Tag Archives: New Year

Seeking Silence

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Starting the New Year with a mindfulness escape right here in Vancouver.

 

By Shannon Pidlubny

 

When most people think of a mid-winter break, they think of sunny beaches, margaritas or vacationing in an exotic location with palm trees and warm ocean breezes. They think of a place they can escape to—somewhere a passport and a plane ticket is required.

 

My bag is packed, but I am leaving my money and passport at home.

 

Where I am going I don’t need a visa or much cash on hand. I am taking off to enjoy the rest and relaxation that a silent meditation can bring, only a few hours away.

 

Every year, when it gets damp and dark, and my brain is a buzz from the holidays and mid-terms, I spend a few days in silence at a retreat centre on Bowen Island, called Rivendell. This large, lodge-like retreat centre sits on top of Cates Hill, on the picturesque Bowen Island, that is accessible by a 20 minute ferry from Horseshoe Bay.

 

Those on retreat, can come with friends, partners, or on their own for respite, relaxation, and silence. The rooms are basic, with everything you need contained within a small room, and there is a small kitchen to make simple meals. But the magic of the place is that it is a place to retreat, to reconnect with nature, ourselves or deepen our relationship with God/Buddha/Spirit/Divinity.

 

The retreat centre is run by Christian volunteers but is open to people of all faiths, agnostics and atheists alike. The centre is made available for those on limited budgets. They gratefully accepts donations, or pay-what-you-can for your stay.

 

I first visited Rivendell in October, for a 4-day silent group retreat led by Kathi Bentall and Joyce Braun from the Listening Post in Vancouver. The idea behind the 4-day silent retreat is simple—take time out for yourself, in silence, away from the daily distractions that ordinarily dominate our lives.
 
When I first arrived at the silent retreat I was nervous. I wanted a break from the fast-paced race of my life, wanted to be away from my computer and work to contemplate and reflect on who I am and what I want. But I am a social person who loves talking to others. How the heck was I supposed to not talk to people for four days? How was I supposed to fill up my time? On the first night, all 30 of us gathered in the large room, and the facilitators encouraged us to open up to ourselves, to spend the next four days listening to ourselves. Silence is not about avoiding others and technology, instead it is a deep listening to ourselves, and to the environment around us, in silence.

 

Kathi Bental, the group facilitator said that “typically, we are so busy in our lives that we do not have a chance to consider what our problems are.” She compared this busyness or distracted way of living to: “walking through a muddy river and always stepping on a jagged rock on the river”. In contrast, “sitting in silence, is like standing still in that muddy river, until the mud settles, one can see where that rock is, and remove it, so that we no longer stumble on it.”

 

The first night was a bit jittery for me, pacing up and down the stairs looking for a comfortable place to settle, to be alone with my thoughts. The second day was easier, as  I settled into a slower pace. I walked outside, surrounded by cedar trees, with the leaves crunching under foot. I meditated, I read, I drank tea, I listened to soothing music. And most importantly—when a concern or problem came to mind, I sat with it. I got curious about my thoughts and problems. I spent hours thinking about them, free from any distractions or obligations. Over time, new ways of looking at the problem came to mind and I had found new creative solutions.

 

The time went faster than I expected. Sitting with yourself in silence, is like spending time with your oldest friend and getting to know them better—what excites them, what makes them sad, what issues they have been avoiding, and how to approach old problems in new ways to live more fully. I emerged from the 4-day silent retreat recharged, with a better knowledge of who I am and how to solve my challenges.

 

The practice of groups sitting in silence is becoming more popular in Vancouver as well.

 

Many centers offer group meditation and workshops on mindfulness and meditation, usually for free or by donation. Mindfulness is very similar to what I experienced at the silent group retreat—being aware of our thoughts and sensation and sitting with them. It is through this awareness where we can understand where the rocks are in our life that we keep stumbling over, and remove them to live more fully, more mindfully.

 


 

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Finding Mindfulness

 

Rivendell Retreat Centre
 
This volunteer run centre on Bowen Island accommodated family, couples and individual retreats at any time. To book a personal retreat call: 604-947-0077 or email booking@rivendellretreat.org
 
Silent Group Retreats
 
4 day and 10 day silent retreats are offered at Rivendell Retreat Centre on Bowen Island four times a year. The retreat provides meals, accommodation and spiritual facilitators to guide the group. For information or to register contact Kathi Bentall in Vancouver at 604-255-1295 or email kathibentall@yahoo.ca.
 
