"Silence is the root of everything. If you spiral into its void a hundred voices will thunder messages you long to hear." Rumi As summer was coming to a close, I began to realize that despite a family vacation (or because of a family vacation?) I was worn down and still needed a break!
I craved space, inside and out.
I needed silence.
So when the opportunity to spend four days on silent retreat came along, I grabbed it with both hands. Ruth and Bruce Davis’s unique blend of daily meditation and gentle heart-opening movement with long stretches of silence was just what my weary soul demanded.
We are constantly bombarded with information and stimulation that makes it very crowded inside our heads.
What I noticed at first was how tired I was. I slept almost the entire first day.
A few judgmental thoughts floated in, something about DOING something on this retreat you lazy bum! I thanked them, rolled over and went back to sleep.
Until we slow down we don’t notice how fast we’re going.
Slowly my energy returned, my body relaxed, my cells repaired themselves from the stress and strain of modern life.
I prepared and fed myself healthy food. I ate in silence, and noticed how much more delicious my food tasted than when I mindlessly eat in front of the computer.
Then I noticed what was going on in my head. The voices in there were yammering at me constantly, like the baby Blue Jays outside my bedroom window each morning.
It is only in the stillness of silence that we hear how loud things are.
Being in silence allows us to notice our patterns of thinking in order to step out of them and helps us still those inner voices.
A massage on day three didn’t hurt either.
As I spent the afternoon in silence I remembered the recent Eddie Murphy film A Thousand Words. Every time he speaks, a leaf falls from a tree in his back yard. This funny and touching story is based on the premise that when all the leaves are gone, he dies. As a result he learns to be very discerning with his words.
We use so many words each day. How many are truly necessary? How many carry meaning? Do our actions really demonstrate our true feelings?
On the morning of the final day I was standing in the kitchen, gobbling down a bowl of instant oatmeal stressing about all the things I needed to do to pack and get myself home that day, and what I had to do when I got home and… and … and I caught myself. This was my “normal” way of being kicking back in.
My mind said, “The retreat is over lady, time to get (your lazy ass implied) back on the train.”
I thanked my mind for reminding that life outside retreat still exists, picked up my cup of tea and went to sit outside and gaze at the valley below for a final peaceful hour. I heard the bees buzzing, watched the humming birds drink flower nectar. I noticed hot air balloons rise up from the valley floor. And I thought about… well, nothing. Pure bliss.
I figure four days of silence were worth the one hour of solitude I finally achieved on my last day.
I vowed to take the practice home with me and devote the first hour of every day to stillness instead of Facebook and email.
I invite you to give yourself the gift of silence, whether it be 10 minutes or an hour a day. It doesn’t matter if your form of meditation is yoga, or walking, or sitting on your deck, take time to notice the thoughts in your head in order to free yourself from them.
If you need help in finding silence, here are some
upcoming opportunities for retreat:
I will be leading an intimate retreat October 26-28, 2012 in Northern California where we will integrate connecting with our soul’s purpose with plenty of time built in for silence.
My sister Janice Gates, author of Yogini, the Power of Women in Yoga hosts quarterly silent yoga and meditation day-long retreats at Green Gulch Zen Center. She is also holding a women’s retreat on the California Coast in November and she and I are co-leading a retreat in Mexico in March of 2013, more on her retreats can be found here.
As mentioned above, there is the new Silent Stay also in Northern California.
In Europe check out La Lumiere in the South of France.
For those interested in learning from an Aboriginal healer in the Australian outback, there is Spirit Adventure Tours where I will be returning with a group in summer of 2013.
However you choose to pursue it, enjoy the silence!