I recently went on a Silent Meditation Retreat. I wasn’t allowed to talk, read, write, listen to music, do yoga, text, make eye contact - for 10 days. Why would I subject myself to this type of prison? Because I am in constant pursuit to understand who I am as a person on the deepest level. If I could figure that out by sitting cross legged in silence for 10 hours a day in a completely free, nonsectarian, and volunteer-run program, I will - and I did!
Below is a breakdown of my experience:
Day 0: Arrival Day
The daily schedule was intense: Wake up at 4am. Meditate for 10 hours (with appropriate breaks). Bed by 9:30p. Repeat. That night, we practiced a meditation that didn’t seem like a meditation at all. I hoped it was just a warm up.
We practiced the same meditation technique we learned the night before. Seriously? I immediately started to doubt the credibility of the entire program.
We practiced the same exact meditation technique. Again. All day! I was beyond frustrated. I continued to sit and meditate. My body hurt from sitting so long. I hated everyone around me. I experienced nonsensical, negative, hate-filled, maddening rage. At one point, I sought help from the teacher about the severity of my anger because I was genuinely concerned that I was going crazy.
We were asked to sit for one hour, three times a day, without moving. The first time I did this successfully, I felt like a complete badass. I walked out of the meditation room playing Beyonce’s “Hold Up” in my head and did my best catwalk. Yaas, I was on fire!
Halfway through Day 4 we were introduced to a new meditation. Finally! The first time I did the new technique, it felt like my entire body was flowing. The hair on my arms tingled. My legs felt like they were floating. My body was an ocean wave. Everything felt so magical.
During a meditation where I wasn’t supposed to move, I felt snot sliding out of my nose. It was so hard not to grab a tissue. I felt mucus drip down out of one of my nostrils onto my upper lip. It was cold, painful and almost shocking. That spot on my upper lip was exploding! What would someone think if they saw me right now? I’m the grossest human alive! Then suddenly, the snot sensation disappeared. I didn’t feel a thing. Was it even still there?
During the retreat, men and women were separated, but during breaks you could see some guys across a geese filled pond that separated us. Sometimes, I imagined they were in a Backstreet Boys video doing a choreographed dance. My mind did anything to entertain itself.
I motivated myself to stay seated longer and keep meditating. Sometimes I sat for an entire two and a half hours without moving.
The more I learned about how the meditation technique worked, the more I thought I was doing it wrong. At times, I convinced myself that I was actually making my life worse and that I’d walk out of this retreat with mental health issues.
We find out that the next day we could talk after the morning practice. I immediately think back to all the horrible things I thought about everyone and decide I am going to be the girl who doesn’t talk on the last day because I obviously have nothing nice to say.
Within 10 minutes of being able to talk, an overwhelming feeling of happiness took over me that almost brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t know it was possible to feel “change,” but I did.
One key thing that this experience taught me it’s that deep internal reflection and meditation works - even if you think you aren’t doing it right. My biggest insecurity is thinking, “I’m not doing this right” and “I’m not good enough.” What I learned in these ten days, is that no matter how much I spaced out, moved around, slept, and thought about leaving while I was trying to meditate, I was learning. I learned so much about myself that is beyond what I can comprehend. Change was happening, whether I noticed or not.
This was one of the most profound experiences of my life put into a short and sweet blog post. If you have any questions or want to talk more about it, let me know! Comment below or email me. Thanks for reading!