Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘silent retreat’

All things have a ripple effect.

I think I was born a sound-sensitive individual.  For as long as I can remember, I have been able to hear a pin drop from what feels like nine miles away, and that’s with earplugs jammed inside my head.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  As a Yoga therapist, I am grateful for the ability to hear the subtleties of my students’ breathing.  It tells me they’re in distress or at ease when their words speak the opposite.  But it sure does make sleeping and, sometimes, even making my way through this busy world a bit of a challenge.

It’s this noise sensitivity and my introverted nature that draws me to the practice of silent retreats.  No speech for days.  No books.  No phones, iPods, magazines, journals.  Nothing.  Just the very intimate practice of sitting, day in and day out, breathing and moving mindfully with others.  My teacher, Dr. N. C. once said during a training session that there is no pure stillness where there’s life.  I would add to this that there is no pure silence for as long as there is life.

Think about this – there is always noise.  As I sit here typing this, I hear the blue jays screeching in the backyard.  I can hear the squirrel’s nails on the tree trunk as it climbs down with two walnuts stuffed into its face.  There is the fan running inside this computer, and the ticking of the keys as I type.  Cars move endlessly on the busy street behind me.  And my breath moves in and out.  In life, there is no-silence. We can’t change that.  But we can certainly take steps to refine the quality of the noise we make.

While in the depths of retreat silence, I began to understand more and more how we disturb one another, often without meaning to.  There are fire doors at each entrance to each floor of the retreat centre.  Big, heavy pieces of metal and glass, they make quite the racket as they slam shut behind anyone who wanders through.  At day 2 1/2 of the retreat, when the experience of not speaking became very real for us and the mind started to kick up a fuss, I could see how even silent distraction led to increased noise.  Those fire doors slammed endlessly, no one seeming to want to take the extra seconds required to hold the door so that it swung shut quietly.  Who cares, right?  It’s only a door.  We have places to go, anyway.

Who cares?  Our friends who are battling headaches. Our scared friends whose frayed nerves cause them to jump at the slightest sound.  The ones trying to sleep in their rooms right beside the doors.

It always matters.

The young lady next to me, increasingly contracted into herself in what seemed to be an attempt at disappearing, would energetically scream outward as her arm flung across the face of her neighbour in the dining hall, groping for a serviette, and disturbing her neighbour’s hand-to-mouth eating movement. The heavily tattooed woman in the flimsy tops revealed to us her story-symbols on her skin.  The constant squealing of my nostril as I worked through my pranayama (breathing) practice spoke to the congestion that would never leave me alone.

We are never not speaking.


While on retreat, I become quite obsessed with deer.  Inevitably, as I walk slowly and mindfully along the property trails, I come across these majestic creatures.  This last retreat was no different.

I was trudging along, making my way through the final hike of the retreat, when I came across deer tracks in the mud (No, the photo above isn’t mine.  🙂 ).  That was it.  My mind got excited and I began following the tracks in the hopes of having a bonding moment with Bambi.  I was hooked, meaning I was no longer being mindful of where I was or what I was doing.  I was craving an experience and that held my entire focus. That craving, plus a minor back injury, led to sloppy and loud movement.  Crashing along the trail, rustling leaves, snapping branches, and heaving breath, I had no idea that I was being observed.  All I could see was my own want, my own desire.  It never occurred to me that there was any other perspective, that there was anything outside of me.  But there was, and it was the very thing I craved.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of movement.  The very deer I had hoped to see were running away from me.  All of my crashing around had scared them; my desire and the “blindness” that came with it had driven them away.  But that’s not what really struck me.  What was profound about that moment was how those long-legged animals could leap away, over and through fallen trees and piles of leaves, without making a sound.  It was the split second visual of them running away that captured my attention, but I heard nothing.  Here I was a much smaller creature on two legs, crashing through the woods and making enough noise for 500 people, and these animals soared away as if on wings.

In that moment, the lesson came home to me – We are always communicating, even if we stop using words.

I want to be as quiet and self-contained as the deer.  I want to be part of my environment without blasting through my environment.  As much as possible, I want to exist here without being a disruptive intrusion to the others around me.  Because you and your peace matter just as much as me and mine.

It matters.


Coming back to the here and now, it is much quieter than when I first started.  The bird calls have temporarily settled.  The rush hour frenzy of traffic has come to an end.  There is a soft breeze in the trees but it’s barely a whisper.  And still we speak, interconnected beings on this planet, together at this time.  My breath, moving in and out, becomes a story to the rabbit eating leaves in the yard.  Like the wind and the water and the fire, we can roar and activate, or we can calm and soothe.  We are never truly silent.

In this moment, and then the next, and the next, what story are you telling the world around you?

It matters.

In peace,

Tabitha

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: