I recently spent 62 hours in silence at a meditation retreat at Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. Here's what I learned.
1. Silence is not always quiet
2. Food tastes infinitely better, or worse, when you eat slowly, quietly and mindfully.
3. Silence let me see that I was tired and I require more sleep than I have been allowing myself.
4. Being alone and quiet is just as important in my life as being with loved ones, eating well and exercising. For it is in the silence that I can hear God whisper in my heart.
5. Silence allows me to pay attention precisely to the chatter in my mind and then I can choose to let the noise go and rest in being.
6. Silence showed me that I attach stories to my feelings and that makes the feelings heavier. If I allow myself to just feel the feelings without the cloak of stories, I am lighter and more free.
7. Silence allowed me to listen to my body closely and hear that my body needs to move. Both slow mindful movement and fast heart pounding mindful movement.
8. Being silent and paying attention in a mindful way with 100 other people reminded me that we are all Divine beings who have more in common than we do different.
9. Being silent reminded me that I feel connected to the outdoors. That it is important for me to go outside and listen to the wind, look up in the sky, feel the rain, hear the trees sing.
10. I learned that stillness is ever-present regardless of the situation. This stillness is Divine. To attune to it, all we have to do is pay attention to our breath and drop into our body to see what is already and always present.
11. In my silence, I remembered how important it is to take time every day to be still, quiet and reconnect.
12. Silence is strong but soft.
Many people have asked me if this was a fun or awesome or a horrible experience. Some people have looked at me like I am weird. Others asked how could I bear to be away from my three precious children for that long and .... all for some silence?!
My response is that it was a profound experience. I came home more grounded, clear and free of the burdens I thought I had.
It’s like taking out the trash or cleaning out that junk drawer. I now have more space to be present. And, YES, I will go away again and be SILENT. But probably not next weekend.