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March 20, 2015

My 5 Day Silent Meditation Retreat: Lessons from a First-Timer.

rosh/flickr

I just got back from a trip to a yoga-meditation retreat center with a small group of meditation and yoga beginners.

Right from the first day, we were put into silence by our teacher. We practiced each day together, learning about the curve of our spine and how to correctly get into yoga postures, in silence. We ate, cried, smiled, greeted each other, all in silence.

What is it like to not talk for five days? What is it like to be only with yourself? What is it like to share yoga and meals with people you couldn’t speak to?

Once out of silence, this was a first conversation with a friend:

“Well, what was your experience like?”

“To be honest I don’t think there are words that exist to capture it. It’s like asking me to describe suffering. Or asking me to describe bliss. I know I experienced both of those in the last five days, but there’s no way I could ever explain either of them to you.”

“Did you enjoy it?”

“Of course, I loved it and I hated it all at the same time. It was easy and it was difficult, from one moment to another. There’s lots to enjoy about five days completely with yourself. Being who you are, actually listening to all that self-chatter that goes on in your mind.”

“Were you silent for the whole five days?”

“I was, except for the occasional slip of thank you; it was hard. Not because silence is hard, but because silence is so loud. As soon as I stopped talking, my mind roared and thundered. Hundreds of thoughts passed inside the blink of each moment. My thoughts were my only reality; there were no other distractions.”

“I never knew silence was so intensely loud.”

“Me either! Right away, the thoughts come rip-roaring-and-zipping through your mind. By the second day, I was exhausted and really needed to find a way to ease them; or they were going to consume me. While I sat, while I walked, while I ate—I was completely consumed by all that self-chatter. It’s exhausting at first.”

“So what did you do?”

“This retreat had beginner meditation and yoga mixed into it—thankfully! I had an amazing teacher and she taught us how to calm the mind. We moved our bodies so it became easier to sit still and she taught us how to listen to our breath which naturally calms the mind. Every morning, we were given the tools needed to plunge back into meditation for the rest of the day. Being surrounded by nature was also very grounding and comforting for me.”

“What were some insights you had during your silence?”

“How good food tastes when you’re eating in silence. Try it. When you eat, sit there and think only of the act of eating. Be consumed by the food you’re eating. Don’t talk, don’t think, simply eat.”

“Really!”

“That was such a clear example of how powerful mindfulness is. I also learned that my breath is my greatest companion. Any time I felt overwhelmed or loneliness, I connected with my inhales and exhales to overcome those feelings. Any time I felt light, my breath was the source. I learned to find comfort in the pauses at the end of my exhales. This awareness is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. “

“What other things did you learn from your teacher?”

“She reminded me that our memories are simply made up stories. We make a story of how we experienced a situation. Everyone does it. Most times, inside of these stories, there is an untruth that can be found and it will unravel any wrongful thoughts you may have about a person, a situation or a memory. Looking back at some things in my recent past I was able to find an untruth and diminish the pain that memory was causing me. Such a blessing that lesson was! Would you ever try a silent retreat?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I could stay silent and disconnected for that long.”

“I didn’t know if I could either, and on the second day, I really wanted to leave. But if you have patience with yourself , it’s achievable. If you have love for yourself, I recommend it. The lessons are invaluable and the effort highly worth it. It’s true you need a sense of calmness and stillness before coming to your mat or into yourself, but it’s found really quickly if all of your focus is on only that.”

“Summarize it in one word!”

“Gratitude; how much of it I have after those five days in silence.”

 

 

Relephant:

 7 Tips for Meditation that Actually Work.

 

 

 

Author: Melissa Denuzzo

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: rosh at Flickr 

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