The Wisdom Within: Reflections on Silence
Last year, I started down a path that has afforded me the deepest rewards my heart, mind and soul have ever realized. After an unexpected loss last June, guilt, shock and fear all fixed a stronghold on me. A month and a half later, awaking from the shock, I intuitively felt called to silence. I didn't know why or how or where I was going to create space for quiet, but I was heart-longingly drawn to deep, meditative silence.
I'd heard about silent retreats, but there weren't any accessible options in my immediate timeframe, so I devised my own. Locating a Buddhist Retreat Center, I created a self-guided silent retreat. I spent a cathartic three days steeped in nature and my own thoughts. I wrote, walked and meditated. I ended my solitary retreat on the morning of my birthday, unknowingly starting a tradition.
Honoring my observance this year, I completed a 10 day silent Vipassana retreat that ended the day before my birthday and has born incredible fruits. "Vipassana" translates to "seeing things as they really are" and conveys one of the richest gifts of the retreat. Through the nearly 11 hours of daily meditation and structured practice, I gained clarity into my life, thoughts, relationships, past events, future aspirations, physical ailments, love, forgiveness and trust.
The restrictions posed by the retreat offered full permission for complete surrender.
Post-retreat, I learned that this lineage of Vipassana is amongst the most stringent. They ask that no reading, writing, eye-contact, gestures to others, yoga, exercise, meditation or religious practices of any kind be engaged in while on retreat. We locked our cell phones and car keys up on the first night. Opening fully, I welcomed every experience that unfolded over the next week and a half. One of the basic tenets of Vipassana is that all of our misery is derived from one of two sources - aversion or craving. It was incredible to witness my constant aversion and craving, peer into the workings of my mind and experience Vipassana, fascinatingly seeing things as they really are, for the first time. My view of the entire world changed during those 10 days.
Last week, I completed a seven day silent retreat that transmuted the insights I learned from my Vipassana retreat into sheer experience. So much of what I realized feels beyond words. The previous two retreats laid the groundwork for transformation of my heart and mind. During my week, I absorbed insights into trauma, grief, fear, anxiety, compassion and forgiveness and created healing techniques. The retreat was less stringent than my 10 day, containing about 9 hours of daily meditation practice with alternating periods of walking and sitting meditation, an offering of a daily yoga class and a simple encouragement not to read or write, if we so chose. In the week since the retreat, I've experienced a deep sense of calm that I've never known. My whole inner world changed during those 7 days.
The 20 days I've spent in silence over the last year and a half have gifted me with some of the most precious moments of my life. I've healed and forgiven in ways I never imagined. I realized bliss, compassion and love in ways I never before touched. I honored my self, my path and others in all ways. I'm deeply humbled by my retreat experiences and recognize that silence is an incredible gift we may all access. Whether it be five minutes or 10 days, I encourage you to seek your solace and revel in the wisdom within.