02.03.20

OUR MEDITATION RETREAT

last december, justin and I were watching “walk with me” about the zen master thich nhat hanh. we spontaneously decided to book a trip to plum village, a monestary in france for a week long meditation retreat. this would be our christmas gift to each other. let me tell you, it was a rollercoaster…we learned a lot, but it wasn’t easy…

i’ll start with a little back story. I’ve been getting curious about buddhism for about a year now…getting slowly into it. I can admit that I have hesitations around religion in general, although I do see buddhism as more of a way of life rather than a strict religion. As a kid I was raised super christian. I even went to those church camps a few times where sometimes they spoke in tongues during service, which honestly scared me and made me feel weird/bad that it wasn’t happening to me. I remember one time there, i was probably 11 or 12 years old, i was trying to follow along and i ended up fake speaking in tongues quietly in my seat and then just laughing to myself about how silly I felt. but also thinking I was probably going to go to hell because I couldn’t feel what other people were feeling. my whole family was very into christianity. for me, I could see that there were lessons and morals that I could stand behind. I could see that there were some kind people with good hearts and I understood certain aspects, but I was also riddled with fear of hell if I did anything wrong, and a lot of guilt and shame if I wasn’t actually sorry for what I did “wrong.” not to mention tons of confusion with no real answers, like “what about my friends that had a different religion or my uncle who was gay? they can’t be going to hell, that’s not fair” I thought to myself. but i think the biggest bummer was that I lacked the true connection to any of it in my heart. (I have thought about deleting this paragraph already a few times because I know this deeply saddens certain family members who just want what’s best for me. but my hope would be that they would ultimately want me to be happy, and I think I’m finding that.)

when I went away to college, I just shut it all out. I didn’t go to church, I tried my hardest not to think about it, and I know that my body was still holding that fear of hell/doom/sin/rapture, and probably escalating it since I wasn’t addressing it. while turning away from that, I also shut out anything “spiritual” as well, because that also made me feel like I was sinning. I could hear my families’ opinions in my head. I was pretty tired of feeling guilty when I knew in my heart I was a good person. I would say I lived through my 20’s completely avoiding it all, until there were more and more signs pointing me in the right direction (for me) that I couldn’t avoid. when you feel something resonate in your SOUL, you can’t really ignore that feeling. but it has to be on your timing and when you are ready, I get that now.

over the past 6 months or so I’ve started really diving in to the mind/body connection (i’m sure stemming from my EMDR therapy), spirituality, the healing that comes from the present moment, meditation, mindfulness, generational trauma, the power of our thoughts/beliefs and how they affect our actions and life and health, how psychedelics can help you see past your ego and release symptoms of PTSD, nutrition and movement…the whole thing. it’s like I was just completely THROWN into this whole new world, but everything made so much sense to me, every step of the way! it was exciting! my intuition just kept saying YES. and the more I said yes to it, the less guilt I felt. I started to see all of these unconscious behaviors I had, my family had, my relationships had. I could see my ego more clearly (thank you eckhart tolle), and it was embarrassing but also fascinating. i could see all the defenses and walls i had built to protect myself from experiencing the pain of my childhood, but they were actually blocking joy and love too. after reading tons of books, watching documentaries, spending hours talking to friends who are also into this…it all really comes down to the present moment. feeling the present moment, exactly as it is and accepting it, even if it’s difficult. not pushing it away, just accepting it and giving yourself love when it’s hard. I often am driving or just sitting alone and say “I feel so so sad. I know it’s just a phase but it hurts in my heart.” honestly it made me kinda of mad when I figured out the simplicity of it. you’re telling me that all of this suffering, anxiety, depression, dread, sorrow from the past, fear of the future, on and on and on…and it’s this simple to feel happy?! and this was here, inside of me, the whole time?!! i’m happy I figured it out now, but damn, that would have been helpful.

