I’m back from my silent retreat and still feeling its calming effects a few weeks later.
I loved Costa Rica! Once I got used to the lizards in my bedroom and driving 20 miles an hour on dirt roads, without seeing a soul or sign for miles! It was so refreshingly rugged. Wild nature, fresh organic food, the ocean and of course much silence…a deeply nourishing experience. It also highlighted the necessity for me to bring more nature into my life now that I’m back in the city. Thankfully I live near Central Park. Yet I’ll admit most of the time I go there with my earphones on. No more. I’m committed to being more present to the nature around me, actually looking, listening, connecting. What a difference it makes in how I feel afterward. I’ve begun to feel that Nature is watching me as much as I am watching it. Its solid presence a soothing balm for my soul, leading me back to the experience of silence within.
It turns out that experiencing silence is very different from being quiet. Our teacher pointed that out at the start of the retreat and it became obvious to me as the week unfolded. One is a state of being, the other a practice. But could the practice of being quiet lead to the experience of silence?
On the spiritual path, it often takes practices to bring us back to the experience of our innate spiritual nature.
Practices are conscious, deliberate and usually require effort. Until they don’t. You may practice being compassionate, patient, generous, but gradually, in the subtlest way, find yourself naturally being compassionate, patient or generous. The practice slowly morphs into a natural way of being where you no longer have to remember to act a certain way and instead embody those very qualities you were previously practicing. That’s the value of spiritual practices. They guide us back to a felt and effortless experience of our higher nature. And so it is with silence, the kind of silence out of which all sounds emerge, the ground of your Being. But how exactly do you get there?
Spring is around the corner and your focus is probably on physical detox. Great. Perfect timing. But a true detox is not complete without a mental detox. I see the practice of being quiet as such. A mental detox practice.
That said, not talking at all for extended periods of time can seem radical. Especially if you’re a chatter box! In order to taste silence, we first need to dial down the noise level. Here’s how.
#1 Turn off your cell phone. Electronic devices are top producers of mental noise. Do you really need to plug-in first thing in the morning?
#2 Practice precise and concise communication. Pay attention to your interactions with other talking beings. Whether in virtual or actual conversations, could you say what you have to say with fewer words? Allow for more silence before, after and in-between your words. Note: this also applies if you talk to yourself, as I do 🙂 There, I outed myself. I’ve always self-talk helped me find clarity. To a degree it still does. But only to a degree. Since I’ve come back from my retreat I realized that parts of my out-loud self-talks were useless chatter. So I’ve done away with the blah blah and it’s damn nice. I’m hoping this translates in my conversations with others. Don’t we speak so much to say so little, us humans.
#3 Spend time in Nature. No earphones. Be in nature as if you were it…because you are.
#4 Actually be silent. Bit by bit practice not talking for periods of time. A lovely way to begin or end the day.
Stick to those practices and don’t be surprised if you increasingly find yourself resting in silence. Not merely being silent, but being silence.
Wishing you a quietly soothing spring xo