My yoga buddy is about to go on her first silent retreat. I thought about what to tell her, and also what not to say. It is a rite of passage, and I know that she’ll find her own difficulties and joys in the doing, or rather, in the not doing.
I went on a vipassana retreat for the first time seven years ago, and I’ve continued that practice once or twice a year since then. The silence is where I reconnect.
Another friend said to me last week, about some decisions I’m tangled up in: “Maybe there’s just too much noise right now.” And she’s right.
Too many opinions: Other people’s voices and expectations. But even more, I’ve noticed that there’s too much volume (decibels and quantity) to my own thinking. The inner voices and expectations. I believe everything I think too much lately — you know how that gets — and it’s time to rest into that larger knowing.
Where thoughts float across the background of silence, and crisp insights arrive.
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.
Flow down and down in always widening rings of Being.
I know from my own experience that anticipating several days of silent meditation can bring up fear and uncertainty. What I finally told my yoga buddy about going on retreat is basically this: Be kind to yourself. There is absolutely nothing that needs to get done. Follow the schedule, and also the rhythms of your body and breath. There’s no way to anticipate what might arise. Bring your hiking boots to visit the wildflowers, and allow yourself to nap after lunch instead if that’s what you need.
What we learn is that the silence is here now, in the ordinary: around, between, and even inside the noise. We can find it without going away, yet silently retreating is where we learn this in a way that can’t be forgotten. It’s the deep training, where we reconnect.