My First Mindfulness Retreat Experience

In a serene environment, on the outskirts of Nairobi city lies the venue for the Mindfulness Retreat. The tranquillity and calmness of the venue prepares you for what lies ahead.

As I settle down, I reflect on the past week’s activities and I do not know what to expect. My mind races and I remember the work assignment which I was not able to deliver because my computer was affected by malware. As I stare at my phone, a soft voice beckons from the background that it is time for the session to begin. We move into a furnished room and I have the option of either sitting on the couch or on the floor. I choose to sit on the couch.

The moderator, Shalini, walks into the room and welcomes us to the mindfulness session. I compose myself and get into the mood to experience the abundance of the mind though still distracted by my thoughts and not knowing what to expect as the session starts.

Mindfulness is a state of the mind that accounts for one’s success. The mind is a very powerful human tool which can either be destructive or constructive depending on how one chooses to use it. The vibrations you send to the mind from your surroundings are adapted by it and with the same energy releases them to the universe and so it’s crucial to be wary of what to feed the mind every single day.

Shalini takes us through the first one-minute breathing space session after enlightening us on what mindfulness embodies. Before getting into it, I’m sceptical about doing the exercise, I’m holding back a rush of mixed emotions on whether to do it or not and what the outcome is going to be. There’s no harm in trying and you can only give an account of how you felt only if you took a leap of faith and confronted your “what if?” fears.

Through relaxing my shoulders, lowering my gaze, closing my eyes and arms open with support from my knees I take the first breath and before I realize it, one minute is over and I wish it was longer than that. Within a minute I feel a sense of peace and calmness I had not anticipated. For the very first time I listen in total silence to the falling and rising of my stomach regardless of the disrupting sounds from the chirping birds outside and a power saw across the neighbourhood.

We get into the 3-minute breathing space session and this time I’m really looking forward to experiencing what mindfulness has to offer. I’m now receptive and while at it I can feel every little detail within my body, the coordination of all the body parts to the tiniest strain and pain is brought to my attention, ones that I would normally not have felt before the lens of mindfulness was introduced to me.

Every breathing space that followed brought a different experience. The more I practiced meditation, the more I was feeling at ease and the more I was letting go of undefined pestering emotions. One moment that stood out for me was a 10-minute breathing space that caused a heavy cloud to form at the top of my head leading to a sharp spin of my head, mind and body. The feeling was overwhelming but soon subsided and I felt a calming sensation of being free at last.

And, there was more. I had no idea that meditation can be experienced in a myriad of ways, including mindful eating, movement, colouring, listening and of course mindful walking. There are countless times I’ve been so unmindful of my steps. During the retreat I make a new discovery, meditation is not just having my butt stuck on the sofa or on a yoga mat, there’s actually a purpose for walking! It is meant to be done mindfully and intentionally being aware of your entire presence in and connectivity with abundant nature. I have never enjoyed walking this much! I have always perceived it as a punishment or form of suffering but come to think of it, without breath (the same clean air emanating from nature) and nature itself, do you think we would have the pleasure of walking?

As the day comes to an end, I am surprised by the easiness and calmness that my body just experienced. The anxiety, pressure to be better and the responsibilities that beckon through my mind are all gone and all I think of is how mighty a single deep breath can bring healing to the soul and mind. The ability to control my actions and reactions towards events is elevated and I am happier at what I have achieved unlike before.

Ruth Ondiso is a journalist and a teachable student of life. She believes that each day she gets the opportunity to be alive the universe is intentionally conspiring with  her mind, body, spirit and effort for an abundant and successful life.