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Kay Buckby shares her experiences of mindfulness meditation with you, and how a retreat has enabled her to get out of her own way in life.

In March 2017 I was fortunate enough to attend a 6 day retreat in Devon. Based on the Insight Meditation approach, the week has enabled me to lose emotional past hurt, and enjoy life in the here and now much more.

Why a retreat?

I have meditated since 2003, however I felt my approach wasn’t working, as my error rate, forgetfulness and anxiety had been increasing, and I’d had a poor health year, culminating in nearly dying in August 2016. It was urgent and important!

Why this retreat?

I found the Sharpham Barn retreat in an article on the ten best retreats in the UK, and booked. Somehow it felt right, and I’ve always been a believer in gut feeling.

The story of my week

I was both apprehensive and excited about the retreat. Taking a week off to live with 12 other strangers in a converted barn seemed a weird thing to do. Living in a community environment was a nice prospect, as I grew up in a fairly large family (5 siblings) and I loved sharing and mucking in. It was amazing how close we became in just 6 days, and I will always remember my fellow retreatants.

A surprise was remembering just how I look for permissions in life. I found myself stressed when I signed for a parcel during the silent day, thinking ‘I don’t have the authority to do this.’.

A lot of people refer to me as a rule breaker, and I think I’d almost started to believe it, yet the retreat reminded me that I embrace the rules, and I look for permissions in life. My heightened awareness has enabled me to embrace me much more. I am a Please People type person – it’s a major driver for me.

I also thrive with a schedule, and the schedule on the retreat is relentless (which I found a good thing). Years ago, when I had kids living at home, a full time job, went to the gym, had a Mum & Dad to visit…life was scheduled! Since the retreat, I’ve established a schedule in my life. It works for me, and I’ve blossomed since.

Meditation practice during the week was relentless. And I loved it. The types of meditation ranged from silent, meta, walking, and guided. Sitting with others in the meditation room took my experience to another level; I’ve never been part of a mediation group before.

I have found a complete joy in the small moments in life ever since. There is a saying in the Zen tradition to “Drink a cup of tea” – the sheer joy in mindfully enjoying drinking a cup of tea is pure bliss. We don’t need to be sitting on a mountain to experience beyond thinking.

I chose to fast on the Wednesday of the week, and I’ve since returned to my 5:2 diet, of having two fasting (well, 500 calorie) days in every week. For me, fasting not only enables me to control my weight; it also heightens my meditation experience.

I had a joyful Wednesday, as it was our silent day, plus I was fasting. Being silent for 36 hours was a concern prior to the week, whereas it was one of the many high points of the week. The togetherness we feel without speaking is calming, and soothing.

I enjoy being quieter now – pre retreat, I was constantly chattering to myself. Now, I work quietly in the office and drive silently. I’ve found sitting in my office chair and car seat more mindfully has enabled me to have a fuller life experience. Do it now – feel the weight of your feet on the floor, and your body in the chair. Amazing isn’t it? We take it all for granted, and it’s a wonderfully grounding thing to do.

I’m also kinder to myself. I used to feel annoyed or anxious sometimes when my thoughts wandered off during meditation. During one of our teachings, someone said think of those moments as like leading a horse on a rope – if the horse veers of the track, to steer it gently back onto the road. I loved this metaphor, and now I am kind to my mind, and instead I view the track (my thoughts) mindfully, and then gently steer my mind back to the moment.

My confidence in my body was shattered last August, and since then I’ve collapsed and been admitted to hospital I have been so weak. The retreat forced me to look after myself. There were no friends or family to mind out for me.

On the Thursday, I went for a strenuous walk in the Sharpham Estate, and I purchased cheese for a Birthday celebration. On the way back I got hopelessly lost, and I realised that I was under time pressure to get back to a Reiki treatment I had booked.  I was really proud of my here and now meditation, the mantra “I am close to the Barn, I will find my way home.” And “If I am late for reiki, that is fine. I am fine with that.”. I was so proud of myself – one of my recurring fears is getting lost, and I have experienced panic attacks when I feel lost. I can choose to enjoy the moment, even if I am lost, or if time is pressing.

The cheese I purchased (5 x 2 Kgs!) weighed heavy on my back as I climbed the hill back to the Barn that day. Recalling this story to an insightful friend, she said ‘What a metaphor for your whole week’. She’s a true guru, listening to my story and reflecting back on what life might be teaching me.

I’m urging you to think about what cheese you might be carrying on your back. Taking time out to re-discover me, learn new techniques and revitalise myself has been one of the best life choices, and experiences, I have ever made. See for yourself – meditate, and become Buddha yourself.

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