On the 27th of December, I went to a Silent meditation retreat in another part of Sweden. I had been wanting to go into silence for some time.
I chose to go at this time of year to get away from celebrating New Year’s Eve. A day of the year I thought didn’t mean anything to me, up until now. I ended up celebrating New Year’s Eve in the most magical and holy way I ever have.
I realized this day means a lot to me. Ending one year and beginning another. It’s the way I have been celebrating it, or not celebrating it.
This was my first silent retreat. I needed this and I needed it now. After a year of transformation, healing, giving, working, learning, grief, love, pain, all that life brings you. I needed a pause. I was curious about what happens when you direct all your energy inwards for a longer period of time.
A longer period of silence with meditation, yoga, and nature to recover in a soft and profound way. The retreat followed International Federation of Yoga and Meditation – Atman, which holds the same retreat all over the world.
11:00-14:00 Lunch och own time
14:00-15:00 Questions, advice, thoughts about meditation
18:00-20:30 Dinner & own time.
20:30-21:00 Presentation of the night’s meditation
21:00-21:30 Meditation – International
A bell rang when it was time to wake up, when food was at the table and before meditation. The sound of the bell was the only thing I needed to pay attention to.
I entered silence in a group of 14 other people who I had never met before. Before entering the silence one person described it as ”Showering on the inside”. I can now completely relate to what she meant.
For me, it also meant a pause from life. An opportunity to step outside of myself, to become my own witness. Am I on the right path? Silencing the mind and listening to the heart.
We entered silence. Now, silence is more than not talking. First, it’s silencing the outer world. The first step, we handed in our phones. We would do no reading, no writing, no music. Nothing that can feed the mind. For me, I thought no writing and no music would be most challenging. I wasn’t worried about the non-talking part. I often feel like I talk more than I need to.
Silencing the outer world wasn’t a great challenge for me. The moment it was no longer available to me, I didn’t need it, I didn’t miss it. The phone, the books, the music.
The real challenge for me was silencing the inside. Once the outside is silenced, the inside gets louder, clearer. It has more space and wants all your attention.
Meeting others in silence and meeting yourself in silence is a meeting no words can describe. Writing about it now, the now I was in, in Silence, is not easy.
Mirrors were taken down, we were told to avoid eye contact with each other and with ourselves. One Mirror was left in one bathroom in the house I was sleeping. I knew it was there. I thought, maybe it’s a test, to see if I can avoid it even when it’s available to me. One night after a long meditation I was in there brushing my teeth. Out of habit, I looked up and into the mirror. I saw my eyes. Wow. They were crystal clear, shiny with shades of blue and dilated pupils. I looked deeper, closer. Wow. I know, that what I saw was love.
If we did have practical questions about wake up time, toilet paper or the program, there was a paper on which we could write them down. Everyone could read the questions and answers, so the same question didn’t have to be asked twice. Sometimes a piece of paper was passed on between two people. Three helpers at the retreat, who prepared all our meals with love, were also in silence. I got one piece of paper from one of them the first day, ”What time do you want to wake up tomorrow?”. I loved communicating this way. On a piece of paper, you would not use more words than necessary. No small talk.
Twice a day we had time for questions and advice from our retreat leader. He would gather all the pieces of paper and read them out loud. He talked and we listened. It would be about challenges, worries, experiences, feelings. Usually, I would take notes, reflect and ask follow up questions. But not now. I listened with my eyes closed.
The meals we had together were special. We all sat around the same table, some of us by the window, looking out. At breakfast, we all took the porridge from the same pan. I poured the homemade oat milk over mine. We sat there, in silence, starting a new day together, while it was still dark outside. I enjoyed these meals in silence. No small talk. No one asking what I have in my little box, what it is that I put in my water. Eating in peace.
You sit next to me by the table. I do not know who you are, why you are here, what you do for a living, how old you are… None of that is important. I am here, now, you are here, now.
We all sat there around the long table. One of us tried to reach for something at the other end of the table. Without asking for it out loud and not making eye contact. The person at the other end of the table trying to guess what she wants. Is it salt? Is it butter? Is it bread? The guessing, finally got it right. We laughed. It was too funny not to laugh.
For me, not choosing what to eat, how it’s made and when to eat is a challenge for me. Letting go of my control. When the bell rang I asked myself, am I hungry now. Eating in silence brought my awareness to my body. I noticed how my body temperature changed, the digestive fire, the taste of the food, how much I ate and how fast I ate.
I didn’t bring anything to eat apart from some nuts and my chocolate. I can not be in silence without my organic, vegan chocolate I thought. I have it every day, I love it. I have a piece now and then.
After lunch and dinner, when it was alone time. I took one little piece and went outside. I put the piece of chocolate on my tongue. I let it slowly melt and fill my mouth with the rich taste. One piece, that was enough. In that moment, I felt fortunate.
At night we had soup and home-baked bread. I loved that bread. During yoga one day I could smell the bread being baked in the oven, next to the meditation hall.
