A few days ago I participated in a Vipassana meditation course. One of the aspects to this ten day training is a strict adherence to silence. The silence provides an opportunity to seal ourselves away from the words, gestures and eye contact that keep us in a known surface understanding of ourselves and the world around us. I thought that maybe I’d want to pop with all the things unsaid but despite the experience as a whole being incredibly intense for me, the easiest and most enjoyable part was in fact the silence. Far from being caging, it provided a vast spaciousness to rest into. A chance to wait, a chance to see, a chance to not have to name too soon.
For those of you unfamiliar with it, Vipassana is an ancient technique and the oldest Buddhist meditation practice that uses a focus on bodily sensation to train the sharpness and concentration of the mind. Where many other meditation practices use items such as prayer, a chant, a candle flame, a religious image and so on to focus the mind, Vipassana trains one to become aware of reality as it is in that moment, adding nothing to it. The key to the practice is becoming equanimous with whatever arises, whether it be gross or subtle sensation. By training ourselves away from reactions of aversion or craving, we learn to become truly equanimous with each moment, knowing that ultimately nothing lasts and liberation comes from releasing attachment to experience as it arises.
In the rushed world of today we so rarely let thoughts or feelings simmer, marinate or even choose to let them go altogether. There’s a constant pressure to be naming, sharing, doing, producing. David Whyte says,
“We live in a time of the dissected soul, the immediate disclosure; our thoughts, imaginings and longings exposed to the light too much, too early and too often, our best qualities squeezed too soon into a world already awash with too easily articulated ideas that oppress our sense of self and our sense of others. What is real is almost always to begin with, hidden, and does not want to be understood by the part of our mind that mistakenly thinks it knows what is happening. What is precious inside us does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence.
Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive of outside interference and control. Hiding leaves life to itself, to become more of itself. Hiding is the radical independence necessary for our emergence into the light of a proper human future.”
I believe very strongly in the power of retreat or hiding. Not to back away from the world but to take a moment’s gap so that we can return ready to take up that space stronger than we were before. It has made me all the more excited about the experiences I’m creating this year in collaboration with these incredible women.
25-30 April COMING hOMe with @greatabidingyoga
1-6 June BUSH RETREAT: GUIDED BY GAIA with @kaliwidd
24-28 September AWAKENING AWE: A WILDERNESS WALKING RETREAT with @kaliwidd
* Please note that all retreats have been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and later dates will be announced in due course. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.