Don’t say a word and control your thoughts. Ready? Go.
When I was in Northern Thailand, the opportunity to go on a silent meditation retreat pretty much fell on my lap. I had wanted to go on one for so long so I jumped on it! Together, a group of around 12 of us from around the world spent almost 2 weeks at an International Meditation Center up in the mountains of Chiang Mai (Thailand).
Like the majority of us, my mind is constantly on over drive and I’m also quite a social butterfly so the whole idea of not being able to talk AND having to control my thoughts (at the same time!) was going to be a huge challenge…my first thought: lets.do.this!
During those few days, we lived like the monks do. We went on alsmrounds to collect the food we were going to eat that day. We only ate what was given to us and we only ate twice a day (morning and lunch). We were woken up each morning at 5am by the sound of a gong and then made our way to the temple to start our meditation while the sun rose. Very surreal experience.
They taught us several different meditation techniques (breathing, walking, laying down, counting and sound) which I was so grateful for because my chronically tight hip flexor’s were NOT loving sitting for more than 20mins.
We did have one hour each day in the afternoon where we were able to talk about our experience and ask questions about Buddhism and the life of a monk. It was during these chats that our monk master shared 6 powerful lessons that I’ll never forget:
1. Forgive everyone. Especially forgive yourself and your enemies.
2. Learn to control your ‘monkey mind’ through both silencing it and letting go of negative thoughts. It’s one of the most challenging things to do. Practice. Practice. Practice. Everyday, even if it’s just 5mins day. It will come.
3. Give without expectation of getting anything in return. This is the ultimate.
4. Wish happiness for all. Don’t forget to wish it for yourself also. You deserve it just as much as anyone else does.
5. Think pure thoughts. Your greatest enemy and most powerful tool is your mind. He followed this comment with a story: One morning he left his new shoes outside his temple and that night when he went to get them they were gone. At that moment he had a choice, to be angry or to wish happiness to the person who stole them. His shoes weren’t coming back so being angry and frustrated was a waste of energy. He couldn’t change the fact that they were gone so he let it go and just hoped that the person who had stolen them appreciated them.
6. Live in the present moment. Why worry about events in the past? You can’t change them. Why worry about events that ‘might’ happen in the future? This will drain you.
Being alone and present with your thoughts can be overwhelming; things might come up that you never even knew were in there; they sure did for me. It is estimated that we have around 70,000 thoughts on average per day so trying to control even half of them is no easy task; especially when you are told to not think about anything – the thoughts flood in ten fold at that point…initially any way.
I failed miserably at mastering control over my ‘monkey mind’ in those few days, but that wasn’t exactly the point; it wasn’t about the outcome but more the process. The goal was to make some progress and more importantly to became more aware of the sheer volume of thoughts I have everyday and also the quality of them – which ones are serving me and which ones are holding me back. This I succeeded at.
When it comes down to it, we see the world through the lens of our past experiences, our judgments, and our expectations; it is only our thoughts that keep these things alive and in the present (especially the negative ones). Your thoughts either move you forward in a big way or hold you back in an even bigger way, but it’s always your choice which ones you choose to listen to and act on and which ones you chose to acknowledge and let go because they drag you down. There’s no better time than the present to drop the self-limiting thoughts that are holding you back, to replace “I can’t” with “I must” and to get the out of your own way.
“In the end what matters most is
How well did you live
How well did you love
How well did you learn… to let go.” – Unknown
Till next time..