The retreat leader talked about three basics;
”Eat as much as you need, nor more nor less. Sleep as much as you need, nor more nor less. Talk as much as you need, nor more nor less.”
Three basics we often have a hard time mastering in our lives. I thought about that when eating the bread. I looked at the pile of bread. I already had two pieces. I wanted one more.
The meditations focused on opening the heart to our true being – Atman. The yoga focused on the chakras, the energy centers.
The long meditations were challenging for me. I believe most of us were dreading the two-hour long meditation in the afternoon a little bit. The half an hour meditation later felt like a walk in the park.
Meditation means sitting for a long time, awake. Finding a comfortable position with the help of blankets, pillows, yoga mats or chair. Without getting too comfortable so you fall asleep. You want to stay awake with your back straight. Sleep and meditation do not belong together. From time to time I found standing up in meditation good for me.
To prepare for the long meditations we did different things. We opened the windows, some of us walked outside bare feet, which is very awakening and grounding. A drop of an uplifting essential oil under the nose, a cup of tea, shaking or some yoga asanas.
In a room with 15 people meditating together on the heart, it gets warm. So much energy flowing. The body temperature raising. The window had to be opened before and after the meditation. My socks would come off, meditating bare feet was essential.
One time during a meditation, I looked up. Wow! Look at everyone. They all look like meditation gurus. So beautiful, so peaceful, so in the Now! So comfortable in their positions. Why is it so hard for me?
Later when our questions were read out loud we found out we all had challenges with the meditation. We all struggled, had pain, difficulty to focus, stay awake. At times we laughed, as a sign of recognition.
When arriving at the retreat I got my period. It made the meditation even more challenging for me. With more tension in the lower back and my hips, I found it hard to get comfortable for a long time. I was feeling more sensitive and vulnerable. I know the time of the period is a special and sacred time for the body. A time for cleansing and rest. I was in the right place for it.
Each night we did one meditation with the International Federation following the same program all around the world. That feeling, of meditating on the heart together with thousands of people all around the world, was special.
I came here to get away from the celebration of New Years. I ended up celebrating it more than I ever have. I found out it is one of the most important days of the year for me.
We had New Years dinner, in silence. Later we got traditional date balls and tea. It was such a cozy moment.
Later, I walked outside. It was a dark and cloudy sky. I looked up and seconds later the sky opened up around the moon. There you are, I thought. I have never seen such a clear and beautiful moon. Two days from the full moon.
This night the meditation program was special. We had a series of short meditations from 22.00 to 02.00. If you could stay awake for that long. I did until 01.45. We meditated together with thousands of other yogis around the world.
On one piece of paper, we each wrote down three things we wanted to leave behind and let go off from 2017. That piece of paper was placed in the fire in the meditation hall. Watching it burn, disappear. Letting go.
It turned 00.00. We entered the new year, 2018.
Some of us walked outside. I looked up at the moon again. There were fireworks in the distance. The sounds of life and the traditional New Year’s celebration reminded itself. There I stood, in silence, ending one year and entering a new one. Feeling hopeful. Sending love to everyone close to me.
On another piece of paper, we were told to write down three things we wanted to bring in and manifest to the new year, 2018. This one would not go into the fire.
Our retreat leader talked about the importance of how you begin something. Setting your intention for the day, for the year.
The retreat ended on the 1st of January 2018 with a gratitude ceremony.
Standing in a circle, holding hands, one by one going into the middle, we thanked each other for being here. It was intense, body contact for the first time and feeling the energies from the others more than ever. I thought I will not be able to stand up through this. I could feel I was about to faint. For a brief moment, I let go of the two hands holding mine, lowering down to the floor. I could feel a hand on my shoulder. I breathed deeply and I stood back up.
At the end of the ceremony, we were asked to look at each other. After all this time avoiding eye contact we looked at each other. I and many with me burst into tears. It was a special moment. I was so grateful for each and every one of them, for this, for life.
We were on the other end of silence. We were free to talk. I did not feel the need to say anything, still. I did not want to talk. What I did need and did want was to hug. And we all did. ”You, I want to hug you!” And ”You, Thank you!”. Then I left.
Later sitting at the train station waiting for my train home. My phone was in my pocket. I was free to look at it. I just sat there. Being at a train station on New Year’s day after six days in silence, is a bit of a chock.
Then I saw someone I knew. I know her! She saw me too. I don’t know anything about her or even how her voice sounds. But I know her. We spent 6 days in silence together. We hugged and she asked me, ”What do you do for a living, I am curious, are you a healer? I felt you strongly.” I believe we all are.
I thought to myself, you see now! It is not about what we do or what we say. Sometimes it is enough to just be. Be you. You are enough!
It is a challenge to go into silence, a greater challenge to come out of it and hold on to it.
I do not want live in complete silence all the time. I do however want to bring in more silence into my life. Once again, I’m seeking Balance.
Thank you all for being in silence with me at Färjås . Thank you
Konrad for holding this space for us, guiding us, teaching us. Thank you all who worked and helped.