“Silence is not a luxury. It is crucial to our physical and mental heath. We need it to think, to sleep, to recover from life’s frenzy. My particular interest is that silence has been at the heart of the spiritual life of the church for centuries. For many religious traditions, silence is the great proving drawer of prayer. And continual noise is an assault on the soul as much as the ear. But it’s also important for the arts, indeed even for music itself. Creativity, concentration, contemplation all demand it. A world without silence is a world that is inhospitable to human flourishing.”

Giles Fraser

Its 15:30 and I’ve rushed from one thought to the next, one activity to the next, one distraction to the next without pause since 6 this morning. The news, social media, the radio, work, conversations, Whatsapps, phone calls from people trying to sell me insurance, traffic, TV.

I feel starved of silence.

So from the 23rd to the 3rd of February, I’ll be away on holiday in Worcester in the Cape. I say “holiday” but it’s not so much a holiday as it is a form of rehab for the mind. It’s a 10 day silent meditation retreat where there are no phones, no internet, no books, no tv, no music, no talking- for 10 whole days.

And I’m feeling rather nervous about it.

I’m never truly alone with myself. Besides half an hour of meditation a day (something that I feel is essential to creativity), there is always something to distract me, something to do or think about. And half an hour is not nearly enough time to truly get to know yourself. I mean, who the fuck am I?

It was this question that precipitated me going on this retreat. Because when I actually think about it, I have no idea who I am. I mean, I can give myself labels and say, I’m married, or I’m an artist or whatever but that has nothing to do with me, the real me. The me that already was before my parents conceived me. The same me that is you.

From my own experience, we all carry around stuff that isn’t ours. Maybe it’s a religion handed down to us by our parents. Maybe it’s a world view or a political stance. It could be a drug habit or depression. It very well could be your own skepticism about something you may not understand. Where does it come from? Why do you do the things you do or think or act a certain way? Why why why?! Too many questions and not enough time to honestly answer them because there are just way too many distractions, constant and never-ending. It’s as if our natural state of being as humans is lightness, love and joy and yet we’re continuously tethered to things that don’t serve us and subconsciously restrict us from achieving our full potential.

girl in field surrounded by masks
So much of who we think we are is not a reality

It’s going to be very uncomfortable because I know on the very first morning, (never-mind morning, the first couple of hours!) without distraction, my mind will be going to uncomfortable places. My ego will most likely try and distract me from whatever I’m feeling like, “don’t go there”, but I will go there, just due to the fact that I can’t knowingly or unknowingly distract myself. There are going to be lots of tears, lot’s of moments of outright pain and honestly, I can’t wait! It’s as if I’ll be breaking my brain and putting it back together again.

“Vipassana is different from mindfulness meditation, which focuses on awareness, or to transcendental meditation, which uses a mantra. Instead, it dictates a blanket command of non-reaction. No matter the pain as you sit, or the fact that your hands and legs fall asleep and that your brain is crying for release. You are instructed to refocus attention on the objective sensations in your body, arising and falling, as you do a scan of your limbs in a specific order. By doing so, over 10 days, you train yourself to stop reacting to the vicissitudes of life. “

Jodi Ettenberg

Sadly I can’t even take notes, as writing is not permitted either but I’ll be sharing my experience once I’m back. And if you want to know exactly what Vipassana meditation is, you can find it here.