Silence and Solitude
When was the last time you spent time alone? By alone I mean no cell phone, television, or computer in sight, no people around, just you, enjoying your own company. With all the technology in our lives, it seems absurd to be out of reach for more than 24 hours. So when do we ever really get time to ourselves?
Among the most amazing things in our lives, aside from delicious food of course, are the people we love. We want to be around them any chance we get to kiss, cuddle, and hug. So why would anyone in their right mind choose to be alone? Solitude is not a lonely thing, rather it is quite empowering. Solitude is a time to grow and discover things about ourselves we my have never known. Solitude is a time for our hearts to grow fonder of the wonderful things in our lives. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. Solitude is a time for creative insight, a time to listen to the heart and all it has to share. Solitude is a time to take a break from the hustle and bustle to really reflect on life. Reflect in such a way that we are not influenced by anyone or anything around us.
I’ve traveled around the world solo and have spent a good amount of time in solitude, usually for only a few hours at the most because I can’t help talking to new people I meet. Tomorrow, however, will be the longest stretch of solitude I will probably ever encounter, and I’m actually excited about it.
Tomorrow, February 12, 2014, I will embark on a 10-day silent meditation retreat called Vipassana. This is the third time I’ve applied, and I was finally accepted. Ten days of silence and solitude unreachable by phone, email, and conversation. For those who know me, this may seem impossible because I can talk to a wall, but believe it or not, this is something I have been craving to do.
I’m a fan of shocking the reality we think constitutes the life we live, aka pushing boundaries and stepping out of our comfort zones. We become enslaved by certain ideas and behaviors that have been imprinted on us since birth; it’s not anyone’s fault, that’s just the way it has been for centuries. So why not shake things up? When we are born, we are blank slates, we don’t even know the names of our parents, and we just trust that we are being infused with love along every step of our development. The perpetuation of prejudices, hate, war, separation, division, and all that is anti-love, however, has been taught to us. Via new, eye-opening experiences that take us beyond what we think we know, we begin breaking down the blueprints we have been conditioned to learn in terms of what life is “expected” and “supposed” to be like. We then begin to see the truth for ourselves. We begin to decide the type of life we want to live, and then we can choose to make it happen.
Vipassana means “seeing things as they really are.” It is India’s most ancient meditation technique, taught more than 2500 years ago as a remedy to create peace and harmony in our lives. This is not a religious practice by any means but rather a skill set we can learn to control the mind. The mind governs our feelings and our actions. Have you ever looked back and cringed at any past behaviors or things you have said or texted? If we can learn to control the mind, we can cease to be reactive, dissolve the ego, and stop apologizing for our ridiculous behaviors. Perception is reality. So by shifting our perception, we shift our reality. When we are in control, we are able to observe our emotions as an outsider looking in and they no longer enslave us, which results in a more pleasant life experience.
I have no idea what the meditation technique will entail; however, I do know that I will be meditating for almost 12 hours a day. The act of not talking or writing or expressing myself in anyway for 10 days will be a very profound and I’m sure it will even drive me mad at some point. We tend to rely on the synergy of our senses to create the experience around us. Often times, however, we don’t fully receive the environment around us when we become dependent on the interaction of our senses. When you see an orange you already have a preconceived notion about the orange so you don’t even really smell the sweetness anymore. Compare that to being blind folded and eating an orange, the taste and the smell somehow become more alive and enhanced. The same holds true for choosing to be silent, we tend to hear more the less we talk. As someone who has a propensity to talk, I’ve recently decided to attempt to do the opposite, talk less and listen more. When there is no expectation to talk, you hear more, and not just verbally. Listening and really hearing a person beyond words is an important skill I’ve learned to use when I am coaching and working with clients. I learn more about people and my environment this way.
I can’t wait to share my experience. In the interim, attempt to take some time for yourself away from the demands of life and work, and disconnect from technology for a few hours. Go for a walk in nature or just be with yourself in solitude and silence. Listen, and see what comes up.