After my solo retreat

For New Year, I went on a week’s solo retreat in Wales. I planned this retreat myself, having left it to late to book onto a Vipassana course. My aim was to escape the city, find some quiet time for rest, relaxation and recharge my batteries. I aimed to have three intense days of silent meditation, to take me into the New Year, followed by four days of rest, walking and reflection. My previous blog entry here explains my preparation.

How I spent my time is best explained in numbers:

  • 21.5 hours of meditation
  • 4 hours of yoga
  • 32 miles of walking
  • 7 baskets of firewood
  • 25 candles
  • 20 pots of tea
  • 21 home-cooked organic meals
  • 1 conversation
  • 0 hours of internet, TV, radio or music
  • 0 miles of driving

This last week has been on of the most spacious and peaceful times in my life.

I found space to clear my mind and set intentions. I have felt energies within Nature and within my own body. I have gained greater insight into my conditioned mental habits. I have received pure feedback on what is happening inside my mind, body and spirit.

I’d love to share some highlights of the week with you.

I discovered a beautiful, tranquil beach of great femininity. The Black Cliff and Musselwick Sands are a few minutes out of Marloes Village, on the road to Martin’s Haven. The Black Cliff is a steep, wet cliff down which slippery steps have been carved, leading down to a beach only accessible at low tide. It is very unspoilt, as humans only have access to the beach for a few hours every day.

The energy of this beach is very pure, and soft. The black boulders are rounded and smooth. There are very few hard edges, and much less granite than the cliffs on the opposite side of the peninsula. This lends the place a very lady-like quality. Many of the pictures above were taken here. I also made a short video of the beach, which you can watch here. The green moss that covers the stones looks like it had been gently combed into partings. Here there is a giant cave which looks like a giant vulva. The cave leads to a giant pink crack in the rock, formed by a running spring. The energy inside this cave feels very grounding and nurturing. Here, I had a peaceful time lying down on a slab of her black rock, watching droplets of water fall from the roof.

In the mornings I would check in with myself to see how I felt. I wondered if I might like to explore North Pembrokeshire, and took maps to assist. However, I didn’t want to go further afield. I wanted solely to walk from Marloes. I didn’t drive for a week. I returned to the same beaches day after day. I did not want to explore so much as just feel and experience.

After Hour Ten of meditation, I had a significant kundalini experience. At the time I was not practising kundalini meditation, but a breathing meditation from the Buddhist tradition. Suddenly, my breathing became very sensual and focused on the body. Feelings of pleasure began to be aroused, centred on the root chakra. After the meditation timer went off, I wished to continue meditating, as it was so enjoyable. I felt huge waves of energy gathering in my root chakra. I used my attention and pelvic floor muscles to contain the energy, allowing it to build all of the time. This energy was extremely powerful and felt much bigger than me. When I felt like I was about to explode, I released my pelvic lock and directed the energy up the spine to the crown chakra, and back down. The energy completed its circuit through my body in an immense silver current. My whole body was vibrating. It felt amazing! I repeated this as many times as I could handle, and gradually the energy began to subside. By the end of this mediation session, I felt calm and balanced. And alive.

Afterwards, whenever sitting down to meditate, I could hear my own energy, like a pulse which vibrated within. This only came after a few minutes of quiet sitting, and felt stronger after yoga, walking or opening my chakras. I wasn’t aiming for any specific energetic outcomes this week, by the way. It just happened.

The day after I left Wales, and meditating in a completely different space, I could still hear this energy pulse.

One of the most enjoyable events of the day was chopping wood, and making a fire. I loved making kindling, having great fun chopping and hacking. I enjoyed getting sweaty with an axe in the morning and setting a basket of logs ready beside the wood-burning stove. When I returned home from my afternoon walk, cold and tired, it was a joy to light the fire and sit here with some tea watching the flames curl.

I had two very sacred texts to guide me this week: The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinoche, and The Sacred Awakening of Light Warriors by Victoria Jiminez. These books were my best friends this week, provoking some deep soul-searching and profound realisations. I began to read them on Day Three, and used their words of wisdom to guide my intentions and prayers throughout the week.

After the first three days of purity and silence, I allowed myself to have a little fun creatively. I made videos of my walks, two of which are of the beautiful landscape, two of which are deep and poetic and two of which are silly and a bit of fun. If you want to watch them, you can do so here. I also wrote the draft scenario for a children’s novel, composed a song and created some art photography.

I wrote a poem when I was a teenager called Granite Twilight. It is about the ageless, timeless beauty of rock. I had imagined the setting for this poem, but during this week I found it, on Marloes Sands. I made a short video, and narrated this poem. I was also inspired to create another poem spontaneously, called Polished Pebble. The video is here, if you would like to hear those poems and see the landscape that inspired them.

In between activities, I paused and meditated for at least thirty minutes. This aided my creativity; I did not search hard for words while writing. I did not edit myself during creative flow. I concentrated fully on one task without being distracted. It was a marvellous cure for writer’s block. After a creative session, meditation allowed me to detach from the stimulus, and not seek immediate answers to my creative questions. I went to bed with a clear mind again and slept quickly and deeply. These are incredibly useful lessons for my creative work in daily life, and although I may not always have thirty minutes in between activities, perhaps I can find similar space and clarity within a minute or two.

This is just one of many deep realisations I come away with.

What else did I learn? That I need quiet time every day to come home to the true nature of my mind.  That I love to commune with the divine. That it is not so much what I do, but the energetic quality of how I do, of how much love and attention I give to a thing, that is most important. That taking a short time to breathe and clear my mind between activities improves performance and creativity. A rekindled love of walking. An awe of the breathtaking beauty of Nature and the sea. A greater sensitivity to energies. An improved ability to listen to feedback within my own heart and body.

I surprised myself that I found this retreat easy. I had half expected to find some skeletons in the closet during meditation, or get to Day Four and be lonely and desperate for company. Neither of these things happened. I felt comfortable, safe and relaxed and not alone at all.

I will take these qualities and manifest them in my daily life in 2011. It was easy to find peace and focus by myself, in nature, with no fixed schedule. Now I will explore manifesting the same peace, prayer and quality of being to a busy life in the city, surrounded by work and noise and people.

Can I say a big thank you to everyone who contributed towards this retreat? Thanks to all those who sent texts and kept in touch, made the recommendations that helped guide me, and to Bethan and Rachel for the great company and ‘halfway house’. And of course thanks to the great people and landscape of Pembrokeshire.

Have you taken a complete break from your daily life recently? Would you like to gain more perspective on how you live your life? I can highly recommend setting a few days aside and developing your own solo retreat, one that really speaks to you and caters for your needs.

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