SO, fast forward, we go on this retreat…justin doesn’t meditate, he’s sweet and open minded but also skeptic. I was worried he might hate it. I didn’t know how I would do. the first night we get there after a long day of travel. there is very little information given, everything is sort of slow and quiet and you kind of feel like even your own thoughts are too loud. immediately i’m thinking…”ummm what have we signed up for?” we spent our days waking up at 5am, meditating with the group for an hour, some were guided and some were just silent. my legs would get super uncomfortable and moving around seemed distracting so I would get frustrated inside. my mind would wander in a million directions but I kept trying to gently bring it back (they say to picture your thoughts as clouds slowly drifting by, and to just keep bringing your attention back to the blue sky) I would have intense moments of rage/emotion and then swing into total calm/peace. so I knew there was something there. I have been meditating since august and I try to do 10 mins a day, I probably succeed 3-4 days a week. but even with that small amount I saw my emotional regulation improve, my reactions turned more into thought out responses (obviously I still slip up all the time) but I could genuinely see a difference in how I saw myself and others. they say we are walking around with about 95% unconcious behaviors and thoughts, so I find it to be a huge win if I can catch myself doing something I would like to improve. I feel like I am in that 5% and it feels cool! my goal is to expand my awareness.

after the group meditation, we would all gather to eat from the sound of the larger bell. there was a softer bell that rang every 15 minutes and you had to stop what you are doing, take a deep breath, and try to bring your awareness back to the present moment – I put the plum village app on my phone when i got home and it has a bell you can enable. I do find that the more we can remind ourselves to be present the happier we can be, so I’m taking that one seriously. we would line up silently and serve ourselves buffet style (which is always trouble for me because I tend to eat my emotions and with my eyes and so I take more than I need) then we would wait for everyone to sit down (again, triggering, I just want to EAT MY FOOD QUICKLY!) and then bow to our food and to each other. this process would take a while, and honestly I am thankful for how annoyed it made me. it really showed me my attachment to food, how I use food to soothe rather than to nourish. it showed me how fast I am eating and how uncomfortable I am just sitting and enjoying a meal in silence at a slower pace (which is only 20 mins but seems like forever when it’s all you are focused on). each day, my portions got smaller. I tried to remind myself, you can always get more if you’re still hungry, and very rarely if ever did I actually need to. I also started noticing how food tastes a lot more. I was thinking, “wait, is this the best freaking orange there ever was?!” I guess I was really rushing the process before. i’m seeing that my mindset was either: “eating is a burden, I am going to do it quickly while multi-tasking.” and then swinging into “eating is amazing, it makes me feel so comforted, connected, distracted from my emotions, and therefore happy.” wait an hour or so for the shame to set in about how full I am, and the food choices I made. and that’s a cycle OVER AND OVER. then there would be times of restriction, other times full of indulgence. very rarely a period of time where I just nourished my body, enjoyed my meals mindfully and felt great in my body.

the meals were all vietnamese/vegan and justin and I were both saying we felt basically high the whole time because of the effects of meditation + healthier eating habits. I didn’t judge my body one time on that trip, and I am a major judger. and by the way, the meals were vegan but they were also SO GOOD. veggie rice bowls with so much flavor, delicious udon mushroom soup that were so delicious, congee with lemongrass, potato curry, bright colorful bowls of food that were fun to eat…honestly. it opened my eyes a TON. by the end of the week, I wasn’t rushing to the dining hall, I wasn’t overeating, I was happy to sit in silence and just enjoy. I know we don’t all live in the middle of france at a monastery, we have busy schedules…but I do know that eating more mindfully is possible for all of us. even if it’s one more meal a day. not sitting on the couch and watching tv during your meal. or rushing through lunch while answering emails. set aside a little time for yourself to take this process a little slower. hopefully it shows you a thing or two as well! I am doing it right along with you. I really don’t want to make this about weight because I think for the first time I am not focused on my weight, I am focused on feeling good and having a better lifestyle/habits. but it is also encouraging to be eating things I like, feeling happier, and losing inches in the process. MINDSET is powerful, I promise.

tips:

• i’m currently reading thich nhat hanh’s book called savor and it goes into this a lot more.

• the bell helps me a lot, you can get the plum village app and in the bottom right corner you can enable the bell on your phone (I do every 30 mins) and it reminds me to breathe and be present. it’s helpful for retraining your brain!

• I find that when I am set up for healthy success in my house, the process of eating better is a lot easier. I love the farm box we get delivered every week (we use this one because it’s affordable and helps with food waste!)

• starting my day with a delicious and healthy smoothie helps keep me on track for the rest of the day. I used to skip breakfast and then just mess up my whole schedule when I got hangry. here’s a video to show you how I make my smoothies!

insight timer and headspace are a great place to start your 10 mins a day meditating. I know that it’s really difficult to calm your mind, but trust me, you will see it improve your life in so many ways after a few weeks of practice!

