A Lesson In Mindfulness

There’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to open your mind to alternative therapies. When we were given a voucher for a weekend meditation retreat we didn’t know what to expect. We had practiced meditation sporadically since my diagnosis, but had not taken it too seriously. However, there was a deep down desire to learn how to do it properly.

Friday afternoon we arrived at the Gawler Foundation in Yarra Junction, Victoria. The location was just what you would image for a meditation retreat. The surrounding forests provided a calming and tranquil atmosphere. The retreat not only accommodated for the practice of meditation, it also included teachings which provided for a deeper understanding of meditation and mindfulness.

If you haven’t done so already, I would highly recommend watching the documentary “The Connection”. I had been told of it in the past, but had not had the opportunity to watch it. Thankfully, this was played at the retreat. The film discusses the role of mind body medicine and how it effects human health. It’s a real eye opener.

The meditation sessions during the retreat were fantastic. The sessions were conducted within a meditation sanctuary which was a octagon shaped building with windows looking out over the forrest. The room was furnished with comfy bench seating around the walls and meditation stools and cushions scattered on the floor around a central candle. There was to be no talking within this space. I felt a sense of calm as soon as I entered the room. In total we completed seven meditation session and each time I felt my technique improving. For those that are new to the concept of meditation it’s the practice of training the brain to be in the present rather than the past or the future. It’s about sitting silently for a period of time and being aware of that moment in time. This is a very simplistic and possible incorrect description, Paul Bedson from the Gawler Foundation provides a better description here. Being able to sit silently, purely focused on my bodies energy without a thought entering my head was refreshing. I have never been a spiritual or religious person, but I feel regular meditation will allow me to confront lives challenges with a new and less stressed approach.

There were practices within the retreat which we had never encountered before. Firstly, all the food served was vegan and plant based. On hearing this I didn’t know how I would go without chicken, fish, milk or eggs. But, to my surprise the food was better than I thought it would be. Every single meal was completed with an empty plate. But again if I am to be completely honest I did eat a cheeky chicken strip when I went to the shops on the Saturday. Then there was the Noble Silence. Every morning from when you wake up until 9:15am you were to remain silent. This was hard and if I am to be completely honest, we did sneak off into the forest to have a chat. Finally, the retreat did not allow coffee, alcohol, mobile phones, tvs and newspapers. This provided some challenges, but we got through it.

In all, this was a fantastic experience and we will be making a return trip there one day. We really noticed the difference when we re-entered the real world. We actual felt a little sad to be leaving. For anyone wanting to learn or expand on their meditation, I highly recommend the Gawler Foundation.

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