How 168 hours of silence changed me forever

(this post originally appeared Nov, 26, 2014 on the Forest of Healing website.)

meditation retreatThe reaction most people gave me was one of surprise: “You’re doing what?!” And then most of them followed up with: “Wow. I don’t think I’d be able to do that, myself!

This was in response to my disclosure that I was preparing to attend a meditation retreat. A Buddhist retreat offered in the Vipassana tradition. For seven days. And conducted in SILENCE.

I got a lot of questions. “Why?!” “What will you do if you HAVE to talk?!” “Are you a Buddhist now?”  “Can you leave if it drives you crazy?” “Won’t you get bored?!

I tried not to listen to their doubts. Or internalize their surprise and confusion about why I would be doing this… which I did understand. It was logical in many ways.

The truth was, I was terrified and I wasn’t sure I could do it. But not because of the requirement to be quiet or the potential for boredom. I’m an introvert of the highest degree and not talking – or being talked to – actually sounded like bliss to me.

What I was really afraid of was myself. I’ve been meditating for years but what if I had been fooling myself? What if I’ve been doing it wrong and would somehow make an idiot of myself at the retreat? What if my brain breaks and I lose my shit? What if my back hurts and I can’t sit still? What if it’s obvious that I’m a fraud?

OH! The self-loathing! And the shame! And the fear and self-doubt!

But I did it anyway and it turns out none of those crazy things I was afraid of happened. My back did hurt. And I cried. And I couldn’t sit still sometimes. But I discovered that the exact same thing was happening to the 95 or so other people that were there. Even more interesting, they were going through the same fears and doubts!

meditation retreat

Without talking, without even exchanging names, I felt this incredible sense of community and belonging with other people. I felt safe and I found this sense of internal space and expansion that I’ve never experienced before.

I walked out feeling RELIEVED. Relieved that it was only seven days (avoiding eye contact and not saying “thank you” when someone holds a door for you is tough even for an introvert!) but mostly relieved that something had lifted from my heart. Something that I didn’t even realize was there until I was free from it.

Transformation isn’t an overnight phenomenon. I’ve been working on myself for a REALLY long time and know that it will always be a work in progress. The retreat was something that came along at exactly the right time. (ever heard the saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear?”)

If I’d gone on this retreat a few years ago, I may not have had a positive experience. But I was ready.

And it was good.

I’m hooked now, too! Vacations are really nice, but silence is golden. 🙂

If you’re interested in more about retreats, I put together a Frequently Asked Questions post. Click HERE to give it a read!

♥ Silently yours,

All my Best! Steph

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