It has been seven months since my last blog. Writing this blog reminds me of the moment when we broke the silence on the 10th day of a Vipassana silent retreat that I attended recently. At the retreat noble silence is maintained for ten days which means that you don’t speak to anyone (vocally or through body language). Any distractions that can possibly divert your attention are taken away (such as phone, books, writing material, exercise). You use the time to learn a meditation technique that enables you to quiet the mind, be in the moment and connect with yourself.
The first three days of silence is difficult because you feel the need to express yourself but may not. You want to check with others if what is happening to you is ‘normal’, whether they are also struggling. If you are making progress and being a good student. Instead of getting the external confirmation and recognition that you seek you are faced with your own habits of avoidance and fears of failure.
You realize that you tend to live your life from the outside in, instead of inside out. Before making a decision you first look outside of yourself to gather information, test the opinion of others and seek their approval. Rather than starting at the sensational level, your inner body of knowledge, and feel how the decision sits with you. Does it create sensations of craving or aversion within you? Can you look at it from a place of equanimity and respond objectively rather than reacting from your default pattern?
After the fourth day you start to settle in your body. Your eyes are not looking frantically around, they start to calm down and rest in the eye sockets. This enables you to begin to feel the sensations in your body from a physical level and not look at the sensations from the outside in. You start to come home to yourself. You come home to the moment as it is and not as you want it to be. In doing that you begin to accept and love yourself.
For me the journey back home was 5 cm inward, 10 degrees to the left and between 4 to 12 hours long. I realized I tend to live 5cm outside of my physical body. When we had to feel the sensations in our bodies I tried to look at it from a 5cm distance. The retreat enabled me to feel comfortable within my body so that I could feel the sensation as it arose and passed by. When you sit for 12 hours and meditate you become aware of your body posture. My head was tilted to the right side at an angle of 10 degrees. I was not looking straight ahead and facing reality as it was. At the beginning of the retreat my mind was always thinking ahead. I became aware that I was thinking about what I was going to do 4 to 12 hours ahead of time. I was not present at all. When you are not present you can’t be with life as it is in the moment. You miss out on the fullness of life and yourself.
When you start to speak after 10-days of silence you realise that you are engaging with others from a different place. A more loving and centred space. You are more aware whether you are connected to your truth or not. I stopped blogging for a while because I realised that my blogs became more about sharing other people’s opinions and insights than my own. The initial purpose of my blogs was to share my truth and how I experience the world with the hope that it will inspire others to do the same and just be themselves. As with the retreat I needed some time in silence to reconnect so that when I do speak up it comes from a place of love and authenticity.
We can’t always go on silent retreats to reconnect with ourselves. What we can do is to create pockets of silence during the day or week. Even if it is just to focus on your breath for a minute. Doing that brings you back to the universal truth that everything in life arises and passes away. We can’t control life more than we can control our breath. The act of trying to control life contributes to our suffering. When we let go of the need to control and accept the moment as it is and not how we want it to be, we set ourselves and others free.
I know it is easier said than done and probably a lifetime practice, but we can start with this breath…