Shambhala Meditation Centre of Vancouver
 
This meditation centre offers silent meditation three times a week, and hosts an Introduction to Meditation on Wednesday evenings at 7pm. The center is open to all faiths, and for those interested in using mindful meditation practise for varying reasons. They are located at 3275 Heather Street. For more information go to www.vancouver.shambhala.org
 
The Listening Post
 
The Mindfulness Practice Community of Vancouver Meditation group meets every Monday evening at 6:30 p.m. at the Listening Post, located at 382 Main Street. This group meditates and studies the teaching of Zen Monk Thich Nyhat Hahn.

 

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Cheers to a Kinder 2015

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I’m not one for resolutions, but in a world plagued with digital fatigue, we should all make human connection a priority.
 
By Abeer Yusuf
 
Nowadays it almost seems as if making New Years’ resolutions should be called a resolution in itself. Everyone energetically expresses things they wish to start doing or improve upon, then do it for all of January with much gusto, forgetting about bygone promises mid-year. When December comes along, hurried scrambles ensue to join that gym membership or finish reading the promised 52 books in a year.
 
That’s why I decided a long time ago that New Years’ resolutions were not for me. If I’m not going to stick to one thing, why make some airy clandestine pact with myself and feel horrible every time I’m reminded I’m not doing it?
 
But don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean I think I’m perfect. Far from it, in fact. I believe in taking on resolutions as and when I start realising that an attitude of mine needs re-checking, or that certain habits are making me more lazy than usual. I guess in a way that applies to all of us.
 
As a city we need to be better at being good people I think. For example, sometimes I walk past elderly people and instantly forget that I could have spent an extra minute or two helping them get their groceries across the road, or that I could have given up my seat on the bus to someone who needed it more but was reluctant to because I was tired. I feel terribly guilty moments after such non-interactions, and of course, when I’m on the other side, juggling bags of groceries on the bus, I wish people would care enough to give up their seat to me.
 
So as a city in the new year, what can we and should we be doing more of, or be better at?
 
I think it’s about being more kind in public, put simply.
 
We’re all wrapped up in our small little bubbles, unaware of struggles that others may have encountered just because we don’t know them. One of the more powerful quotes I’ve read in my life states, “be kind—for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
 
While I’m no Gandhi myself, often times I sit on buses (where my mind is idle most of the time and I ruminate a LOT) and wonder what the story of the person next to me is. Did they have a good day today, or are they really upset at their boss? Did they have a shitty day which is about to get better with a surprise visit from someone they love, or are they thinking about the student loans they’re struggling to pay?
 
Sometimes these people fill in those blanks and let you glimpse into their lives when they’re on the phone. You hear of some hilarious struggles that you downplay because they sound menial and silly, yet other times you hear some truly startling stories and wonder what that feeling of being dumped must be like. It’s funny, we talk on the phone loud enough so that the person next to us has no issue hearing us, but we don’t think it’s okay to strike up a conversation with that same person and ask them about their day and just get a load off our chests.
 
Of course, I’m not saying we ought to talk to people all the time; many people here don’t enjoy small talk on buses—neither do people think you’re just being friendly. You come off as nosy or just pesky, and let’s face it, sometimes you just don’t know who’s a creep and who’s just genuinely being nice.
 
But in not communicating with others around us, near us, we’re letting go of something that makes us innately human—connection. Too often I see people on my bus rides off in their imaginary lands of rage and happiness, tweeting away, texting away, playing games, going from one screen to another—home computers to work computers to smartphones to tablets.
 
Sometimes I wonder if anyone tires of this, or if I’m the only one feeling technological fatigue. We’re all sitting in the same space yet we choose not to connect with each other. We live in a time when we have multiple technologies to aid us to stay in touch better, more efficiently even, yet we seem to have lost sight of the people that are right in front of us. Of course I don’t mean to go morbid on you by suggesting that technology is the worst thing to happen, but surely we can each spare a moment from our day and just check in with another person to pay them a compliment, or ask them if they’ve had a long day. Can’t we?
 
PS. If you liked this article even a little bit, you might enjoy reading Missed Connections by Sophie Blackall. Happy New Year, everyone.