After our group hellos we had an introduction with Hamid, a Zen Buddhist Monk and our facilitator. It was in this moment I felt a sinking sensation from the realization that from that moment on, there would be no talking, no music and no laughter. I was looking forward to the experience but I could feel the resistance building. Three days felt like a long time.
Unaware of the schedule prior to the retreat, I soon learned we would experience seated meditation in two hour blocks, four times a day (consisting of 30 minutes seated meditation punctuated with ten minute walking meditations) or eight hours a day. Yes, eight hours! Currently having trouble with bursitis in my hip, sitting for such long periods was not a comforting thought.
The first session I experienced a lot of discomfort and found it hard to take my awareness away from the aches and pains in my body. As each session went by it became a little easier, however I did seek whispered permission after a couple of days to take a break and lay down to relieve my hip, but only did this for part of the three or four of the 30 minute sessions overall. The walking meditation gave you time to stretch your legs, I loved this part of the process. Walking very slowly with your breath and your hands at your heart.
One of things I was finding it difficult to acclimatise to was silent meals. And the first one was strange. I noticed every little sound, the cutlery on the plates, my chewing, the shuffling of chairs. But I also noticed how good the food tasted and how appreciative I felt to be sharing such beautiful food. Without the need to engage in conversation my other senses were firing.
We enjoy this family time sharing a TV show together but I feel that it means we are less connected with the gift of the meal and also sharing details of our days and lives. When I ate in silence I savoured every mouthful of the food. I became more and more thankful and connected to not only how lucky I was to receive this gift, but to the earth for it’s bounties and the people who had spent time and energy growing, sourcing and preparing the food.
There are so many things we take for granted and having this period of silence made me more aware of the blessings in my life. Each session of meditation felt like a stripping back of the layers. Letting go of what is not really important and connecting to what is most meaningful. Aligning my head with my heart: “touching the heart mind”.
I also had this overwhelming awareness after a couple of day that words do not always communicate exactly what is at your heart or can easily be misinterpreted. We sometimes just say words to fill a silence or because we feel we should. To try and express the beauty of something through words often falls short. Great poets and artists can paint a picture with language but even then they cannot adequately capture what the mind and heart perceives.
Everyday at midmorning we could choose to go for a walk in the gardens. The venue belonged to the family of a friend, Tina, who graciously hosted the weekend. The property was absolutely magnificent, with more than 180 degree views of Melbourne. Watching the changing skyline and admiring the native gardens and myriad of birds was soul quenching. This was when I noticed my desire to express the beauty in words and share those words with others.
I realized my words would have been inadequate, we tend to overuse the same adjectives and phrases. Sometimes it is better just to appreciate, enjoy and feast the senses without words.
It was probably hardest not to speak when you wanted to help somebody or express gratitude. We made lots of eye contact and little facial expressions, we also came to our own customs without needing to express them with language. I have to admit I did talk to one of the other girls when we went on our walk she asked if she could talk and I was quite glad to digress for a short while.
Interestingly, that evening at our nightly pre-dinner talk, Hamid spoke about the same thing. I’m not sure if this was a coincidence or to do with the connection that you begin to build as a group. You begin to feel a strong bond with people you share this unique experience with. It was lovely to connect without words. An encounter like this strengthens the idea that we are more the same than we are different. It was also amazing to re-connect with Tina and Hamid whom I first had the pleasure of meeting at my teacher training.
If you have been considering a silent retreat I wouldn’t hesitate. It can be challenging, but for me it was inspiring and uplifting to release the everyday and draw my focus inwards. It felt like a coming home to my soul. I struggled with the idea of giving the time to myself but I have become a firm believer that if you do not give these moments to yourself you have little left to give to anyone else.
To learn more about Tina go to http://www.touchedbyyoga.com.au
For Hamid go to http://yogasurfingretreats.com/santosha-yoga/spiritual-oriented-counselling/
Thanks for reading!