Leo's Letter #39 // Just Breathe
Three takeaways from a meditation retreat
Hey, it’s great to have you.
First of all, Happy New Year!
Second, it’s been a while - how’ve you been? Message me - I’d like to hear!
Third, enjoy the below - learnings from going on a meditation retreat you can put into practice, without waking up at 6am everyday.
This is an issue of Leo’s Letter, where we share actionable ideas on content, commerce, and culture.
A series of “ups” and “downs”
It’s now 2022 and I’m writing about the meditation retreat I went on last November.
There’s a reason for that. It provided some much-needed downtime in between two periods of “craziness”.
Going into the retreat, I’d just spent Halloween weekend in NYC. Imagine switching from staying up until 3am in the city to waking up at 6am for morning meditation in Upstate New York.
Coming out of it, I ended up switching jobs to work full-time in crypto. This is a whole new world and I’ve already been working more than I ever have. It’ll be a wild ride.
Hence I’m writing this over New Years’ weekend, one of the few times I can pause and reflect.
There’s A Meditation For Everything
I spent Veterans Day weekend at Blue Cliff Monastery, where we followed a schedule consisting of:
Morning sitting meditation
Evening sitting meditation
(Each day generally started at 6am and ended at 9pm)
You’ll notice that most of the schedule consisted of meditation and meals. Each had their purpose, all centered around acting with intentionality - focusing the mind on the task at hand, even one as simple as breathing.
I experienced a few days of mindfulness. Focusing on the breath while sitting. Spending some time in silence while eating meals to acknowledge the source and purpose of the food. Walking amongst nature without talking to take everything in. Even refraining from talking after 9pm to allow time for reflection before sleeping.
Such a schedule represented a stark shift in the everyday hustle and bustle, and I felt invigorated by the experience. This wasn’t as tectonic of a shift as Thoreau going to Walden, but nevertheless an immensely rewarding experience.
Three Learnings from the Retreat
1 - Community: one does not go at this alone
As someone who mostly practiced meditation on my own, I enjoyed sharing the experience with others (plus, it’s not so painful getting up for 6am morning meditation if everyone did as well).
Togetherness is even more important now than ever with COVID forcing some of us to separate. It’s a wonderful change to be able to enjoy one another’s company, or even if not physically close, a shared understanding and an answer to a call/message.
2 - Enjoy the Present
Mindfulness helps one enjoy the present by being fully attentive to the current activity. This benefit results from the repeated practice of re-focusing the ever-wandering mind. Doing so in any activity.
Another reminder - Nothing Lasts… But Nothing Is Lost (credits goes to a friend for this, a music album you can listen to and interpret its meaning to you)
3 - Just Breathe
Nike’s slogan is “Just Do It”. For mindfulness, it’s “Just Breathe”.
These simple phrases are easy to remember and carry a lot of weight.
On the mindfulness front, this is a reminder that you don’t have to be at a monastery to enjoy the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. All it takes is a pause to focus on the breath, wherever you are (follow this to take a 3-minute pause).
I write this also for myself, especially when things get crazy, and I know they will!