Can you imagine what it would be like to spend a month not seeing or talking to anyone?
Would you enjoy the retreat from your life? Would you go stir crazing mad?
Some years back I spent a silent month alone in a little hut in a remote part of the himalayas meditating.
My hut was perched on the side of a steep valley and faced the majestic snow capped mountains of northern India, close to the Tibetan border.
There was no one to talk to, no phone, no email, no internet, no electronic gismos, no music, no books and no human support. Zip, zilch, nada distractions.
There was just me, my mind and the mountains.
To me it was like a human experiment to see what would happen when I removed all of the things that I usually identified with and relied on for my happiness.
I was scared that I would go bonkers but I was excited to be challenging myself and curious to see what would happen.
The result of this human experiment was a complete surprise and it taught me some of the most valuable lessons I've learnt in life!
So allow me to set the scene...
Picture massive mind blowing ice capped mountains as far as the eye can see and beyond.
A remote Buddhist monastery nearby and a monk who would deliver fresh vegetables by my door every few days. (I managed to never see him arrive the sneaky mouse!)
Three bland and simple meals a day that I prepared myself. Ok I admit it... I did take one block of chocolate with me that I rationed to one tiny square a day. Holy mama did I look forward to my afternoon treat!
I would wake up each day and walk outside to the eye popping panorama of the himalayas then back inside to begin the gruelling all day meditation practice.
My buddhist teacher gave me strict instructions of what to do for the month. Though no-one was there to check on me, so I could have spent the whole month making up songs in my head and frolicking in the hills (which may have been equally effective).
I was convinced my Buddhist teacher had ET super powers and was 'watching me' so I made sure I did everything she asked. Hello meditation nerd!
My meditation practice involved repeating a buddhist mantra with mala beads. I would recite one mantra per bead, 108 beads per mala, 100 mala rounds per day. You do the math!
Yep that's 10,800 mantras a day. This meant sitting crossed legged repeating tibetan mantras that sounded a bit like “Hungi coolie mungi wooogie woo woo witchy wollup om marney padme hung”. It meant something like “peace and love to all beings as I breathe sweet air through my nostril hairs!”
I know... it all sounds a bit loony... but Buddhism has been pumping out enlightened masters since the Buddha burst into rainbow light under the Bohdi tree centuries ago, so I was willing to give it a go!
The second part of my meditation practice involved undertaking full prostrations which were like doing a squat and a push up combined. I stood with my hands in prayer above my head and then lay down flat on my face with my arms outstretched in full surrender to life. 1000 of those babies a day!
Are we having fun yet? Ha!
The first week I was feeling pretty arrogant and proud of myself for being a 'hardcore meditator' in the Himalayas. Look at me I'm so tough and wise. I was so in awe of the views and enjoying the novelty of the experience that I found the first week quite easy.
THEN the wild beast within was let out of its cage! Oh Ooh!
Week two and three were like an internal nightmare. My mind was raging in defiance and came up with 4 million reasons why I had to get the hell outa there quick smart. Thankfully I chose to not listen to my minds excuses and I continued the meditation practice each day.
I was imagining all the things I was missing out on. Painful plus! I was craving things outside of myself to make me happy. Suffering street!
I had to use every little bit of strength and focus I could muster to continue. I cried many tears over the middle two weeks. Each tear washed away my 'tough girl arrogance' leaving the simple grace of humility. Mmm tasty humble pie!
Then in the fourth week the penny finally dropped!
Chi ching! Ding ding ding!
I finally surrendered the fight within and just relaxed into the magic of the moment.
My mind had finally tired itself out and was silent.
Amongst the silence I clearly recognised the vast web from which all of life is woven.
Everything that I had searched for my whole life... was right here and now.
All that was required was a deep surrender to what is.
The mountains, the eagles, the rocks, the clouds... they were all an extension of the entity that I call ME.
So what did I learn from the silent month....???
Lesson 1. I learned that the essence of who we are is vast silence, love and peace. I learned that beneath our fears, doubts, desires, yearnings and worries is a silence that is available at all times. It just depends on which aspect we are ready to identify with.
Lesson 2. I learned that reading and understanding these words is NOT enough to be free. Blogs, books and words will never replace a direct experience. We need to get off our bum...or actually sit on our bums and have the courage to look within. We need to meet our demons and stare them straight in the face. We need to keep staring at them and not run away just because it hurts. We need to observe the busy mind and breathe into the crazy emotions, knowing that they will all eventually pass. And when they do... even for a second... you will know the silence of which I speak.
Look for the tiny gap of silence between each breath.
It's your true essence.
Here, now... only overlooked.
When this silence is recognised, any pain and discomfort that arises is simply another doorway to return home...again...and again....and again! A simple return path to the home that you never really left.
But don't just believe silly old me (yep old... turned 39 last week! Ha!) ... investigate for yourself!
Lesson 3. Meditate, meditate, meditate! Whether you chose to follow a complex process like in some aspects of Buddhism or a very simple practice (this is what I teach today) it will eventually set you free (lesson 1 and 2 will be realisations not just knowledge!)
I would love to hear in the comments below what your main challenge with meditation is and I am happy to offer suggestions and encouragement.
The 5 Day Inner Peace Challenge also kicks off again next week. Sign up below if you wish to join the Peace Train!
Sign up for the challenge HERE!