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10 Days of Self-Imposed Silence

By nauxxlov | onajourney | 23 May 2020

Equanimity. Detachment.   

This was back in May 2019. I was suffering from burnout and decided to take a few months' breather from work. The 10-day Vipassana Meditation Retreat was one of my to-dos. Going into it, I knew it was not going to be a walk in the park. In fact, there would be minimal walking! Still, I was excited to find out how I would fare in those 10 days. 

 There were several precepts to follow during the retreat: abstinence from killing, stealing, telling lies, all sexual activity, and any intoxicants. Those were not hard to follow, considering the contained environment and rigid schedule. What would be hard for most people, I imagine, would be the total cut-off from all forms of communication. No speaking, gesturing, writing, eye contact. Oh and did I mention, you had to surrender your mobile phone on the first day.

Surprisingly the lack of communication was something I adjusted to pretty easily. As an introvert, I preferred keeping to myself anyway. Being free of the obligation to communicate gave a sense of freedom and lightness.

On to the really tough parts - Sitting, focusing, long hours. Combined.  It was a full-time job without the tangible benefits.

For the first 6 days, I could hardly sit for 15 minutes without getting distracted or feeling pain. Focus on the breath, we were taught. Learn to be equanimous, it was drummed into us. Theoretically, yes I got it. Realistically, it was hard to put into practice.

Finally, as I accepted my situation and pain, along with my body getting used to the hours, I managed to sit for a full straight hour. Rejoice! Then I had to learn to detach from the sense of accomplishment.

So it went for the rest of the 10 days. There were days I did well. Days I regressed. Perfectly normal and totally fine. The lesson, I think, was not to be attached to the emotions or outcomes. Attachment causes craving or aversion which in turn causes suffering. Much of the suffering we feel are self-inflicted.

Post-retreat, I made a decision to practise meditation daily. Sadly, it is not yet a habit. Still, the retreat was a one-of-its-kind experience and I just might go for it again. 

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