It was the spring of 2017, I boarded a plane to Nicaragua a country I never even thought of. I was about to silence my mind and my mouth for a week. Six days of no reading, writing or eye contact in a remote location. There were no places to walk to and browse local shops. That’s not what we were there for anyway, but if we wanted an escape there wasn’t any. We were there to go within our own selves and see what was there. That‘s a lot to ask a woman born and raised in New York, typical type A personality that thrives off of checking off her to do list everyday.
I’m the kind of girl that’s the life of the party, dancing on table tops and striking up conversations while waiting on the line at the grocery store. My friends feared over how I’d get through this and honestly I felt the same way. Although the minute the email fell into my inbox I knew I had to do this. As I arrived at the airport, I met up with a few fellow students I had become friendly with, but didn’t quite know too well. Previously I’ve been taking some very traditional Buddhist classes in the East Village. Many of these people had been taking classes for years before I started. Two planes, a small layover and an hour and a half ride and I finally arrived. The place was beautiful and sat on a lagoon made by a volcanic eruption 400 years prior.
A huge storm had just passed through before we arrived. We all joked that Mother nature knew the New Yorkers were arriving. That night we settled in our rooms and the next morning we had a few hours to ourselves. We prepped for a very traditional Buddhist ritual that’s done before entering retreat. It involved making treats out of white bread and milk for deities, chanting mantras, sealing the four corners of the retreat center for protection. We spent some time writing down the things we wanted to embrace in our lives and other things we wanted to let go of. As we sat together around a bomb fire along side the lagoon each of us threw in our papers one by one. All of our electronics were collected and unavailable for us to use until the retreat was over in six days. We were now completely disconnected. If actually felt like a relief, no email to check, texts to reply to or voicemails to call back. No Facebook posts, Instastories or selfies, it was just us now.
Every morning we were woken up by the simple ringing of a bell. We had 15 minutes to get ready for two and a half hours of early morning yoga and meditation. We began with 15 minute meditations and lengthened them each day. By the end of the retreat we were able to sit for an hour and a half. Morning yoga and meditation were followed by a delicious vegan breakfast followed by a small break, meditation again then Lunch, ‘free time’ from 12:00 to 4:00 every day, our options were swimming, napping or a massage because we couldn’t talk frankly there was nowhere to go.
From 4:00 to 5:30pm our Yoga Teacher Coco instructed us on a special series called lady Naguma that moved your inner fire upwards. We ate dinner in silence, had amazing raw vegan desserts that comforted me through the whole retreat and ended our nights with meditation and a Dharma talk. My teacher Hector guided us through the same meditation daily. It was a challenging meditation that at times was extremely hard for me. I remember opening my eyes after every meditation I would glance around and everyone looked so comfortable and peaceful. I on the other hand had a leg that always fell asleep and bugs swarming around and seemed to never leave me alone. We had a small amount of time after for ourselves but, I always went right to sleep. I spent so much time sleeping, enjoying the Sun and really allowing my body to relax, it’s something everyone needs to incorporate into their lives.
The evening of day six is when our phones, tablets and computers were returned to us. I enjoyed the peace so much I didn’t want it back so soon. I could have easily gone another few days. What I got out of my six days in silence has stayed with me to this very day. My dreams became so lucid, at one point I would wake up wondering which one was reality. My awareness grew by leaps and bounds. I was fully aware of the noise around me and all of the mindless tasks I had always kept myself busy with. Staying busy became a thing of the past and my life & actions became very intentional. My awareness around what I was doing and why became so clear. I love stillness and quiet time. I had always been the person who fell asleep with the TV on, drove around with the music blasting. I now value sitting in my living room with tea and just being still, enjoying the quietness. Because what I found out is that stillness is powerful. It invokes insightful ideas that have helped guide me in my business & the advocacy work I do.
My compassion grew and my criticism towards others & myself lessened. Although they haven’t diminished I have cultivated enough awareness not to feed these thoughts but allow them to float out of my mind the same way they floated in. Six days of silence evoked these things but, my daily practice keeps them going. There was a time silence seemed scary and intimidating, it has now become my greatest ally. Silence is where my peace resides and ideas and insight are sparked. I wonder what six days of silence could do for you.
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