Often we think that we are relaxing our bodies and at the same time, our minds, but if you are anything like me my mind is also full of ideas, replaying conversations had and planning future chats. My first real experience of internal silence was during my yoga teacher training. After a gentle 48 hours of introduction to the other students, the beautiful surroundings and the daily routine we were invited to enter into silence. Handing over my mobile phone felt like an incredible luxury, turning inwards and getting used to no noise seemed more unsettling.
The night before the silence started I had a conversation with my roomy and we shared our anxieties about the days ahead...what if something strange comes up in my thoughts, what if my emotions go really up, or really down, what if I just crave human interaction? Over the next four days, I experienced many of these thoughts but I also discovered a sense of comfort with being in silence and a longing to create more of the same.
It was reassuring to know that we were all in the same situation and able to be mindful of each other's space. My journal from those days is filled with observations of the beauty that I observed around me, how delicious the breakfast tasted and the coffee smelt, the views from the hillside and the feel of fresh air on my skin. Trying to separate out my thoughts from the past, present and the future really helped, and I started to realise I waste a lot of energy and time thinking about things that haven't even happened yet. The sense of presence and gratitude grew over time. That is not to say that I also didn't experience some unusual thoughts and memories rising. I could suddenly remember a song from a school show I was in at the age of 10 and a person I used to sit with on the train to college. When thoughts like these arose, I tried to laugh (internally) and not spend time analysing why they had suddenly come to the forefront of my mind.
Allowing myself to experience true silence seemed to make space for my other senses to shine. The colours around me were brighter, noises in nature more shrill and plentiful and the coffee started to taste incredible! Dreaming was a strange experience with some very vivid dream states, thankfully I didn't write much about these in my journal but I do remember feeling quite unsettled by them. Eventually, these also settled as my mind become more used to not thinking as much. A tidal wave of emotions came on day 3 and although strange it also felt great to have tears and not have to explain to anyone why, after all, I didn't really know myself.
Breaking the silence was an intense experience, we practised a beautiful dragon dance yoga sequence then a deep meditation and the emotions flowed again, tears streaming down my face and complete relaxation of my body to the point I was shaking. It felt like I had woken up from a long long sleep and I would have been happy for more. The pause from noise gave me a renewed sense of calm and purpose about how to expend my energy and how to control my thoughts and be conscious of my words. The connections to my dear friends around me felt so special and unique and paved the way for some wonderful conversations over the next three weeks.
Although I would certainly recommend spending time at a silent retreat, I realise this might not be feasible for everyone. What is easier is to wake in silence and spend time appreciating the first hour of the day. Take time to be mindful about each step of your routine and try to allow your mind and body to benefit from a moment of stillness. If possible, tell others around you that you are creating a moment for yourself, maybe even encourage them to join you. Appreciate the coffee and all the good things in life.
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