Making the plans to go on a Chopra Center silent retreat, one in which there would be no speaking among the participants for 5 days both thrilled me and scared me a bit. I had been anxious to try this, only having gone on a silent retreat once before for a much shorter time. I had been waiting for almost a full year for the date to arrive. As it neared, becoming a reality, and as I read the details of disengagement with the outer world, i.e. computer, cell phone, IPad, TV, etc., I began to get a bit concerned. Could I do this? Would I be able to handle this?
Deepak Chopra talked about the benefits of silence, the deep cleansing of the emotional body, the rising of the unfelt and uncomfortable feelings, and the awareness gained from witnessing. He instructed us to pay attention to our intuition, record our dreams, recapitulate our day each evening and our dreams each morning and of course journal. (To recapitulate means to go through our day, or our dream in our mind’s eye, as if just watching the events as they happened. It is a good practice on several levels, one of which is releasing the events of the day and another is building the skill of witnessing.) Notice when questions arise, give time for the answer to appear, for it is already there.
Silence began at noon on the third day. I was looking forward to it realizing the benefits. Here are some fun, ego-centered ones:
- I don’t need to worry if I forget someone’s name.
- Losing my train of thought isn’t going to be a problem!
- No need to be concerned about what I say, or saying something wrong.
- Having nothing to say is good. Allowing myself to just be.
- Here is where being an introvert is an advantage.
Brent BecVar, one of our instructors, gave us some general rules such as leaving the ‘gizmos’ off, not being concerned about others, leave everyone to their selves and respect their process; for instance, if someone is crying, resist the impulse to comfort and allow them to work it out. Also let go of work, email, etc. Allow everything to be as it is and realize the outer experience is a projection of the inner state, take lots of naps (yay), journal strong emotions and insights and formulate our intention for the week.
When Deepak says this, and Brent led 7 oms, tears welled up—I felt a strong sense of gratitude for this experience, perhaps mixed with a bit of fear. But so grateful. The oms sounded so unbelievably beautiful. When we meditated, the room was absolutely quiet.
The bell rang for noon at the main lodge and I watched as we all flowed silently to the dining hall. For a moment, it reminded me of the movie The Time Machine when Rod Taylor’s character ends up traveling way into the future, and these happy people who need not work, who have all the food they want, robotically walk to a door on the side of a mountain when the sirens sound to be eaten by the ogres below!
After lunch, I went for a long walk on the boardwalk through the dunes. It all changed to a most beautiful sight. Yesterday, I hadn’t appreciated the magnificence before me!
It is so interesting to observe 200 people in complete silence moving through the day. Of course, we aren’t supposed to be observing others, and I usually did not make eye contact. But it is hard not to notice certain things. Personalities still came through. Some people were still trying hard to be liked, even in silence, smiling, trying to be helpful, and asking through gestures if they can sit somewhere. My judgments arose! I watched these judgments come and go like clouds and knew they were not me, just ego trying to take back control! The longer I was in silence the easier they fell away.
I really see how this retreat works now. Bringing us back to ourselves and the truth behind our lives. I experienced wild dreams, wrote in my journal, had a few horrific headaches, and had some incredible aha moments. I grew stronger doing yoga every day and meditation three or more times, felt completely nourished and supported by this loving community, and as the end neared, I felt bitter sweet to leave.
Home now, and I am hoping all I have become aware of will be integrated into my everyday life. I know I am better equipped to handle my life’s challenges and issues. We all have them. It is how we deal with them that defines who we are. From each level of consciousness, the world looks and is different. I feel more accepting of what is, more patient, and more excited about my life! Driving to work in the rain my windshield wipers were saying Dee Pak Dee Pak Dee Pak Dee Pak. Huh, I never noticed that before!