I’m trying to find the words to tell you about my experience doing a silent retreat in Denmark. I’m sitting at my computer after many hours traveling wanting to give you every detail of what I learned and realized. A part of me wants to create bullet points and another part of me wants to leave this page blank because I think that would be the only way to convey what it is that I learned. I’m going to start by talking about the silent aspect of the retreat.
I was afraid of silence as I mentioned on the Podcast I consider myself a talker (I mean I host a podcast for love sake) for the same reason I think silence healed me so much. It felt like I didn’t need to hold on to that sense of my identity. I didn’t need to socialize with every person I encountered as I would normally do. When I sat down to eat, I could just eat and be with my food one silent bite at a time. I didn’t need to wake up and tell my friend who was sleeping next to me what a bad night sleep I had. I could keep my complaints all to myself. It was as if a part of who I believe I am switched off for a couple of days along with all my electronics.
My internal dialog didn’t really switch off. I could even dare to say internally it got loud. I could hear the judgment and resistance arise, my storyteller wanting to write and my self-righteousness wanting to help everybody’s posture as they sat in the chairs listening to the teacher.
Maybe they say “Silence is golden” because it shines brighter on whatever is happening on both the inside and the outside.
The best part of the retreat was nothing that was said but what was left unsaid. We had daily exercises where we would gather in small groups and hear each other speak. Normally this is the type of place where I would feel an urge to give advice or comforting words as I saw tears, fear, sadness, and anger emerge.
But I tried to take this time as an opportunity to hold space in my heart for every person that spoke. I felt a type of healing happening not because I was doing anything but because I noticed how we all want to be heard and how silence is at times the most genuine humbling thing we can give each other. In a way listening without judgment is the ultimate act of kindness and the black belt of meditation.
There was specifically an older man with who I felt a connection. I could sense his sadness in my heart so when the session was over I saw him reading a book and went over to try and hug him. When I touched his shoulder he turned around to look at me with a blank stare. I felt intimidated so I smiled and walked away.
The last day when we shared the most important takeaway from the retreat. When it was his turn to speak he said "One day when I was reading a book feeling under the spell of my thoughts, an angel touched me and smile breaking the spell and making me realize the compassion in people’s hearts and that I can have that compassion with myself" I was about to cry not because somebody thinks I’m an angel haha but because I felt firsthand how healing it can be to hold space for somebody in my heart and how a gentle touch and truly listening can help a person self-heal more than words could ever do.
So I guess that’s the tool for this week. Less of the talking. More of the truly listening. I skipped the podcast aspect of the post in honor of silence