Being a nobody for a while.
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End of November we were taking our annual time-out again, our meditation retreat.
Often, when we explain what a meditation retreat is like, people are deeply impressed with the fact that it all takes place in silence. “Not speaking for 10 days, isn’t that incredibly difficult?”
Well, it really isn’t difficult at all! And silence is just one aspect of meditation; the general non-reactive attitude of meditation includes the temporary abandonment of any social interaction, any possible distraction, any entertainment, and any unnecessary activity. Such consistent radical non-doing may be slightly challenging on the first day or so, but it soon becomes something extraordinarily precious.
Not speaking – what a relief! No need to “sell” your Self, no need to maintain the usual masquerade of telling everybody who you think you are, no need to respond to others promoting themselves – what a liberation! No real danger to hurt someone by unintentionally breaking one of these crazy rules of social interaction and, by the same token, little danger to get hurt yourself. A meditation retreat can be downright addictive this way. Being a nobody for a while, this alone is an amazing experience. Good old Ego never enjoys it much at first, but by kindly and carefully negotiating with him you can often begin to relax his endless fears. Stripping, carefully exposing your Self in a safe environment, exposing it essentially to itself and doing this for the purpose of investigation and understanding not with a hidden agenda for change. (If change really comes, it comes by itself.)
We are all well seasoned practitioners; no one expects you to respond to any social signal, body language, eye contact, intended or not. We sit together; we see each other and care for each other by granting each other this great respect, but we do not care who we are. (As we sit with closed eyes we don’t even see each other that much.) It is quite amazing how you can experience an extremely intense relationship with people in conditions like this. In meditation you become very, very sensitive, raw, and vulnerable, and to share this with others who go through the same process is mysteriously empowering.
Meditation is not about not-speaking, it’s about paying attention, maybe about listening, perhaps it even is about speaking but speaking with great care, it’s about cultivating mindfulness. Meditation is coming to our senses, carefully, gently, but seriously and over time skillfully and reliably.
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Klaus early Dec. 2009