TEN DAYS IN UTTER SILENCE?
Not only in utter silence, but meditating, sharing a meal with eighty people, from sunrise to sunset, without physical contact, establishing eye contact, nor saying a word.
BEFORE THE RETREAT
I couldn’t WAIT to sit in silence. I felt a deep need to connect with myself, the land, and then to my inner guidance so it could lead me clarity about what to do next.
I looked forward to sitting in silence with other people. The idea intrigued me. I looked forward to contemplative writing, imagining how clear it would become as I sat in silence. Recently, my journal writing has become a comforting source of meditative clarity for me.
VIPASSANA IS ACCEPTING REALITY AS IT IS
Accept reality as it is, not as you WANT it to be. Upon checking in, I signed an agreement to stay for the full ten days and follow the precepts of this particular Vipassana approach, which includes no communication (speaking, eye contact, touch), no writing, texting, or standing out in any way. The full focus is to be 100% focused within. So much for that idea!
DURING THE RETREAT
The place is beautiful. Simple, yet very comfortable and supportive of inner reflection.
I stayed in a single room. It was so clean.
There is no cost for this retreat. It is offered for free so that I could sit in silence and meet myself.
At the end of the course, each participant offers “Dana”, which according to Vipassana tradition, is an act of generosity, a donation, each according to what they can afford.
During the week, I kept appreciating the abundance around me. The grounds, the delicious food, the accomodations…. all volunteered.
It was amazing to arrive in Israel, having heard about what is going on in Gaza, responding to the FB page, then arriving to Jordan Valley SOSOSOSOSOSO peaceful. Sitting iwth 80 people half and falf men and women in silence for ten days.
I was amazed that there were so many men. Many had been sldiers. Many were just past the age of soldiers. The others, were of reserve duty age, up to 59 years old. And here they were, sitting in silence.
THE INS AND OUT OF LIVING IN SILENCE
Ends up that the no speaking part was the easiest part of it.
I realised how much of my adult life, particularly in Israel, ave been spent in silence. Quiet ironic isn’t it, for a place that generates so much noise in the news.
Yet there is a deeper presence that supports that silence… It’s that quality that drew me here 25 years ago. It’s what attracts such noise as well. The deeper you dig, the more silt arises.
The point of this vipassana meditation is to eradicate the SOURCE of the noise, WITHIN.
Here’s the schedule we followed:
4:30 – 6:30 Meditation in your room or the Meditation Hall
6:30 – 8:00 Breakfast
8:00 – 9:00 Group Meditation
9:00 – 11:00 Individual Meditation in Room or in Meditation Hall
11:00 – 1:00 Lunch and Rest
1:00 – 2:30 Individual Meditation in Room or in Meditation Hall
2:30 – 3:30 Group Meditation
3:30 – 5:00 Individual Meditation in Room or in Meditation Hall
5:00 – 6:00 Tea and Fruit
6:00 – 7:00 Group Meditation in Meditation Hall
7:00 – 9:00 Discourse
LESSONS LEARNED DURING THE RETREAT
1. Having no dinner at the beginning, was difficult. Meals at the beginning of the week were ever important, as they gave you something different to do. It was a change from sitting in silence.
As the week progressed, food became less and less important to me.
During the week, many difficult feelings arose, which, as the teacher describes, is like spiritual surgery. When there are wounds, in order to heal them, the puss must come up and out. It’s unpleasant, and it hurts at time, but the result is is happiness, lightness, and a sense of weight taken off your shoulders.
Part of my puss was a raw and loose stomach. I’d call it “constipated diarrhea”. Eons of energy erupted like lava from deep within the volcano of my being.
My innards were raw. Just thinking about eating raw fruit made my insides even more raw.
Funny thing though, that going to sleep on an empty stomach, caused me to wake up feeling more alert, alive, and appreciative of the day.
2. Having no purse, phone, or object to carry over my shoulder was profoundly freeing. We turned everything over to a steward, who locked all our private belongings in a cabinet. They were returned to us on the last morning. I almost wanted to leave it there. It’s amazing how much weight we carry around each and every day!
LESSONS LEARNED FOLLOWING THE RETREAT
1. No speaking is helping me listen more to others. It feels jarring go back to the habitual way of talk, talk, talk.
2. Getting back onto the grid is jarring. I’ve spent hours upon hours on the phone with my US mobile service to work out connectivity issues. As of this moment, it’s still not resolved.
Those automated recordings, and human workers mindlessly reciting pre-written scripts, has stirred up deeper levels of the volcanic puss.
There are benefits to this as well:
I get to practice developing equanimity and a quiet mind in real time situation.
I get to see how far I’ve progressed in this area. As an early adopter on the inter-continental, wifi and connectivity issues, particularly when teaching a course or working with private immersion clients online would drive me ballistic inside.
I’d feel responsible for inevitable screw ups. Workarounds would always provide a solution, along with benefits to share with my clients, of lessons learned, yet I’d still feel touchy and vulnerable within. I appreciate this next level of EQUANIMITY IN THE FACE OF STRONG FEELING.
Going into Haifa reflected a sense of the bright future. Haifa is a 50/50% Jewish-Arab city. All signs are posted in 3 languages: Hebrew, Arabic and English.
Downtown Haifa is being revitalized by the younger generation, whose mindset is one of inclusivity. You’ll find people of all kinds, mixing, socializing, eating, visiting...
I just couldn’t help taking a photo of the door of one of the bars in the downtown area.
Having spent 10 days focused within, in total silence, is very liberating. Feelings are not facts. They pass, like clouds. The biggest benefit is – I’m no longer fighting with myself.
3. Trusting the Flow
Remembering that we’re the only ones causing our suffering or serenity – makes it easier to allow for the results to unfold.
When I left the US, I had no idea where I would go after the retreat. The whole point was to trust inner guidance, and trust that the path would be made clear.
My dear friend picked me up from the retreat center, invited me for a relaxing weekend at her place (in the vegetarian health village high in the hills of Galilee), where I lived for many years.
Following the inner impulses, I called the daughter of a client to inquire if she might know of a place available for temporary rent.
At the moment of dialing, my client texted me. She is overseas in Central America, teaching a meditation retreat herself. They’ll continue on to the US and not return to Israel until the end of August.
She suggested calling her daughter to get the key.
So ,as of today, I’m back in my home town, staying right smack in the middle of town. The cellular internet off my Israeli phone worked just fine, as I met with clients in France, US and Australia.
How would it be for YOU to spend ten days in silence? Have you ever done it or even contemplated it?
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