What Happens To An Irritable Person On A Meditation Retreat?
Until this year, the words “meditation” and “retreat” did not go together in my world, in any capacity. Truthfully, the word “retreat” never entered my vocabulary much at all, unless it somehow involved a spa treatment. But suddenly, in 2012, it seemed as if people were retreating. People were becoming retreat-ers. It was time for me to join the fray.
Especially because the retreat I’d decided to sign up for was being led by Thom Knoles, the man who’d taught me meditation nearly a decade ago. The form of meditation he teaches, Vedic meditation, is a derivative of the Transcendental Meditation technique taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and I’ve been practicing it for roughly 20 minutes every morning and 20 minutes every afternoon most days since I learned.
Still, meditation, for me, has always been a solitary act: Something I do, in a cool, quiet room–preferably my bedroom–with the windows closed. During Thom’s visits to Los Angeles over the years, I’ve occasionally joined in the group meditations he’s led, where I’ve encountered hordes of people who have told me how much they love meditating in a group setting. I’ve nodded and then contemplated murder as I tried meditating next to them but found myself horribly distracted by their coughing or rustling around or loud breathing.
There were benefits of meditation that these coughers and breathers spoke of that I felt I wasn’t necessarily getting. They talked about things like “feeling at one with the world” and “entering new states of consciousness” and “developing a magnanimous feeling” toward their fellow man. I got the feeling that if I breathed too heavily next to them while meditating–and for all I knew, I did–they found it not irritating but actually somehow beautiful.
It was time to take my practice deeper. It was time to acknowledge, first, that what I had was a practice. I realized that the role I’d given meditation in my life was that of “efficiency generator”: I always felt energized after one of my 20-minute sessions, especially after the afternoon one, because it usually provided me with enough energy to write for another few hours. But I wanted more.