The idea of silence, of silent retreats tends to elicit similar responses in a lot of folks…”What? Complete silence?! I could never do that”.
What is it about the quietness that can draw such strong aversion in us? What would happen if the everyday familiar noises we are all so accustomed to, conversations, TV, traffic, personal devices suddenly weren’t there anymore? What WOULD we be underneath it all?
Maybe this is the root of it, silence can be such an unfamiliar and unknown experience that we find ourselves silently fearing the unknown in us were we to dispense with the clamour.
With our lives often filled to brimming with activity: paid work, housework, shopping, hobbies it can sometimes feel like we are even cramming in social visits with family and friends, squeezing in ‘me’ time and holidays into any available gaps in our schedules.
What on earth WOULD we do if we are not doing all this?!
I’m not going to lie, the first five-day silent retreat I went on was one of the most challenging choices I have ever made, mainly due to the incongruity between my external life activities and my authentic self at the time, but it was a choice that was pivotal in changing my life for the better.
By the time of my second silent retreat a couple of years later I had consciously shifted in my life. I’d had time to grieve a double bereavement in our family, left the stressful job, ended the toxic relationship, moved into my own home and was carving a path more attuned to my authentic self. The second retreat…was… BLISS.
Last week as I prepared for my third silent retreat, I noticed resistance arising:-
“Will I get bored?”
“I should be working”
“Other people will think I am lazy”
“I will think I am lazy” (ugh…even worse!)
By now though the deeper part of me knows to ignore all of this, to surrender to the magnetic pull of my heart toward the sanctity of bathing in a simple and peaceful existence, if only for a few days.
Gandhi sums it up when he observes "in the attitude of silence, the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into a crystal clearness".
In the silence here I am. A clearer sense of me, greater clarity to know myself, just as I am. The minutes of my life unfolding at my pace, in my way with each present moment. And in this space a life sized sigh of relief just to be. Within my being a glimpse of my shy and under nourished intuition, my inner guide calling for me to listen to the whispers of my own heart.
We all make sense of our own worlds in our own way but when we are able to move beyond our fears to sense into our own silence, we get the chance to reconnect with our own intuition, to guide it back to join the counsel of all our other faculties at the helm.