Our day of silence at the Dharma Bum Temple was something I didn’t know I needed. About two weeks before it, I went to a music festival and lost my voice for 3 days and it was completely gone, except for the tiniest faintest squeak. I found it unbearable to be forced into quietness so when it came to our retreat, I assumed it would find it uncomfortable.
How wrong I was.
Silence came much easier than I expected it to. I think the difference was that this time I was choosing to be silent, which meant I was doing it with intention and an open mind. This time I was prepared to embrace silence whereas its unexpected arrival after the music festival had left me irritated, clouding my ability to appreciate it.
Still, to choose to be without voice was an unfamiliar feeling, yet calming in its simplicity. Life in today's world means we’re always doing, thinking, processing, exerting, and being occupied. We’re constantly exposed to noises, loud and quiet, from chatter to car engines, to someone tapping a pencil on a desk and our brains process every one of them whether we want it to or not.
I feel that this noise inhibits us, and distracts our minds from parts of thought that are only visible in silence. So, choosing to omit my own noise from all that chaos felt like a significant release of weight. Kind of like removing that one, seemingly insignificant, piece of the Jenga tower only for it to affect the whole thing.
Along with that release, I felt a tangible stillness in myself, in others, and in the space around me, that seemed (at that moment) more profound than physical stillness. It stayed with me even as I moved during working meditation and touched a source of deep and pure calmness that I want to keep with me forever.
I won't say that my mind was clear and calm the whole time because truthfully there were moments where my thoughts were running a mile a minute. I won’t say that I had a transcendent experience, or that I suddenly understand the meaning of life. But I will say that I left with a feeling that if I continued to practice this silence for a long time I would reach untouched levels of thought, and that’s an exciting prospect for me.
Here's to more silence, stillness, and clarity in the future :)
- Emily Shapiro, Fall 2022 Delta Beta Tau Pledge Class, SDSU Students