So the frequently asked question of the moment is a variation on, \"How was it to be silent for that long?\" I grew up in Brooklyn on a busy street. So maybe you can imagine my surprise that during the retreat I developed a preference for hiding away at meal times because who knew that utensils hitting against plate could be so loud. It\'s amazing the bond I felt with people I saw everyday but never spoke to. Their presence supported me even though I will never know most of their names. I am grateful for the 15 min interviews every two or three days with a meditation teacher. Their instructions and encouragement were invaluable.
How do I describe it? Imagine a beautiful meditation hall. 80 bodies sitting still, quiet punctuated by infrequent traffic noise, a cough, or a bird song. On a given day, a given hour a given minute, I felt happy, blissful, peaceful, panicked, restless, frustrated or angry. Me and me had some serious bonding time. That may sound strange- when am I away from with me?-- surprisingly often. There are so many ways to lose myself. During the retreat I escaped from my to do list, email, entertainment, youtube, conversations, overheard conversations, texts, computer, and my cell phone. The stream of never ending external stimulation slowed to the sound of the wind in trees, the echo of a bell and the movement of the sun across the sky.
I found that the noise of my memories, sensations, thoughts, the mind chatter, and emotions, got louder. So being silent wasn\'t difficult, listening to myself-- being with myself when I didn\'t want to be, was hard, sometimes excruciating. My inner demons had fun with me. As one teacher put it, "this is one of the safest places in the world." I agreed, however only I can affect my ability to feel safe. After facing fear regularly, I developed more confidence in my staying power. Growing in my ability to be with \'whatever\', is one of the priceless gifts of the retreat.
It is an incredible blessing to have the support to just be with oneself-- to discover below the internal noise is the most exquisite music. Music of faith, love, compassion and understanding, \"Adventures in peace,\" my friend wrote to me before I left and that was so accurate. Even if I could write a book about it, I don't think I could capture the full meaning the experience of this retreat has for me. It was infinitely rich.
I'm also glad to report that I wanted to come back. Even though I would love to do another long retreat sometime in the future, I don\'t think my life\'s path is to live as monk.
Thank you for your financial assistance, emotional support, your emails, comments, and wishing me well in the quiet of your heart! My life is better because of you.
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