Many people have asked me about my experience during my recent silent retreat. I returned to Lake Shrine-Self Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades for my second go at three days of silence, no alcohol, vegetarian food and long bouts of meditation.
I started going to Lake Shrine way back in 1993. It became one of my favorite places to go and spend some quiet time. The gardens are amazing, the lake is beautiful, complete with ducks, turtles and swans and there are many little nooks where you can meditate amongst the flowers.
I started looking at the end of 2015 for a retreat where I could just go and commune with spirit and nature. I stumbled upon the retreat at Lake Shrine and immediately signed up. I don't think I knew it was silent at first and when I realized it a little wave of terror went over me. Could I really not speak for three days?
|Windmill meditation space|
In reality that was the easy part. No one is speaking so it's not like you're going about your regular day, in your regular life, with your regular friends and your regular job unable to speak. The only people who speak are the monks who are guiding you through prayers and meditations.
The first awkward moment was mealtime when, normally you would be speaking to the people around you. On my second visit just a few days ago I looked around at the other attendees. I could tell who the first timers were by the look of terror in their eyes at what had they got themselves into. I wondered if I looked that scared my first time. It's interesting how people change their behavior when at a silent retreat. Everybody walks very slowly with their eyes cast downward. The awkward mealtime becomes placing things very gently on the table as if trying not to make any noise at all. It actually struck me as funny how exaggerated people's movement had gotten and I'm sure I looked like that my first time too.
I found on this second visit I was able to sit for longer and longer periods of meditation and got deeper and deeper in my practice. I had some amazing insight and beautiful messages, some to be shared with others and some privately for myself. The strangest thing about the silent meditation is you spend three days with about 10 or 12 other people. And everyone is anonymous. No one has an identity. You don't know who they are, what they do, what they believe and where they work. In a society that is so tied to our identities it struck me so strongly this time that I didn't know who these people were. At the end of the retreat when the monk dismisses us many people gather in the courtyard to introduce themselves where we get to hear them speak for the first time.
|Outdoor temple area with swan|
I was surprised at how many foreign accents I heard, learning that a few of the attendees were from the UK and Mexico. It was exciting to get to meet these people and just get a glimpse into their lives. My husband to make this time from ashram to real life world, especially with all that's going on politically and globally. But I'm trying to find ways to carry that piece of peace with me throughout my days to spread to others. Maybe a three-day silent meditation retreat at an ashram isn't for you, but try a silent meal or a few silent moments. You'd be amazed at what you hear.
Some people find that scary, they don't want to know what's inside. But whether you acknowledge it or not it is there and will bubble to the surface one way or another. Self realization, self exploration and self actualization is what's going to propel us forward as a society. Kindness, love and peace need to permeate what is going on in this world. Now is the time to shine your light outward not to be shy about what you believe.
|Buddha on the hillside|
Light your torch and let others see the glow of your spirit.