Eight years ago, I signed myself up for a spiritual retreat on a like in Minnesota. The retreat was ten days of silence and intense meditation.
I’m a pretty social person – the kind of person that talks to and makes friends with complete strangers in line. That year I was a wheeling and dealing CEO of my own company. I love talking. Meditation was not new to me. It is with this backdrop that I entered into the silence retreat.
The world around you changes when you cease to speak. At first, you hear more of your environment, the background noise that is ever present. You start to quiet your mind. The constant meditation, the purascharana (mantra repetition) I was practicing quieted me further. During breaks I would walk a lawn labyrinth out in a field. I would sit outside at night and listen.
I was very alone with myself. I did manage to make new friends – people you sat with in silence at meals. You see people differently when there is no conversation to frame your opinions. It was a little unreal – a little more real.
Of course meditation is all about shutting down those external senses and focusing your mind inward – outward. This deepened with the lack of voice in throat or ear. Shutting my eyes, focusing my meditation, I found my voice. Not a voice of words, but a voice of being.
I started listening to myself – how to relax, what my body wanted and needed. Knots in muscles gave way. Intensity deepened. Kundalini came.
I’m not of the belief you need a retreat to listen to yourself. You don’t need 10 days of silence to hear. But I am of the belief that there is a voice within yourself that you need to hear. A voice that’s telling you how to relax, what you need, when to sleep, how to heal.
The problem is, we have so much noise piled up around us, we find it hard to hear ourselves. We are full of thoughts, sounds and distractions. We can’t make sense of our own needs. We need to find a way to hear that voice – the voice of who we are.
How do we do it? There are many ways: take a walk or a ride without music; make art, play guitar, drum, go skiing, gaze at the stars, have a campfire. Whatever your pursuit, do it without distraction, without interruption. Turn the phone off. Throw yourself completely into one activity without noise, clock or anything else. Focus on that thing. Listen to your hands, your feet, your core. Hear yourself.
I believe you will discover some things about yourself you didn’t know. Some things you couldn’t hear or ignored.
Even if you hear or learn nothing you can make out, you will have done something wonderful. You will have spent some time with yourself – listening to yourself.