The Not-So-Silent Silent Retreat (Retreating into Silence, post 4 of 10)
Day One, morning one… the Silence was Golden. We sat, silently. We dined, silently. We sat some more, silently. And some more. We dined again, silently. And we sat again, silently. And then mid-day came our first group share opportunity. This felt like the most challenging part for me. Talking with others about my experiences, which i hadn’t even quite puzzled out myself yet? The entries in my journal were raw, unedited, unpolished.
We broke into two small groups for this optional share. I was in Linda’s group that first day. I wondered what kinds of things people would bring up. I flipped through my journal and listened to Linda explain how this would work. You may talk about your meditation experience, or your reflections on it… reading from your journal, or not. Any passage or passages that you wish to share. Or not. There was no requirement. Although there was an expectation that at least one person would share. I waited, hesitant…curious.
A woman went first. Her journal entry from one of her morning sits. It had to do with contemplating Sukha and Dukkha and there were profound questions she pondered during her sit.
Well, then… no softball opening here, I suppose! A few more read passages from their journals. After each, Linda asked questions, often about how the body was feeling during the actual sit, or what else was recalled, or associated. There was an art to the way Linda listened intently, actively, patiently… then delicately asked specific questions which seemed to unlock greater insight for each individual.
Eventually I work up the nerve. “I’ll go,” I offer. Eyes turn to me, intent, waiting. I flip to the start of my journal entry from the morning’s first sit. I read aloud. I described an image that I experienced in my sit, for which I couldn’t quite find the words. I drew it. “See? Here is it,” I tipped my page towards Linda whose interest seemed so pure, so genuine.. it spurred me on. I read some more. I feel my cheeks grow a bit hot. Linda asks me some questions. I at once loved engaging in this exploration, and I hated it, and wanted it to be over. When I had hit upon a concept of the need to message my stories just so, my role of “the narrator,” Linda inquired, “Do I know whom I am narrating to?”
This gave me pause. All the little stories that I craft. Who are they for, anyway? Is it a specific person, an audience, a reader, the world? I honestly couldn’t answer… but i felt a thread… there was a tug of a thread, and I wanted to pull it and see where it led.
At the end of the group share, we retreated into silence. I couldn’t help but notice that more was said of depth, of importance, in about an hour with a group of strangers than in a typical day. To be more precise, that maybe *I* had shared more in this hour than I do in a typical day, or maybe even a week. I smiled. Who could have guessed that it would take a week away from home on a silent retreat to rediscover my voice.