In just a few days, I will be taking a deep dive into meditative and yogic silence for 25 days! And, I’m excited! Ewwww, some might be thinking—why on God’s green earth would you be excited about that?Well, to answer your question, it’s mostly because taking time out of the constant distraction of everyday life just makes me a better person. Taking time out for retreat gives me a safe container to observe my unconscious conditioning and habits so that I can live more intentionally, instead of in ‘modus operandi.” I get to become more present to the exquisite beauty available to those who take on the challenge of living in the present moment, instead of the constant spiraling of the mental staircases of the unchangeable past and imagined future. But of course, it is much more layered and nuanced than that—like felt experience, my reasons are uncontainable in words or concepts.
But given the limitations of the tools available, I will do my best to give you some context of my upcoming adventure. Some 18 years I began my journey into contemplative practices—not on some idealist whim mind you, but in a need for survival. I was in the mist of completing a master’s degree in “Writing and Cultural Studies” at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland. While at first, I was caught up in the novelty of being in the magical city with its medieval castle high on the hill, I soon realized that I was in a foreign country, alone, and had little emotional or moral support. At the same time, I was stepping out of my family’s accepted histories and scripts. Frist of all, nobody in my immediate family—I mean nobody left the country, let alone attended university or completed a master’s degree! And secondly, who did I think I was--I was definitely no scholar. I had worked in the beauty industry as a hair dresser while I had finished my bachelor’s degree, taking me 10 years. Who was I to be attending a world renown university? How did they even let me in, I wondered? Everything had changed now. I had quit my job, sold all my belongings, gave up my living arrangement and traveled across the world to embark on my dream.
But maybe that is all it was—a dream, I thought. I had gotten myself in deep doo—doo. For soon after arriving in Edinburgh, my initial excitement that had propelled me began to fade, and the reality of what I was doing hit me like a ton of bricks. The self-critic raised its ugly head and cripplingly self-doubt began to steal in. Anxiety and a deep panic rose in my chest. I ripped up all my roots and had left everything that was familiar. I had difficulty concentrating or writing any words on the page of my dissertation. Meanwhile, the ticking of clock became louder. I knew that I hadn’t come all this way to fail---but it felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. Albeit invisible, it was seemingly unbearable nonetheless. How could this be I wondered—I must be missing something.
Then, it happened. I was walking home from class one day in a deep reverie, racking my brain for a solution when I lifted my head to see a small, charming brick building called the Salisbury Center. Intrigued, as I had not noticed it before, I walked up investigating to find that they offered both yoga and meditation classes. And this is where my journey in both these practices began. That week, I attended the weekly Satsang and meditated for the first time in my life! My instructor gave our group little instruction-which I found odd, but I went along and sat in silence with a group of strangers. At first, I found myself besieged by the familiar self—critic—firing away at me: What do you think you are doing? Why are you wasting your time? This isn’t going to work! This is dumb! Your dissertation is not going to write itself! In fact, you are dumb for thinking this will help you in any way!
But with some encouragement from the group, I continued to show up every week and sit through the barrage of internal insults. After a while a strange thing happened—I started to feel lighter. Instead of trying to ignore the negative voice in my head, like I usually did, I began to really listen. And then an even stranger thing happened; I began to see the frightened child behind the comments, and I began to have compassion for her. I began to have empathy for myself! I listened to everything she had to say—but more importantly, I became a witness to her worst fears, the resulting pain, and I sat with it, and loved myself through it.
The more space I gave her to feel, the more space she gave me to complete the work I had come to Edinburgh to do. I continued to meditate everyday for the remainder of my stay. Meditation allowed me to reach new levels of competency, when nothing else would. I had to surrender to not knowing how to cross that bridge, and the innate intelligence of my life took me where I needed to go. Since then, I’ve found that when I continue to make space for meditation, it makes space for me to show up better, brighter, and freer. It allows me to access the waters of my internal resources, the treasures below my conscious mind.
So, ultimately, I carve out the time to dive deep into the silence—so I can really see and hear my own wisdom, when the world keeps pointing me elsewhere. And that my friends, is priceless! May your own wellspring be replenished in the heat of the summer. Namaste.