While I was in Sri Lanka, I headed off to a Ayurvedic Retreat, Plantation Villa, to do some much needed detoxing and reflection of where I was heading…..ie Mid life crisis kinda reflecting
Plantation Villa Ayurvedic Retreat
My days at Plantation Villa, were very simple. A 6.30am morning yoga class, breakfast that was an array of specific Ayurvedic dishes, a morning meditation, treatments, an evening yoga class and the day would conclude at around 8.30pm. During my time there, the WiFi would often drop out, and even if it was working, I didn’t have access to it in my room. The scrolling stopped, and I was left with a lot of space that felt REALLY uncomfortable.
It is amazing to discover how time is spent when those things we reach for to entertain us are no longer there, and we drop into a place where there is nothing that needs to be done. Our busyness can seem harmless, a full morning, 20mins with nothing to do, a scroll here, a scroll there, and I’m not just talking about social media. But this constant need to fill in time becomes addictive. The challenge of just kind of sitting around, is seen as a waste of time in our multi tasking, over achieving, society. Being productive gives us that generous dopamine hit that we love, feeling just like any other addiction, a stimulation to the nervous system, and a rush of feel good endorphins as we feel the sense of accomplishment unfurl before us.
My time at the retreat challenged me into a situation where there was nothing to do, and the only thing to master was the art of Doing Nothing! What I noticed was how active my mind became within that nothingness, and that I was literally filing in the gaps of stillness with thoughts. Thoughts worrying about heading home, judging events unfolding around me, analysing why myself or someone else do what they do. It was endless. My awareness zipped from one thing to the other, without pausing to take in the gap that was being offered. The space between everything that I do, and don’t do, and how it seemed that all that space was always filled up.
Minding the gap can either be a waste of time or an art form. When we first attempt to do nothing, we will probably find our mind darting around, thinking of all the things we could do, similar to what I described above. This thinking can also be flavoured with a good dose of guilt. Guilt that we are not doing enough, being enough, making use of our free time. The nervous system is literally wired to be in constant activity, and when we have some space between the activity, we may find that it is challenging to settle into the gaps, rather than filling them.
Some steps that might be helpful if you are interested in soaking up the gaps are:
- Set aside a time during the day for this practice. If you know that you don’t get time to yourself until it is bedtime, then head to bed 10mins early, and practice there
- Allow your body to settle. Close your eyes, and gently relax any tension that might be around your shoulders, or maybe an expression on your face. Maybe your breath is being held quite high in the chest, feel if you can move it’s awareness down into the belly
- Start to focus on the gap between the in breath and the out breath. Just take a breath in, and observe the moment, just before you start to exhale
- Start to notice the gaps between your thoughts. Very similar to the gaps between your breaths, just let your thinking mind do what it is doing, now and then just gently say to yourself “thinking” and then, notice the gap that is there, just before the next thought arises
- This practice can also be done anywhere, it is the simple act of watching the spaces between your thoughts, rather than participating in the ongoing dialogue. Without closing your eyes, you can soften tension from your body more as you drive, you can even observe the commentary you have of other drivers, and then observe the space between the commentary. Maybe as you queue for your morning coffee, you could observe your mind, rather than mindlessly scrolling. Observing the thoughts as they float through, and again, noticing when the gap between the thoughts arrives
Free Meditation – Counting with Breath