Ceasing speech for 10 days
I’d been wanting to do this one for a while. I originally intended it as a consciousness exercise in learning to take a back seat and better listen to others, hearing them on different levels that I didn’t usually pay attention to.
That didn’t end up being strong enough to commit me to the project.
When it actually came time, I was in a place where I needed to simply hear myself. I’d been going and going and running around and traveling and working working working for many months and felt like I’d lost my ability to get off the wheel. It was an experiment done in the hopes of pulling the brakes up short and regaining an ability to breathe in my world.
The desert. On a beach. In a little pop-up hippie village.
Some of the beach folk understood what I was doing to be Vipassana meditation. Never having heard the term before, I looked it up for clarification:
Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art of Living.
~ Definition from Dhamma.org
Vipassana retreats, which are organized 10 day silence and meditation retreats, are done by people around the world. As I understand it, the point is to lock in and observe the thoughts going through our heads in order to get some insight into what’s actually going on behind the scenes, be able to see things as they are. And through that, connect body, mind and spirit.
Day 1: Not very eventful. I’m very glad I’m in an environment that allows for and supports this kind of space. I did notice I was able to better observe my interactions with others and speak louder by not speaking, perhaps because my actions or motions all had to be very intentional.
Day 2: It feels like a gradual meditation is creeping up on me. Passive but I can feel its depth. I think I’m a little afraid. I wonder why. So far I’m very much enjoying the space dedicated all to me. I’ve been mostly keeping to myself and focusing on trying to observe my thoughts without interfering with them.
Day 3: There’s always something about 3. This was the hardest day yet. I think this is the day my thoughts realized I was watching them and began to rebel. The white static noise in my head became unbearable. Perhaps mirroring the noise around me, being the weekend and all, then again perhaps just yelling for my attention. I tried walking it off, to no avail. The frustrating part was having it all be a babble of noise, like a huge crowded party, but no actual words to pick out. I believe I had one coherent string of words run through my head today. One! I remember because it was so exciting to have finally made some sense up there.
Day 4: It quieted down around here which seems to have done me some good. I had the most beautiful joyous prayers this morning. Being that prayers and blessings are the only things crossing my lips these days, I’ve been quite deliciously relishing in them. I thought very much on the subject of speech and how perhaps we have the need for expression fundamentally to validate who we are, identifying ourselves with out thoughts and feelings. But this isn’t so. We are far more expansive than just simply the sum of our experiences.
I am also quite enjoying the flow of creativity and music/song that’s pouring more strongly through me.
Day 5: Sometime after sunset last night, I was playing harp to myself in my tent, when suddenly a voice just outside asked what kind of instrument I was playing. It caught me by so much surprise that I found the word “harp” escape my lips before I even knew it. I pondered this bothersome slip afterwards. It felt as if the word had been drawn from me without my consent. As I pondered, it finally sunk in that THIS is what it means to react- to be a reactor rather than an actor. The difference lies in conscious choice, a decision to respond (to a situation or person) rather than allow sub-conscious programming to run its course.
Then it went downhill. Fast…
By day 6 I’d stopped taking notes. My head had begun to ache and spin from the noise within. By day 7 I was running a high fever and had begun to sink into some sort of delirium. I thought maybe this was the wall I needed to get past before peace broke clear inside and so I trudged onward. But by the end of that day, with my fever steadily rising, through pure necessity if nothing else, I reluctantly ended this experiment. And when I finally spoke, my fever broke (as did so many dams and tears that had been building up inside).
Why do I still bring forth this experiment to share if I didn’t end up completing it?
Because not all experiments are destined to run their course to have finished. And not all experiments are destined to succeed. Which isn’t to say they’ve failed. Because success is not always measured by a bar of completion. Sometimes it’s measured through lessons learned. Sometimes it’s measured by what the experience held for you. And sometimes it’s just measured by a decision to make it a success in exactly what it is.
There were many valuable lessons I took and still hold from my week of silence.
What I learned wasn’t that I needed to get quieter as I initially intended, no, I nearly imploded doing that (literally the inner pressure heated to a mad high fever. Like a mini pressure cooker I was). What came home in me was a need to get LOUDER, not quieter, and that I needed to learn to speak!
Sometimes we think we need one thing when we actually need the direct opposite. We tend toward deepening our own extremes because they’re what we know, they’re what we do well. This experiment was comfortable for me to do. It was interesting, but not so extreme for an already quieter person.
Now, as I’m learning to do the opposite and discover a voice, I’m finding it to be a much more difficult task than I would have ever guessed. Moving beyond our comfort zones is not the usual go-to option, if ya know what I’m sayin.
But looking carefully, we can always accurately identify where our comfort zone ends by what we’re shying away from, procrastinating with, pouring endless amounts of energy into avoiding. These are the points of discomfort, and these are the points of possible expansion and growth.
You know this. I say nothing new. But sometimes it’s good to hear it again to remind us to be a little more honest with how much we’re actually exploring new growth, expansion, and depth.
If you have the time, space, and will to go in and face the intensity of your own inner realms, I’d say go for it. I believe it can give one of the most accurate readings on where you’re holding inside, what your needs look like, and how to press your own reset buttons. It’s one of the most hardcore mental detoxes I currently know of.
Vipassana Retreats offer wonderful guidance if you’d like to do this trip with a group and more comfortable accommodations than what I chose. I’ve heard many good things from people who have gone this route.
Namaste sweet friends. Enjoy the journey!