I won’t be posting tomorrow as I’m spending 24-hours in total silence with some local nuns. There will be no talking obviously and no iPad, iPhone or books either. It will just be me and my own mind – a scary thought.
Why am I doing it? It all started when I signed up for a six-hour silent retreat last month with my mentor Marion.I was exhausted and saw it as a chance to recharge the batteries and escape my three whingeing teenagers. I love them to bits, but they can be very draining.
For the first three hours, my mind went into overdrive. Worries, memories, thoughts about food shopping/my accounts/the dog’s flea treatment, they all whizzed through my head like rush hour traffic down the Blackwall Tunnel. Then, I had a conversation with a late friend in my head. Crazy I know, but by this stage, I was losing my grip on sanity.
I ate lunch alone in a local graveyard and when I returned to the centre, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of bliss. It was as if I had found my inner Prozac. My mind was quiet, my breathing slowed and I couldn’t stop grinning. It was wonderful.
At the end of the retreat, we had to partner up and share our experiences. I was brimming with compassion and kindness and listened like I never have before. I felt the other person’s emotions keenly as if they were my own. The fortress of defences I carry with me were gone too and I was entirely comfortable with my own vulnerability. Without wishing to sound overly dramatic, I felt reborn.
When I did The Journey with Marion in September last year, she kept talking about ‘inner stillness’ and while I nodded sagely, I really didn’t have the foggiest as to what she was on about. On that day, it all made sense. There was an oasis of calm and stillness inside me, which had been there all along.
I wanted more, so a few weeks later, I spent six hours at the House of Prayer, which is nearby. Again, I touched the bliss inside and decided that next time, I’d brave a full 24-hours.
Tomorrow, I plan to meditate a lot, reflect and get plenty of fresh air. I don’t know what to expect as my experiences of silence were very different – second time round some uncomfortable emotions arose. Marion had already taught me that if this happens you simply invite them in. This feels counter intuitive as all I want to do is stuff them down with Haribos, but actually, when you allow a feeling to consume you, it usually pops like a soap bubble and disappears.
Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Whatever the case, I am certain to return well-rested and will report back. Don’t worry, there is zero chance of me becoming a nun – I don’t have the figure for a habit.