What happens when a chatterbox has a date with silence August 26 2014, 4 Comments

 

It was the 2nd of January 2011. I was in a taxi flying through the narrow back streets of Bali at some ungodly hour after midnight, going from Denpasar to Ubud on my way to a yoga retreat.

It wasn’t my first time travelling alone, I’d become used to it over the years after lengthy stints of singledom. It was my first yoga retreat though. I remember sitting in the back seat feeling part anxious, part excited about my 7 days in Ubud. I had been to Bali before, over a decade earlier with 10 girlfriends where the focus was on partying, lazing by the pool, swimming at the beach and shopping. This was to be a very different holiday. 

It felt a little cliché - Eat, Pray, Love style but I didn’t care. I enjoyed Liz Gilbert’s story, her bravery for speaking her truth and listening to the whispers of her heart as she set off soul searching through Italy, India and Indonesia. I had gone to Bali with the intention of bringing in the New Year on a high, setting the year off on the right note. I wanted to treat myself. At this stage the concept of self-love and self-care was still relatively new to me. I was working in the hospital setting at the time, giving on a daily basis to others and this was just the R & R I needed.

Part of the retreat involved a day of silence – 36 hours to be more precise. The hippy in me had always thought a 2 week or month long silent retreat would be cool, the ultimate challenge for a chatterbox like myself. I had read about the potential benefits of silence and was curiously drawn to the experience. I thought just one day of silence was a realistic place to start. This particular retreat not only offered yoga, raw food and meditation - it was called “Escape the World”. What more could a woman want! My friends giggled when I told them about the silence part of the retreat, understandably curious about how on earth I could last a full day of silence. No talking, no reading, no television, no music. Nudda.

The day of silence rolled around quickly after warming my body up to the twice daily yoga and detoxing on the delicious raw food. Meals during the period of silence were to be served in your room. Alone. There were paints for unleashing our creativity and pens for journaling. One of the tasks of the day was to spend time writing down any negative thoughts that arose and also positive affirmations. The negative thoughts were to be burned in a ritual of letting go at the end of the week. Our twice-daily yoga and meditation would carry on as usual.

I had no real expectations. What happened surprised me… 

My senses were amplified. Boy, oh boy were they ever!

My taste buds were on fire. Food was full of flavour. I noticed subtle changes in texture and consistency. I devoured every bite more slowly and mindfully than any other meal before.

My hearing was sharper. I was more tuned in to the sounds around me, the conversation coming from the staff outside my room, the gong in the morning waking us for the day, the rain hitting the greenery below, the strange animal sounds.

My sense of smell was heightened. The various aromas in the air, the hand made soap in the bathroom, the damp smell after the rain cleared.

My vision intensified. I spent hours looking out to the rice fields, watching the farmers cultivate the land, eyeing off bugs and butterflies, watching single rain drops cascade down lush leaves. I became mystified by the fireflies as we practised our yoga. I took photos upon photos and became lost in the environment around me. I drank it all in.

I painted and remembered how much I loved art and how I'd neglected this passion once I’d left high school. I wrote down my negative thoughts and was surprised at how many I actually had. I stopped and pondered on each one, wondering where it came from and how it might be holding me back. I wrote positive affirmations and reflected on those too. What did I really want for myself, my life?

  

At the beginning of the day of silence, I wondered how I would pass the day, yet it went so fast. Then at other points during the day, time almost stood still. I rested on the bed after yoga with not a care in the world. I went for the most soul stirring Ayurvedic Chakra Dhara massage, which was so intense it made me both laugh and cry. Stirring my chakras, raising old “stuff” for clearing. 

I learned that…

Speech overrides so many of our other senses. 

I can shut my mouth, if and when I want, AND enjoy it!

Going inwards is hugely beneficial. I felt more connected to the Universe and myself.

I love silence and shouldn’t fear it.

I can be more present. In the moment. More aware of where my thoughts take me.

Peace and quiet is beautiful.

There is more beauty around us than we realise. Sometimes we just don’t look hard enough. 

I really enjoy and value my own company. (Phew! What a relief!)

 

The impact of that day of silence lasted long after the retreat. Almost four years later and...

I no longer turn on the television or music as soon as I walk in the door. In fact I barely watch television. 

I am trying to be a better listener and not talk, talk, talk all the time. This is a work in progress!

I pay much more attention to the beauty around me. It really is everywhere.

I practise gratitude. Try not to get caught up in the drama so much.  

Taking even a few moments of silence in our day where we aren't busy "doing" can be hugely rewarding. If you’re feeling adventurous try a full day or weekend – no phone, no TV or computer, no reading, no music, no conversation. Just a journal, pens, some art supplies or a camera and your beautiful self! The wonderful thing is – you don’t need to go to Bali to do it! You can try it at home, for free.

But hey, if you need an excuse to get away, the Escape the World Retreat is such a winner in so many ways. I couldn't recommend this retreat more. It was here I learned to do my first headstand and full wheel. Iyan, our yoga teacher was just incredible. If you are teetering on the edge of whether to go on a retreat or not, step outside of your comfort zone and JUST DO IT! You won't regret it. Nurturing ourselves and taking time out is so important to our overall health and wellbeing. Whether it's a yoga, silence, surfing or raw food retreat or just a night away. You are worth it. xx

You can find more details about the other retreats on offer at Oneworld here.

Over to you!

How do you find silence?

Do you rush home, walk in the door and switch on the television?

Always feel the need to fill the spaces in between?

Or perhaps you regularly practise silence and have been on a silence retreat?

I would love to hear your thoughts on silence in the comments below.