Noble silence at a meditation retreat!
Noble silence! That was the essence of the meditation retreat.
The newbies were rather excited and chatty. However, the seniors seemed to know the rules of the ten-day noble silence sanctuary. The centre is like an oasis in the middle of a forest. They kept our mobiles, notebooks and pens. It was absolutely solitude!
“Where is your room? Let us go to the dining hall together after unpacking.” The twelve-day vegetarian menu was so simple, yet, delicious. I should come back as a helper in the kitchen next time! (Which I did, cooking for hundred-over people!)
At the dining table, we learned that silence means no talking verbally, as well as non-verbally! No eye contact nor gestures are allowed. Everybody was in a mind your own business mode! On the way back to our individual rooms, [low voice], “oh, in case I don’t hear the gong at four am, please knock at my door!” The course manager glanced disapprovingly at us.
Soon, the orchestra of croaky frogs and tadpoles began. It became part of the otherwise tranquil nights. I hid an insect repellant, a few packs of biscuits, and some masking tapes. The latter was to cover any holes on the window nettings, which I read about online.
The classes started at four o’clock in the morning and ended at about ten at night. The assistant teacher of S.N. Goenka gave some instructions and teachings on the Vipassana technique. During meditation, the huge hall was in pin-drop silence.
We had to listen to our breaths as the air entered and left our nostrils as in normal respiration. Fleeting memories of the past and worrying concerns of the future flitted in and out of my mind. Very often, I had to recall myself to the present moments.
This task of breathing in and out was hard work, indeed! The meditation’s goal is to purify the mind completely of emotions like anger, hatred, sadness or fear with the help of natural respiration.
There were, in fact, a lot of reflections going on in our minds the next few days. By the third to fifth day, several ladies were releasing their emotional ‘taps’ silently. A few men on the other side of the hall were seen sniffing too.
One day, after a lunch break, I saw a lady sitting under a huge tree, all alone, crying. So I told the course manager about my concern for her. She took that lady to see the assistant teacher.
In this practice of noble silence, there was no one to listen to, as everybody was not talking. We were actually listening to our own little self-talks; self-reflection during our mindful meditation.