Prior to arrival at Windridge Solitude, I was prepared to have a mental breakdown of some sort. I knew that three nights alone in a cottage with no technology, books, or music was going to be a challenge and I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to handle it. I was a bit surprised and very happy that I didn’t actually have any breakdowns at all and loved every moment of solitude. Several people have asked about my experience so I thought I’d share some highlights.
I had told myself that I was not going to do any hiking around the property even though it is full of beautiful nature. On my first day I decided to explore a little right behind my cottage before buckling down - so I took about a half an hour to wander along the creek bed and sat for a little while in a swinging chair watching the trees sway with a gorgeous mix of blue and white background. After that I spent the rest of my time in my cottage.
The first day I was thinking a little about how part of 2016 was me attracting guys I was not interested in and being attracted to guys who were not interested in me. After a couple of rejections it was easy to start to wonder “What’s wrong with me?” especially since most of my life I haven’t had that issue. Subconsciously I don’t think I was ready. After meditating I had this overwhelming realization that I am worthy. I am worthy of a healthy partnership and unconditional love. I have so much to offer the right person. I have learned so much from all of my experiences and have grown up more in the past 5 years than I thought was possible. I know it’s going to take me awhile to find the right guy who appreciates my quirks that I also want to be with, but I think it’s going to be worth the effort. One of my intentions this year is to be more open-hearted and to spend more time getting to know new people. To consciously work on lowering the walls that I’ve built around my heart.
That night I went to bed at about 9:30pm and was asleep probably by 10pm. A couple hours later I was startled awake because I heard what sounded like gunshots. I immediately was scared and confused. Is it hunting season? Why would people be hunting in the middle of the night? Am I safe in this cottage? Then I got the clock out of the drawer and it read 12:01am. Ohhh . . . right. “Happy New Year” I tiredly said to nobody. The fireworks and/or gunshots continued for a few minutes and I struggled to get back to sleep because of the adrenaline.
One thing I was really looking forward to was detoxing from all of the sugar I had been consuming the past couple of months. I packed all healthy food with lots of veggies and the only sugar really being fruit. When I entered the cottage, one of the first things I noticed was a bowl with sugar packets on the table for coffee/tea. My heart sank. I knew it was “bring your own food” and I was so excited to not have any temptations all weekend and here was a bowl full of sugar in the middle of the kitchen. I decided to tuck it away in a cupboard and hope I had enough restraint to not break into it. Over the weekend, I felt my relationship with food shifting. I ate mindfully at every single meal and wasn’t trying to multitask. I actually looked at and tasted everything and each meal took me at least 30-45 minutes. I’m laughing at myself about my fascination with the mushrooms I had for salads and to dip in plain greek yogurt. I was so mesmerized by how complex they were and how interesting their texture was. (And no, they weren’t special mushrooms. I did not have any mood altering substances with me.) I actually felt hungry before each meal too, which was new for me especially this past year. It felt really good to feel a little hungry and then eat mindfully and never feel stuffed. I never felt a craving for unhealthy foods and I didn’t do any “stress eating.” I definitely need to make some changes in my life to allow for more mindful eating now that I’m back (like not having my phone in reach, taking a break at work, scheduling enough time for dinner without rushing somewhere).
I lost two of my kitties in the past couple of years (Little Girl December 2014, Buddy February 2016) and had started reading The Grief Recovery Handbook for Pet Loss but hadn’t made time to finish because it is filled with exercises that require major energy. One afternoon I was able to make it through my Loss History Graph and the next afternoon I tackled the Relationship Graph and Completion Letters for both of them. I did some serious crying, but I needed it badly. I felt so much better after working through those and even though I didn’t get any intense exercise while I was out there, I was tired at the end of each day.
I meditated for 30-45 minutes a couple of times each day. I didn’t have a timer so I just sat until I didn’t feel like sitting anymore. I’d like to try a 60 minute meditation sometime to see the difference since I’ve never really done more than 45 minutes at a time. Have you ever stared at the stars long enough to realize they moved (or that you actually moved)? The first night that happened to me and it was so wild. I had looked away from a really bright star and when I looked back it was gone! Then I realized it was just no longer in view by the angle I was looking out the window.
On the second day I was feeling so productive - I had been working a lot on painting/drawing and my collage book. It was like just being there gave me permission to do the things I really wanted to do but hadn’t been making time for. I was going to town on that collage book - I’d work on it for two hours without realizing any time had passed. I was getting so excited to finish so many pages and to have so much time to work on it uninterrupted. But then - I ran out of double-sided tape. This was the only moment over the whole weekend where I had any frustration. I was frustrated and wanted more tape because I still had an entire day and a half left and I wanted to make more progress! I finally had all the time in the world but not enough supplies. Then it occurred to me that I was resisting reality and that was what was causing me suffering. I needed to just accept that I ran out of tape and choose to do something else. I had also run out of little pieces of paper to paint, but got creative and cut out new ones from a different sketch book that I brought with me. That taught me two things: accept reality to avoid suffering and bring more art supplies next time.
Most days I have a little baseline anxiety. I didn’t feel anxious at all while I was at this cottage. I was peaceful and able to breathe pretty deeply. I was connected to my body and breath. I was present. When it was time to leave and I got to my car and turned on my phone, I felt the familiar tightness in my chest return. I couldn’t believe how quickly it came back. Most of the drive home I felt pretty peaceful but then I made the mistake of stopping by Trader Joe’s and Michael’s. When I entered Trader Joe’s I couldn’t believe how overwhelmed I was by all of the stimuli. This world is so LOUD! I got groceries as quickly as I could but stopped for a sample of soup. Man, that soup was so good. It tasted like the best soup I’d ever had because my senses were so heightened after a weekend in silence. At Michael’s I was overwhelmed by how many options there were for double-sided tape. I probably stared at that display for 15 minutes before making a decision.
I’m determined to learn from my experience in solitude and I look forward to doing it again. To remember always that I am worthy. To live an authentic life and be my silly self. To eat mindfully. To make time to grieve when I need to. To keep creating art. To continue spending time in nature. To accept reality. To take breaks from technology. To meditate regularly. To find peace and love in every day.
I know it’s not for everyone, but if you’re curious about trying something like this I say go for it! I love hearing about other’s experience with mindfulness so if you have any thoughts about your experiences please share.