Seven years ago, I heard about these Vipassana 10 day long silent meditation retreats. They happen all across the globe, all throughout the year. While I was very intrigued and found the concept of being silent for ten days extremely enticing, I was also terrified of the idea. We check our mobile devices in at the door – along with any other modalities of interaction (books, journals), the eating regiment is pretty strict, dress code is modest, we’re expected to sit in an uncomfy position for one hour at a time multiple times throughout the day, wake up at 4am, etc…
Um, it was WONDERFUL!!! Of course, no two people will ever have the same experience. Here I will tell you a little bit about mine.
First thing I noticed was without words, facial expressions, or even clothing that represents one’s style or self-expression, everyone looked so vulnerable to me. It’s like all the humans turned into puppies.
There was nothing to judge people by. No voices, no stories, no personalities, no dramatic hand gestures, loud laughs, cute shoes. Couldn’t observe the way people behaved with others, ’cause that wasn’t happening. We were asked not to make eye contact with one another, so no smiles or glances. Nothing. We were all puppies. It felt so pure.
By the third day, colors were more vibrant. All of everything nature was so so moving to me. Like, how did this tree grow so tall? Isn’t it incredible all the hundreds of different shades of green? Moss?!?!!! Do people know about moss?!!! Yeah, petting moss became a daily ritual for me. It’s sooo cool! There were chipmunks! And froggies! And itty bitty butterflies! There was a lavender plant right outside my window – we became fast friends.
The little things that tend to hide out in the background/add to the landscape, became the foreground. They turned into the big things. They were main characters of this 10-day experience.
“Silence is not the absence of something, but the presence of everything.” John Grossmann
The meditation hall grew more and more quiet with passing days. At first there was a lot of shifting around, clearing throats, scratching, sighing, all sortsa sounds. By the last day, nothing. Like, not even heavy breathing. *Oh, but there were always stomachs groaning and farting def happened every single sit!* The dining hall also grew more and more quiet. Placing one’s cup down on the table without a sound became a meditation. Things slowed down. It was clear to me how noisy and rushed we were being those first few days.
By Day 6, people’s faces started to change! From dull to bright. From furrowed brows, to wide-eyes. In Chinese Medicine when the spirit shines through one’s face, it’s call “shen.” Radiant, luminous, shen-y faces everywhere! It’s like we went from story level to spirit level. People’s spirits were presenting themselves! Stories-shmories, none of the past mattered. That was INCREDIBLE to observe!
The meditation part was pretty challenging, not gonna lie. Mostly because we were holding still in rather uncomfortable positions for one hour at a time. Know what? Even my relationship with discomfort changed!
We were asked to simply observe the sensations (pain, stiffness, cramping, numbness, flexibility, ease, etc.) and not form an attachment to them. Just observe them as they are and notice that for the most part, they almost always go away. Impermanence. It’s true! My itches all resolved themselves. My leg fell asleep and I knew I’d wake it up at the end of the sit. The “unbearable” shoulder tension just started to feel like weight and not like pain. So cool! Very practical lesson in detachment.
Lots of the lessons were very practical. We were learning in an experiential way. This wasn’t a philosophical experience. It was a very body-oriented, pragmatic experience. For me, this was a new approach. Wasn’t about my heart or my head. Just a moment-to-moment check in with functionality.
While I did not miss talking, I did miss laughing! I did miss touch, hugging, eye contact, smiling, connecting with others in ways that I’m used to connecting.
There were a few individuals I felt a connection with throughout the retreat. Sure enough, they were the ones that I ended up yapping with when the silence was broken. So cool how unifying this isolating experience was!
Believe it or not, coming back to this extra-loud, turbo-speed city was more of a culture shock than leaving it for silence. I felt like I had taken waaaayyy too much cough syrup and weird, disconnected bubble my first few days back. Totally disoriented. Happy to say, the inner-calm is still with me, but the cough syrup feeling is not :).
Have you been? Or have you done anything similar? Anything outside of your comfort zone? I wanna hear about it! What was your take on the experience?
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Dr. Deganit Nuur is a world renowned spiritual teacher, clairvoyant, doctor of acupuncture, writer, and lecturer.
Besides being named “Top 15 Intuitives Globally” by Gwyneth Paltrow’s publication, goop, Nuur has been featured in
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