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Can 24hrs of Complete Silence Bring Unconditional Self Love?

Updated: Jan 13

I woke up one Sunday morning in January, in the second year of Covid 19 and decided to do a day of complete silence. I had no prior plan to do this. It just occurred to me while lying in bed after a not so restful night of sleep due to a late night hangover from heavy day drinking the previous Saturday. While others have chosen to use this valuable down time during the global pandemic to pursue life long goals, like writing a book or finally paving the front driveway, I unexpectedly, took up day drinking. Unfortunately, this particular Saturday I over did it, and ended up drunk texting Exes. A minor wake up call to dash the cup from my lips and sober up. This resulted in a major roaring headache Saturday evening that started at 10:30pm and lasted until 3am Sunday morning, when I finally was able to fall asleep.

To my surprise I awoke seven hours later that Sunday morning feeling rested and calm. Due to the Covid Lockdown restrictions in my area of London, there was reassuring quiet throughout my neighbourhood, and as a result I felt encouraged to remain in bed and soak up the warmth my duvet a little bit longer. As a result of this added time under the bedcovers and neighbourhood silence, I began to hear myself think. I use the word “Think” loosely, because it was more like I was experiencing listening to my thoughts. At first, it seemed like there were a few here and there but as I continued to listen in stillness, they progressively grew to an overwhelming stream. Strangely, instead of calling it quits and getting up to make a morning tea and start my day of holy rest, I continued to lie in the stress of being overwhelmed. It took a minute or two but the stressful moment passed and I was once again calm.

In the calm is when I made my decision to listen without judgement or prejudiced to what was going on inside my head. “Why?” You may ask. To get closer to finding myself, and, once found, perhaps get closer to understanding myself. “What the point of that?” Could be your response to such a cabalistic endeavour. I believe that understanding leads to compassion, compassion to forgiveness, and forgiveness to unconditional love. Four things that no one else can provide for me but myself, and consequently four things that I need to continue to mature in this experience of life. Therefore, I decided to do a one day Silent Retreat. Never being sold on the idea of “Vipassana” Silent Retreats, due to the fragile appearance and wild eyed look of those YOGI IN THE CAVE types, this decision was quite a shock to myself when finally made.

As this was my first and uneducated attempt at complete silence without guidance or supervision, I decided to lay down a few ground rules for the day.

  1. No talking, this was my mind’s time to speak and mine to listen.

  2. Don’t engage or react to what I hear.

  3. No TV or other entertainments.

  4. No social media in any form.

  5. Continue on with my daily to do list, but other than those activities, no other distractions.

  6. Other than a planned WhatsApp video chat with my Dad, no other social interaction.

In the beginning, listening was very entertaining in that Disney discovery wonderment sort of way. At breakfast it felt like I was listening to a self written version of The View. This is when I started to distinguish four different voices inside my head, based on the subject matter and tone of the thoughts. Here is how I split them up, The Child, The Adolescent, The Young Adult and The Current Woman. And everyone of them is angry and defensive on some level. Is this what they mean by Baggage? Not only did it seem like they were communicating thoughts to me the listener, but also to each other.

It did become challenging as the day progressed and there were more than a few times that I wanted to distract myself with TV, email, and eating. But I preserved. I did fall off on the rules though. I end up replying to a text message that was a result of my previous day drunk texting. Ignoring it would have created additional problems, so I cheated on my rules, but it was just the one time. All in all, my to do list kept me busy and produced new topics for the voices to discuss, which was a relief, because the amount of times one particular topic continued to get raised by my Young Adult was on the verge of insanity, to where I wanted to scream,“Girl, shut up and sit down, nobody want’s to hear that mess again!”.

When 5pm rolled around and my to do list was done, I was considering giving myself a reward by watching some TV. In truth, I was just scared I couldn’t continue on without having physical activities to fill the time. However, I stuck it out and to my delight the rest of the evening to bedtime was relaxing and calming, almost meditative. The voices became a background noise where you hear and acknowledged their existence, but it no longer intrudes into the present moment. And as a result I began to be more focused on the present actions like running a bath or putting my hair up for the night. In short, I enjoyed my own company without any distractions and this in turn alleviated an ever present unidentified fear . Go figure. The day came to a serene close as I climbed under the covers and turned out the lights at 10:30pm. And my usual bedtime fears of not being able to fall asleep, which usually result in my not falling asleep for at least 45 minutes were non-existent. In my relaxed state I drifted off and awoke refreshed the next morning,

As an overall experience, I was impressed by the calm and peace that developed throughout the day. As far as achieving the goals that I set out the previous morning, I think it was a bit too ambitious to believe that one day of silence would result in complete understanding of one’s self. How long did it take the Buddha, incidentally? In classic Vipassana practice there is the goal to see the meaning of life. I didn’t have any clarity on the meaning of life but I did begin to see through my thoughts. And as a result they took on an illusionary nature. Who knows, one day maybe I will end up in a cave eating a single bowl of rice daily for substance, looking fragile with a wild eyed stare, embracing the “YOGA IN A CAVE”/ full on Vipassana life style. Until such time, I have decided to try and do this on a regular basis, perhaps once a week, Covid social calendar allowing.

Things I learned and observed about my current life experience/state as a result of my one day impromptu, unsupervised Silent Retreat.

  1. I’m never alone, I have four frenemies that are my constant companions.

  2. Listening is a superpower.

  3. I’m hanging onto a great deal more pain form my past than I thought.

  4. My past survival coping techniques that are based on past hurtful experiences while growing up, have become my factory default settings and greatly shape my present day life experiences and this makes no kind of sense!

  5. Fear is ever present.

  6. Hope is ever present.

  7. I crave and feel love in all its forms.

  8. At my core I’m not sure what I am, but I know that I AM.

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