As promised just wanted to share some of my experiences of my 10 day silent retreat.
The retreat was held at a lovely art centre belonging to the Rudolph Steiner way, so it was peaceful and surrounded by nature, I arrived on Sunday night from attending a hectic and fantastic weekend on therapeutic yoga with the same teacherKumar from India. Loved the place from arriving, all the 26 participants seemed so helpful and friendly and had a lovely spacious room. I was set and ready for monday morning 8 am start.
On monday morning Kumar went through the instructions of what was about to happen, silence, this meant, no eye contact or sign language. If someone opens a door for you, no acknowledgment, no seeking to observe any flowers or trees or admire anything but keep your focus on going internally, this was not issue at all for me and very much welcomed by all. So after breakfast we started the silence officially. At first I was all ready to try out my new sitting balls, but soon as we starting meditating it became apparent that this system was not going to work, so then went to sitting on a blanket and blocks, the pain continued so next time I was in my room I took the extra blanket and the 2 pillows on my bed and went on to build my princess peas mattresses, but to no avail, even though I now needed a ladder to get on top of all my blocks, pillows, blankets, the pain continued, Kumar patiently kept repeating observe the discomfort and the pain, do not move, on about day 4 I got the message, no matter how many levels of mattresses I had, the pain was there for me to observe, the pain was not physical even though it was manifesting in my legs, sometimes in my shoulders and the worse one in my thighs, Kumar kept explaining that what we were experiencing was the accumulated samskaras (memories/impressions and accumulated memories in the form of chemicals reactions in our body). As the days progressed of getting up by 4.30am and getting to bed mostly by 10 pm but on occasion later, I started settling into my routine and space and finally beginning to settle the body into what Patanjali refers to " .Chitta vritti nirodha" chp1.s2 one of the many english translations is "The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga". And finally becoming still and being able to going inward, this is why the silence is essential as it allows us to remove ourselves from our daily lives and start to explore what lies within our selves, essentially our true nature. We were meditating on an average of 8 hours or so a day, a lot of sitting as princess pea. We did Asana and pranayama twice early morning and late afternoon, the asana practice was slow and held, this brought a whole lot of different feelings and judgments up, witnessing my thoughts was amazing to see how judging we are, we did various sun salutes with chanting for different organs each day, it was so lovely to do authentic yoga once again. The Pranayama sessions were quite intense and a real revelation, I learnt so much about breath. The watching of breath in the meditations we were doing a real eye opener as to how quickly mind goes off on a rampage and having to bring it back to focus on the present, beautiful inspirations took place but again had to remind myself to focus on the moment and not go on to create new ideas etc. Oh my crazy mind, please allow me to be free, sometimes I experienced deep sadness and other times what absolute bliss like I have never known and that remain more and more as the days progressed.
I have never experienced physical pain like this during meditations and at times wanting the meditation to be over soon so that I could move, as soon as we heard Kumar giving us blessing at the end of each session, you almost sighed with relief because any minute soon you would be able to move, it was amazing as soon as each session was over the pain miraculously disappeared, it was unbelievable at times, in the first days I actually thought I would not be able to participate much longer as I thought I would not be able to withstand the pain, but decided to take each moment as it came, each breath as it came and stayed with the retreat throughout.
We had two breaks of around 45 to 60 minutes, after breakfast at 8.30am and after lunch around 2.30pm, which Kumar insisted that we go rest or sleep so that we could stay awake throughout the meditations and stay alert - concentration requires enormous amounts of effort. We had very little sleep, it seemed every time we closed our eyes, I could hear Kumar's beautiful chants and blessings to us.
