Before leaving for the retreat, I reasoned that the silence might take a day or two to get used to. How wrong I was. Even in my initial distraction on that first afternoon, I felt as though I had come home. Nobody talking, no eye contact, no communication of any kind. Just silence and an inward focus. I can only imagine the number and depth of insights experienced by people during those days. All made possible by the silence. It was beautiful, and at times it took my breath away.
Oddly, I noticed it particularly during mealtimes. Despite the high level of activity and close proximity, there was stillness and calm. Bowed heads politely gave way to each other as we floated peacefully through the tightly packed tables. A scene in which chatter normally fills all available space, was quiet, except for the sound of cutlery. In the stillness, with everyone playing by the same rules, there was a greater intimacy – as if we were sat together as one, rather than the small clusters which ordinarily arise in the midst of myriad conversations.
Indeed, it was during breakfast on day three that I experienced an effortless, seamless shift from mind to awareness. Had I been able to speak, I might have wished to share it with someone. But somehow, in the silence, I was able to share it with the entire room. (I even considered that when my son is old enough, we will have a silent day each month. So precious was the whole experience. So valuable. So insightful.)
Or the silent sitting with Mooji on day four, with its depth and purity of stillness and reflection. 1500 hundred people in one great hall, seated in complete silence. Strength in numbers, lending authority to the inevitability of insight. During that silence he spoke from time to time; his words given even greater meaning by the peaceful accompaniment. There was also the silence in the queue for each Satsang. Never has queuing been so enjoyable, nor so easy.
I shared a room with two other men for five nights, and yet we never shared a word. Again, the intimacy of silence. It made our relationships so much easier. Uncomplicated. No surface-level politeness, frivolous conversation, or game-playing. Just a purity of being. I don’t know their names, I don’t their nationalities. And when I left, there was no need to linger in order to say goodbye or exchange numbers. We didn’t know each other. Yet we had met one another in the silence.
The stillness is the gateway to the is-ness. There is peace there. In the peace there is space. And in the space there is love in abundance. For that experience alone, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.