A little voice in my head told me yesterday that on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I should write about my upcoming meditation retreat. I leave for Massachusetts on Thursday afternoon and I won’t be doing any writing for about three months. I asked that voice, “What the heck am I going to talk about for three blog posts?” After all, I’m falling towards silence. The answer? “You’ll figure it out.”
When I tell people that I’m going to be silent for 84 days, invariably I get two responses:
1. “You? No way. You won’t last ten minutes.” Well, past retreats have shown me that I can last at least eleven minutes. But I know where they’re coming from. I talk to virtually everyone. I’ll find the flimsiest excuse to begin a conversation. Like standing in a grocery line and sharing with the person in front or behind that my tall cylindrical objects (such as shave cream) won’t stay standing up on the moving belt. That’s all it takes. The pump needs to be primed. If course, if the person just replies with a withering stare, I shut it down right away. I’ve learned to detect the folks who want to play.
So how can I let that fun go for three months? As much as I love the banter, I know the silence will be easy.
2. “I couldn’t do that.” I suppose they’re right, concerning a jump into a very long retreat. But I’ve been on 7, 8 and 9 day ones, and I bet most people who say this to me are wrong. It’s just that extended periods of silence haven’t been part of their experience. It wasn’t easy for me at first, and I’ve seen many folks in the meditation hall who are clearly going through their “stuff”. We all have stuff – thoughts, feelings, body sensations. I don’t see meditation as fixing the negative parts of those things. It’s more an expression of who I am, an uncovering of what’s already there. I say that most of us would experience some of that uncovering during a retreat and would slowly allow the silence to caress them.
I used to think that I wanted to be a better meditator. Sit in the full lotus position, for instance. Well, my knees hurt too much for that. I use a chair. Have all my thoughts disappear. Good luck on that one too. Thoughts continue to enter my head but sooner or later they leave (to be replaced by more complex thoughts!)
Over the next twelve weeks of my life, I will not:
1. Talk (except to a teacher, who will meet with me every two or three days to see how it’s going)
2. Make eye contact (other than with the teacher)
5. Listen to music
6. Be on the Internet, e-mail and generally mess around with my laptop
7. Lie or use demeaning language (I don’t do that anyway, and besides we’re silent)
8. Have sex
9. Take something that isn’t freely offered (such as pushing to sit in the front row, or getting a large piece of the vegetarian entrée)
10. Hurt any living being, even an insect
11. Consume alcohol or non-prescription drugs
Okay, just kidding about that last one!
See you tomorrow. I might be silent, however.