WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T TALK FOR SEVEN DAYS?
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com Dani Batz’s photostream
I’ve just returned from my 3rd retreat. When I first started going, people kept asking me “Why?”The question was usually accompanied by a concerned expression or a caring touch. “What was happening with my life?” “What was getting too much for me to bear that I needed to check out? To re-arm and recuperate?”
I had to re-assure everyone I was fine, I wasn’t re-treating from anything. It was more a call from somewhere inside me to shut out the noises of the world so I could HEAR what myself, my true authentic voice … perhaps the voice of something larger.
Where to go?
Photo Credit: travelnowvietnam.com
My first retreat was at the Truc Lam Monastery in Dalat Vietnam , long on monastic discipline, short on creature comforts.
My second and third retreats have been at the 7 Fountains Jesuit Spirituality Centre in Chiang Mai Thailand, a homely haven of silence and light with private baths, air-conditioning and three simply delicious meals a day.
In both locations there was lots of silence. Enough for me to hear the music of the spheres, choirs of angels, infinity in a symphoney.
They are very different and I find I resonate with 7 Fountains more. But who knows, perhaps the monastic discipline of Truc Lam will call to me again.
Now that I’m a bit of a “regular” the question’s become “What?” – “What happens there where I do nothing and say nothing all day?” – “What insights surface from all that silence?”What happens?
Morning, evening, night
On the face of it, there isn’t much “What” to report.
My schedule at 7 Fountains was a slow wake-up in the cool Chiang Mai morning, followed by a walk under giant rain-trees to breakfast. After breakfast, I walked the labyrinth, a wonderful left-turn, right-turn, curving, roundabouting, re-tracking one hour where my logical brain-mutterings were totally disarmed. Quietened, I would then spend the next two hours in reflection and meditation up on a bamboo patio looking into trees or in one of 7 Fountains wooden chapels meditating.Just before lunch, there would be a 45 minute check-in with my director, to make sure I was still strongly grounded in reality and hadn’t meditated myself all the way out into 7th Heaven and then lunch!
Afternoons I spent editing my novel (finally finished after 7 revisions) and then in the evening to a prayer service, dinner, and another contemplative session.
Yes friends… On the surface I can only report boring minutes, silent hours, ticking away into six uneventful days. BUT …
What surfaces? Just a smooth face, un-tensed shoulders, a few words, a poem
Silence Hollows the reed For The wind’s song
Silence Tunes the heartstrings For The story
Silence Readies the self For The embrace