• remember, just start SMALL. don’t try to do too much at once. these little changes seriously add up and start to snowball. but you can easily get overwhelmed and want to give up if you try to change too much at once. start with one single habit you would like to focus on. or just meditating 5 mins here and there. or starting a book. you will get there. be nice to yourself in the process, I am rooting for you!!

xx bri

8 COMMENTS

Add your own

    Macie Menard says:

    Bri,
    Thank you so much for this post.
    Thank you for your vulnerability.
    I related so hard to this post. You had me crying at work. I could have wrote this in 5 years, that’s how much I related. (Still have a lot of healing to go.)
    Thank you for your honesty.
    Thank you for not deleted paragraphs.
    Thank you for sharing your journey.

    Anonymous says:

    I could relate to a lot of this – bringing brought up Christian, being able to appreciate some of the teaching tools but finding my soul leading me elsewhere (definitely still on that journey!). Your descriptions around food were also incredibly spot on for myself as well. Last year, I had set up a routine of having lunch outside and under a tree but I let that practise slip in the last few months. I justified it by saying I’m “time poor” (whatever that means) and felt like I had to be multi-tasking to “stay-up” with everything. My lunch routine was not pretty; scoffing food down whilst emailing to fulfil this notion of catching up. Today, I’m going to sit back under that tree. Thank-you for sharing your journey and inspiring me to create a better one for myself.

    Sarah says:

    Thanks for this post, I really enjoyed your description of your experience. The thought of a silent meditation retreat AND not having control over my menu are both really intimidating to me. Something to mill over for me! I don’t know if you already do something like this but one thing I have embraced over the past several years is I stopped weighing or measuring myself. I even sometimes refuse to let my doctor weigh me or I tell them not to tell me my weight. I can honestly say my weight has fluctuated during this time based on my lifestyle and habits but it hasn’t gone much in either direction. Mostly I just feel freed from the value judgement I had put on the number on the scale or the tape measure. ♥️♥️

    Shelley says:

    Bravo!!! I questioned religion from and early age, and at 60 do not and will not be apart of organized religion. I feel it is more destructive than helpful. I too have been super curious about buddhism. Not sure I will ever be all in, but for me creating the “religion ” that works for me is celebrating the earth and goodness in the world. Yoga, vegan and joy are what drives me. Being gentle to the world and beings is what I’m trying to achieve. If I go to “hell” so be it, I’m not afraid because I know I am living my life well. That’s all we can do during our time here. Peace and prosperity to you! 💕

    Lynn says:

    Love this. Thanks for sharing your experience. These are some great things to consider – i too struggle with food. I overeat, I eat without thinking. I always feel starved when I sit down to eat and feel so impatient. I literally get hangry when I am waiting for others’ food to arrive at a table and all I can think about is I WANT TO EAT. I feel like all I do is think about my next meal and weekend meals. Food seems to rule my life. You are not aloe! I am definitely going to look into the book you mentioned and see how I can slowly introduce some better habits.

    delete apps says:

    It sounds amazing! Thank you for the sharing the experience. I learned a lot from reading the post.

    Caroline Le Moign says:

    Thank you bri!
    I would love to have more feedback about plum village. I am a French reader and I enjoy your recent pathway, I feel happy for you. However, for those kind of retreat, there are no real info on the internet and it can be hard to know where to go… Did you enjoy plum village itself, the experience, how the day are organized, etc?
    Would love to hear from you!

    Blythe says:

    Thank you so much for sharing Bri. Like you I was also raised christian but never really felt like it was for me. As a teen I had too many questions and was regularly shamed for my developing body. It took me a long time to understand that spirituality and religion are two totally different things. Telling my parents my truth was incredibly freeing. I was given the chance to explain what god and spirit is to me. I would highly recommend if you ever get the chance to share with those particular family members. I began therapy for my eating disorder around the time you started doing light therapy. It’s been lovely to expand and grow with you – via instagram. Know that your vulnerability and willingness to share your journey are helping people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

||||||||||||||
SIGN UP HERE!
SIGN UP HERE!
OUR FOOD COLUMN!
FOLLOW ON INSTAGRAM!
OUR WEDDING VIDEO
JOB BOARD
FREE TECH DOWNLOADS