I signed up for a silent meditation retreat a few years ago. I arrived a little flustered and worried about the silent portion of the retreat.
I spent six days in silence. This meant no talking or communicating on any level. We wern’t allowed to maintain eye contact with anyone except for the teacher. My phone and PC were both confiscated. There was no reading, no writing, no checking email or Facebook. We ate all our meals in silence. All I could hear was the clicking of cutlery during meal times. I did find myself talking to myself at night when I was alone.
My crazy thinking mind played tricks on me
I found it a very different way of “being” in the world .We were told not to use any facial expressions to communicate. I really wanted to thank people for different things but it wasn’t allowed.During the silent times I often struggled with my mind. It moved from telling me that my “back was aching” to “its cold in here .”This is fantastic”. “I will never ever do this again” and later on “this is magical and I should do this at least twice per year”.
My mind often drifted to my family and friends. I kept thinking about them having fun without me. I felt a little flat about supposedly missing out. I soon realised that the stories in my head were often in complete misalignment with reality. This was one of the amazing gifts about being silent for so long.
I actually found it incredibly powerful to have time to explore my world. I discovered that silence is not something that I experience very often in my life. I discovered that the world I live in is actually pretty busy and loud. Deep frustration and a cloud of sadness was hanging over me on day three. My mind was playing tricks on me. The FOMO (fear of missing out) had kicked in. Things changed and by day six I felt like I was walking on water. I felt so much lighter.I finally had clarity of mind and I felt so relaxed and thought that i had found some “inner peace”.
My relationship with technology comletely changed
On the flip side and totally unexpected, was my relationship and reaction with technology after the retreat. Once the six days had passed and we were allowed to engage with technology again, I soon realised after reading so many emails ,texts, Facebook, Instagram and other notifications, I started to feel quite overwhelmed. A six day digital detox revealed just how much energy I expand every day in trying to keep up with all my forms of interaction.
Walking meditation formed part of the experience. We would sit for an hour in silence then venture outside to walk for 30 minutes.I enjoyed being able to move around and be in nature. It was autumn and a very beautiful time of the year. We walked slowly and deliberately. The point is to bring your mindful awareness to walking .I was tuning into the sensations in the bottom of my feet, my legs and the torso. I focussed on the temperature of the air, the wind and the sun. When a thought would arise I would stop and allow it to pass. I was actually stopping a lot .This taught me how often my mind wanders. I have read a scientific report that claims that mind tends to wander off at least 47% of the time.
I returned from the retreat quite energised and glad that I had done it .On reflection, my gift from this silent meditation retreat experience, was being able to gain a clearer understanding of what’s important to me in my life.