I just came back from a silent retreat in India.
That has raised a few eyebrows. When I told my friends I will spend 10 days in silence, the first question was "what will you do?", followed by "why?", and "but you can use your phone right?" and finally "have you lost your mind?"
The answers of course were I will spend ten or more hours each day meditating. I will not be reading, talking, writing, exercising, practicing ritual or using any form of entertainment or external stimulation. And I went because I needed to have deeper understanding of my mind, to reprogram it better, to un-condition it so it does not reactively chase after pleasure and run away from aversion. I wanted to gain control over my happiness. So no, I cannot use my phone and no, I did not lose my mind but I sure do hope I eventually do.
What was really worth stopping and thinking about was why had this created such a strong reaction. Friends have jumped off planes, trekked and climbed mountains, done crazy travel routes, spent crazy money on silly things, gone into abusive relationships, exhausted their bodies, brains and pockets beyond belief and were encouraged to do so. Yet me sitting on a cushion, day after day, hour after hour, creating nothing, doing nothing, saying nothing, affecting nothing, being nothing, seemed like a crazy thing to do.
We live in a world where we fluctuate between juggling a million tasks at a time (think wanting the perfect career, family life, friends and looking good doing it!), and finding whatever dulling stimulation that will shut our minds up (think binge watching series, scrolling down social media endlessly and using substances) that the idea of conscious rest has become insane.
I see this when I teach new students deep breathing, they embarrassingly laugh at themselves as they yawn all the way through class not understanding why. A mind that is trained to be constantly stimulated thinks it is the normal state of being. It also thinks that the lack of stimulation means the lack of reason to remain awake. Yet even in sleep, this busy mind remains troubled and unable to shut down and so even binge sleeping does not leave it rested.
We have lost the ability as a specie to "do nothing". Our idea of doing nothing is that it is a waste of time or completely insane. We think doing nothing means to be passively stimulated. But doing nothing is vibrant, essential and natural. Watching our breath, feeling the breeze, hearing the rustling of leaves are all experiences that make us more awake, more innocent, more pure, more present and ultimately, more loving.
Weam is the founder of Namaste. She had started a very deep and intense spiritual journey at a young age having refused to continue to suffer with the common challenges of her generation: depression, anxiety and being lost. She insisted that there must be more to life than the constant rat race she was in