The meditations were based Patanjali's teachings and of course the Buddha, Kumar kept remind us to not react avoid reaction to any sensation that arises, reaction according to Kumar releases chemical reaction in our body which is what causes our personalities to be the way we are and act. Reaction was deeply instilled in my brain, at the beginning of the week as part of our retreat protocol of no speaking, no eye contact, no make up, no jewelry, no strong perfumes as our senses became quite acute, my hearing was amazing and keen sense of smell kicked in and the food smells of our meals were amazing. Simplicity is so beautiful (please Raquel remember this), as part of our rules, Kumar asked us to take a vow of non violence and to not kill anything whilst on the retreat and if we can in future too, with the "no reaction" instilled in my brain, on the 3rd day of the retreat on turning on my light when I woke up in the middle of the night, to my horror I saw a wasp sitting on my lamp shade, so by the next day I shared my room with 3 wasps throughout the course, this proved to be very challenging, but proud to say that the 4 of us resided peacefully throughout (more on reaction later).
The meditations were quite profound and often finding my body seemed impossible as it seemed that it dissolved, the retreat got easier as we went along. After dinner we had lecturers on yoga philosophy and how many works, Kumar seems to have endless amounts of energy and he seems to be enthusiastic and happy and patience no matter what time of day, but what stood out most about him was his kindness to us and how tolerant he is. I was asked to join him in India to assist him in February at his teacher training and I hope I can make this a reality.
Finally the last day was upon us, to our shock after the first session we broke silence, there was such a resistance and at our tea break none of us wanted to talk, but by the breakfast after our session, it sounded like a rock concert, wow, crazy........, when we returned to our sessions, meditating became a challenge again as our minds had gone crazy, but there is a lovely side to breaking silence, I got to know some of the people who attended, what an amazing bunch of people and so interesting all from different backgrounds, there was a couple from India, a girl from Spain and someone who came all the way from the USA to spend time with Kumar, amazing, some people have done more than 17 silent retreats, wow, as for me, I am looking forward to my next silent retreat. Kumar asked us to stay an extra night to integrate slowly into the world, at the time didn't think much about it and perhaps a little put out by it, but when I was hooted at, because I was driving not fast enough for someone and when looking at the speedometer, realised I was driving at 25 miles, I think I understood, I chose to stay home for the weekend and did not use my phone or had no desire to do emails, I felt so peaceful and calm and felt like I could see my life clearly, that feeling of optimism has stayed with me and the real test came when I then went to Portugal to visit my family, wow I loved it, I was calm, centered my parents did not rock my world and I was feeling so full of myself and proud, I had not reacted yet, and feeling like I am finally enlightened, so as I sat early morning in my sister's kitchen doing my emails etc, out of the corner of my eye I saw something move, at first I ignored it but there it was again, as I now last my concentration and decided to see what it was, I saw a Might Mouse (truth be told he was tiny), well, welcome to reaction again.
I started to scream and shoo it out, as he made his way towards me from the outside and through the back door into the kitchen, my screeches were so loud that I woke up my brother in law, my sister rushed in a dramatic way to see what was happening, finally managed to tell them that I had cornered a mouse behind the door, by now there were 3 adults, 2 dogs to try and do something about a tiny little mouse. My brother in law was determined to kill the mouse and was totally against it, in the meantime the mighty mouse was under one of the cupboards in the the dining room and determined not to come out, the dogs totally confused at the antics of these adults, sister with broom in hand, brother in law with a small fire spade and me showing were the mouse was, the beagle dog finally got scared and ran off, the Labrador decided this was too much fun. Finally my brother in law decided to get some poison, in his absence I decided to have a talk to Mighty Mouse, " Mr Mouse, I strongly suggest that you go out these french doors that I am opening, and go to freedom or I know you will die., so you have a choice, leave now or will you choose death?" weird or not I can't even believe it happened, Mighty mouse ran out the doors to freedom.
So much for NO REACTION.......
Here back at home, I feel excited at the prospect of seeing the effect this retreat will have in the next 6 months, Kumar says the process will continue, and so look forward to doing it again next year, as I unable to attend the one in India in December, however I am asking you, if you have an opportunity to do the retreat please do, you won't regret it, I might not appear different to you on the outside, but I can assure you I feel and am acting different on the inside.
With much love and gratitude to my all my students who made this retreat possible but specifically to Neeta and Norma, not only to introducing me to their teacher but also for the gift of paying half of the course for me. Thank you.
Posted on Tue, 2 September, 2014
by Raquel Alves