A Journey into Silence
This was my first silent retreat, so I didn’t have much of a game plan for the silence filled weekend ahead. Little did I know, I was in for a roller coaster of emotions and another healing transformative experience.
I love road trips because it gives me plenty of time to sing my lungs out to my Spotify Playlist, Traveling Bhakti. (Click the link to check it out and feel free to follow! I update it regularly with new tracks as I find them.)
The drive down to Hope Springs was only a few hours from me and I arrived little early. I took some time to unpack and then took a little hike to take in the sights. This place is so serene and magnetic. The grounds are laid out in such a way that it feels like it has been here forever. There are rustic farm houses, cabins, tepees and a labyrinth within the walking trails of the mountain. After I made a loop around the path, it was time to head back to the studio for our first class. After that, there was dinner and then it was time to turn off the cell phone, hit the mat, and begin the silent journey!
Our agenda for the weekend was:
- and most importantly..Silence!
Being social takes all of my attention.
In the first few hours, we were able to speak with our companions before we began our silence. We learned so much about each other in this time, and it was so joyful to get to know so many other people that had the same interests as me. We talked so much, that I barely remember what we ate for dinner! Looking back during our silence, I remember every single moment much clearer without the chatter. I remember the taste, texture, smell of each bite of food. I remember each delicious swig of tea, each howl of the wind, each breath swirling in and out of my lungs.
My fears have no control over me if I just face them.
We started the evening with sharing about ourselves in the group. We had a restorative Asana practice followed by a partner Pranayama practice. It felt nice to connect with someone before we were to start our silence. It really felt like everyone was there to support each other during our upcoming journey. We then gathered in a circle and all gave our last words into the space and began our silence with one beautiful community Om.
For the last 10 years I have had a condition called Dysmenorrhea, or extremely painful periods. So, of course, guess who shows up right after our silence began? Yep, good ole’ Aunt Flo. Usually when this happens, I sound the horns and bunker down on the couch with my pain pills, just waiting for the earth shattering pain to begin. But now here, how will I manage to stay silent through the pain? I began to panic, and retired to bed early with my thoughts racing, wishing I could talk about it with someone.
I hardly slept that night in fear of what was going to happen. Each morning, our teacher, Becky, would sweetly chant mantra outside our doors to wake us for the day. I rolled out of bed and went out for our morning class, a mix of Pranayama, Meditation and Asana. As I was waking up and getting moving, the pain started to begin.
In our sitting meditation, I realized this. I could be afraid and retreat to my bedroom and ride out the pain, or I could show up and befriend my pain. Sit with it. Stop running from it. I stuck with the group, shut my eyes, and made a pact that if there is anything in this world that I was going to do, is to just sit. Just sit here and breathe and send love to myself. So I did. And eventually, the pain faded to the background and I made it through.
I remember the taste, texture, smell of each bite of food. I remember each delicious swig of tea, each howl of the wind, each breath swirling in and out of my lungs.
It’s really hard to contain joy!
After I realized I had made it through my painful episode I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! How I have been trying to run from this for so long. I have been trying hide from it, instead of to be with it. And it just made so much sense, all I wanted to do was share this with everyone around me. This was monumental! Since we were still in silence, I realized that telling everyone around me wouldn’t change the beauty of what had happened. It wouldn’t validate it or make it more real. So, to save from busting out in yells of joy, I decided to sit outside and meditate on the front steps for a while. This is one of my most cherished memories.
I have a LOT of internal chatter.
I have never noticed just how much talking I do with myself. Thoughts about everything. Preparing for the next moment, thinking about what other people are thinking, thinking about why I am thinking, thinking about everything.
This really came up for me during meal times in silence. At first, our meals felt awkward and strange. The silence made it feel as if we were all upset with each other, or like we were all in trouble! As I relaxed and after a few meals in silence, I felt these worries melt away. The food was amazing! It was hard not to compliment the chef on how delicious everything was.
The thoughts really quieted down once I put my creative mind to use during our Art Expression time. I decided to illustrate the breath from my prospective. One for the in breath, one for the out breath. It was comforting to have a hands on sensory experience after so much silence and meditation.
The rest of the evening was spent with gentle Asana and meditation. I felt so much calm. A rainstorm had blown in and the pitter patter of rain kept us all company during our silence. Since I spend so much time singing mantras with my Bhakti playlist, I noticed how much the mantra is playing in the background of my thoughts. While I was sinking into the rhythm of the silence, I also longed to chant and sing.
By Sunday morning, being silent had tuned me into each activity with such appreciation that it really took on a sense of complete and total devotion to whatever I was doing. When I would show up to class, there was nothing else that I had to think about doing. No where else I had to be but with my practice. It was so relieving to know that I could be fully present without any other obligations or worries. I also felt a sort of safety with my group, that we had experienced this journey together, completely supported by each other.
When the silence was over…
After we savored our last moments in silence with our last classes and meal of the retreat, we indulged in pouring our hearts out for a few hours about each of our experiences. It was extremely challenging for some, easy for a few, and almost everyone had a profound experience. During our discussion, I learned that the land that Hope Springs was constructed on is blessed with vortexes of energy. Each building was placed in a specific spot to be aligned with them. Guess where I decided to unroll my mat for the weekend? Right under the vortex.
I really hope to find myself in the captivating inquisition of Mauna again someday and will carry bits of this journey with me forever. I have learned to treat myself with more self care and acceptance, find joy and take space for myself and for the others around me.
Check out more about Hope Springs Institute here!