Ten days of noble silence?

The Rules:

No computer

No camera

No phone

No music

No reading

No writing

No eating after 12 noon

No killing (i.e. vegetarian diet)

No exercising (only walking)

No talking

It’s called “noble silence” and I’ve signed up for ten days of it, at an (expense free!) meditation retreat outside of Sarnath, a temple town a short rickshaw ride from Varanasi.

I have no idea what to expect. I know from my brochure that I will wake up to a bell ringing at 4am, and that there will be approximately ten hours of meditation per day (in the meditation hall or in the “cell”).  I know that it’s in a rural area where one can actually hear the birds sings and insects hum, a far cry from crowded Varanasi where I was kept up all night last night as another festival took over the ghats – fireworks and singing all night long.

I’m not sure what will unfold during my ten days of silence.

I can half picture sitting cross-legged on the floor of the meditation hall, a serene smile on my face as I focus only on the magnificence of my own breathing. In this mental imagine I am also likely radiating a bit of a glow, and quite possibly levitating.

Another mental image: me running, screaming, out the door, jumping the walls surrounding the retreat, and racing down the country road, cows and men on bicycles staring curiously as I babble hysterically about nonsense.

Most likely, I think, is that I will leave the same, with another new experience to ponder.

No matter what the outcome, I am very curious about where one’s mind wanders after a few days with only itself for company. How often do we really let our minds wander, without the interruption of a stimulus – be it visual, conversational, technological, or otherwise? The potential is huge.

It’s interesting to me that most people view ten days without talking/reading/writing/etc as torture, pure and simple. Are we really such terrible company for ourselves? Do we lack the discipline to entertain ourselves? And at what point does entertaining yourself equate to ‘losing your marbles,’ as my mum put it today when I called her to say goodbye for a few days?

I have a list of ‘thinking points’ to get myself started, but really I think the point is to get beyond superficial thinking and try to observe yourself from a more objective point of view.

… a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind.

I’m hoping to see what happens when (and if!) the narrative that continuously dictates my perceptions, is exhausted; when it takes a break. This narrative is what determines the entirety of my experience. It decides whether external circumstances are good or bad, whether they make me happy or sad, comfortable or uncomfortable. It is what defines my life, my existence, and my happiness. I suppose this narrative is what identifies my self, what makes me a unique being. I’m hoping this is a chance to view this more objectively.

I am fascinated by the idea of being aware of external stimuli (discomfort, pain, etc) but not controlled by them, by the idea that consciousness can observe, filter through such stimuli, and find contentment. This idea of consciousness; of us being something more than instinctual animals searching for pleasurable stimuli and avoiding negative ones, opens up another world for the possibilities of self-reliance and independence.

This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation

… teaches you to be aware and equanimous, that is, balanced, despite all the ups and downs of life.

It sounds like some pretty hippie stuff, I admit. Also pretty cliché – going to India and finding the “self” and all that. Never mind though, I’ll try (almost) anything once.

I’m looking at it as a curiosity, a challenge, and an opportunity. When else does a person take ten days to do something like this? It’s simply not possible in our normal lifestyles.

No matter what the outcome, it’s an interesting experience that I’m sure I will be reflecting on for quite a while.

And hopefully I’m not joining a cult.


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