrestle our attention away from our imagination, anxieties, foibles and fears and the aches and pains that come from sitting like a porcelain cat. Breathe. Observe. Observe. Breathe. And start again.

It was the most infuriating, confronting, joyful, clarifying, difficult, life affirming, numbing and sensational 10 days of my life.

I’m recalibrated, at least for now. Tuned in to the present more often than before, a little more awake and appreciative and mindful of that great line from Jon Kabat-Zinn, “You only have moments to live.”

Was it another kind of mid-life crisis? No, I’ve had too many of those to know the difference. This was pure exploration. Who knew where it would lead or what may follow? Certainly not me. And that, for a control freak, is challenging stuff. Which was the point entirely.

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