Noble silence

noble silence

One of my dearest friends brought to my attention recently, how the universe had been “beating me over the head,” to wake me up and let my voice be heard! She reminded me of a few years back when I went to the Vipassana Meditation Center in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts for a 10 day silent meditation course.  Some of you who know me may be laughing at this point, thinking of me being silent for 10 days.  I really wanted to do it and my heart was in it.  It felt so right for me at the time to go and discover more within myself and about life.  I went into the 10 days with a sincere intention and dedication to self-exploration and purification.

The center is absolutely beautiful and everyone was so welcoming.  The following is a general layout of the course:  The men and women live in separate corridors.  There were two vegetarian meals a day and for dinner you could either drink tea and/or have some fruit.  I thought the meal plan would be hard for me but, it was surprisingly very easy.  You meditate for around 10 hours of the day.  No writing is allowed along with, no yoga or any other form of exercise (other than walking), no electronics, no phones, no music, no reading and NO TALKING!  No communication of any kind, “Noble silence of body, speech and mind.”  There were little to no distractions during this highly transformational experience.  To actually read more in detail you can check it out here: http://www.dhara.dhamma.org/about-vipassana/code/

The center is taught by S.N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagni U Ba Khin.  S.N. Goenka was not actually at the center.  Each evening we watched a video of a lecture with S.N. Goenka explaining the meditation process and about what we might experience during each day.  There were two facilitators, a woman and a man.  They were there to “hold the space” for the group and answer any questions regarding the technique of the meditation.  There were specific times during the day when you could ask the facilitator a brief question. Each facilitator had an assistant.  The assistant was someone that you went to first, if anything logistically came up during the course.  Otherwise, noble silence is the name of the game.

On day one there was talking up until dinner time and then the silence began.  On the second day my menstrual cycle started.  It was unexpected and I was not prepared.  Day two, I went to ask the assistant for feminine products.  Day three, I was feeling terrible cramps and went to the assistant for some Advil.  I really liked this asking a question loophole!!  These were only brief talking interactions but I was talking…

When I wasn’t asking for modern day necessities, I found I liked talking to myself in the bathroom mirror!  It was pretty ridiculous how my voice wanted to be heard!  I would look in the mirror, stare deep into my own eyes and say out loud but softly, “Today, I am NOT going to use my voice.” Then I would THINK, “You just USED your voice Erin!”  THEN I would think while staring into the mirror at myself, “starting now.”  I would walk away smiling, then a laugh would bubble up and I would be back at square one!  It was comical!     

Day 5, the 4am gong was reverberating throughout the sanctuary to wake us up for morning meditation.  I was getting ready for the day, flossing my teeth, when one of my molars fell out! As my friend Stephanie likes to say, “You can’t make this stuff up!” HA!  Let me preface this by saying that I had a temporary crown put on a week before I left for this life adventure and the dentist swore to me that it would be okay.  Well, the good news was that I HAD THE TOOTH!  It didn’t fall down the drain!  Phew! That was a miracle!  I carried the tooth in my hand to the assistant, opened my palm and said, “Look at what just happened!”  She looked at me in complete disbelief and said, “IS THAT A TOOTH?!”  I said, “Yup.”  Morning meditation was starting so we decided to talk after.  If you can imagine, all I did during that meditation session was use my tongue to play with the new found hole in my mouth and try not to laugh!  Thank goodness it wasn’t hurting.  I thought of calling my dentist to ask him for advice on what to do but I didn’t want to break protocol with the phone call and they didn’t want me to either…The assistant, the facilitator and myself were brainstorming on what to do about my tooth.  As the day went on, my mouth did begin to become sensitive and painful.  During midday meditation, it came to me that denture glue might work!  I mentioned it to the facilitator and she said someone could go buy me some later that day if I could wait that long.  I could and did.  It wasn’t until the next morning that I was able to put the tooth back in with the help of a nurse who was volunteering in the kitchen.  This one experience of getting my tooth back in could be a story all in itself!  Let me just say that neither of us knew what we were doing.  And when she said to me, ” How much glue should I use?”  My response was, “The more the better??” It was a one shot deal in my mind.  Do or die!  She shoved it in and it felt better.  The air wasn’t touching the nerve endings anymore BUT we used too much glue and when I went to bite my teeth together, just that one tooth would touch the bottom teeth.  Who cares right?!  I didn’t.  I was relieved to not be feeling any discomfort in my mouth.  I only had four more days left.  I told myself, I can do this!  My mouth is feeling better and I can definitely not talk for four days! Yeah, I know, I have spoken a little every day that I have been here…but starting NOW I am not going to talk the rest of the time! Silence is my middle name.

That day, I went to lunch and was so excited there was steamed kale.  It was in larger pieces so I had to bite it to chew it up.  I went to take a bite and, let’s see if I can describe this accurately, the piece of kale just came right back out of my mouth!  I immediately recognized that your teeth need to touch each other to be able to break a piece of food up.  Then I lost it!  It all happened so fast!  A short burst of noise came out of my mouth and tears came streaming out of my eyes.  I wanted to laugh so hard I had to get up and leave to compose myself and respect the code of discipline.  It was all okay.  Once I discovered that I couldn’t bite any food with my new teeth arrangement, I found a different way to eat.  It just caught me by surprise!

I had a few days left and I was hoping they would go without a hitch.  If you consider that I never left the premises and I never spoke to anyone who wasn’t in the loophole clause, take away the day when my shower curtain fell off and I had to ask someone to fix it, the rest of the Vipassana course went beautifully.  The 10th day was a day of integration where we were allowed to speak again.  All in all, I may have had a 12 hour consecutive period of not talking!  I am marking this experience up as a success!

It may not appear this way, but I LOVED my Vipassana meditation experience and would highly recommend it to anyone.  Sometimes one just isn’t ready for noble silence in their world, and that’s okay!  I learned a great deal about myself during the 10 days and in reflecting back I discovered messages that were wanting to be heard, even years later.  I didn’t make the correlation, until recently when my dear friend Leigh Anne and I were speaking about my blog and she said “Remember when you did that 10 day silent Vipassana meditation course? Your teeth were literally falling out trying to get your attention to wake up and share your voice!”

The universe is constantly trying to get your attention to guide you in the direction of discovering your truth and living in love.  Taking 5 minutes a day to close your eyes, bring your inner awareness to your heart center and breathe can help you to listen to your body and soul and discover what wants to be expressed.  Find your voice my friends and share it with the world.  Now is the time.

LOVE AND LIGHT

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