While you were being enlightened…

For 10 days you were peacefully contemplating life, absorbing the purest form of mindfulness and reflecting on thoughts that passed in and out of your mind’s eye, getting to the big “E”. While you were being enlightened I reflected on why I would never want to go on a 10 day silent meditation retreat.

Before you left we talked about what a silent retreat was and these are the details that stuck out to me most. You can’t talk, exercise, do yoga, write anything down, read, eat dinner (cause it was your second time and you are now advanced), you wake up at 4am, and most startling you can’t make eye contact. We laughed at how absolutely horrid this would be for me and your comment was, “it’d be good for me to go, just to follow the rules…”

This literally sounds like something I would hate and would challenge me to the core, I imagine it as a kind of hell on earth. When we first discussed it, it was particularly humorous how different we are in approaching the idea of a silent retreat. All this made me really think about why I would never want to go. This is what I came up with:

I am a social creature. I actually crave social interactions and gain my energy from people. Sometimes known as an extrovert. I recognize that I need to be where the people are; loud and bustling spaces, watching how people interact, observing relationships and being able to place myself accordingly.

I have a loud internal monologue. Only being able to listen to myself for 10 days, I think I would drive myself bonkers. I would make myself dizzy talking to myself for that long and not being able to verbally clarify, process out loud and to connect to other minds.

I am an idea processor. Not only do I have a loud internal monologue, I need to write down the idea, look it over, reflect and come back to it with new insights. I need to visualize the idea in words and drawings, it helps me to understand the interactions and flow.

I am a rule bender. I don’t break rules for the sake of it, well sometimes, but mostly I question them. I ask what is the point, why this rule in particular and then I try and push the edges of the rule to see how far I can get. I think of rules like bendable fences. I have a hard time with constraints, especially when I don’t understand why.

So knowing all this about myself, I was able to reflect deeper onto why I wouldn’t want to go to a silent retreat and the more I did, the more I came to the realization that a silent retreat might be the perfect challenge. Crap.

I have been pushing myself and others to be uncomfortable, to challenge yourself and to live in the ambiguity of the process. I am not saying I am going to march out and sign up for the next 10 day silent retreat, but I think I will start to look for the baby step version of it. Can I be silent for 30 minutes? 1 day? Only I can make it happen.

Yet again, you have taught me something without trying. Stop that!

Design thinking me…


  4 comments for “While you were being enlightened…

  1. January 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Oh Jenn, how I love your witty renditions of your epiphanies. It is so true though, those unfathomable challenges may be just the ones to teach us about ourselves and help us grow 🙂 Do you think it will be easier for you to try this on your own on in the presence of others? Look forward to hearing you eventual experience 😉

    • January 8, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      Thanks Allison! I feel like in the presence of others that I already know would make it too tempting for me to want to interact, but also there would be a comfort in it. So, I am not really sure that I know the answer to that one yet. Good question!

  2. April 17, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Hey Jenn, I can relate to a lot of your personality traits and I did a 10-day vipassana meditation course (if not the one you’re describing, it sounds really similar) about a year ago. I did break one rule – somewhere around day 7 I grabbed a contraband pen and paper out of my suitcase and wrote, wrote, wrote – but other than that one indiscretion, I followed the rules to a T. And it was awesome. One of the best things I’ve ever done. The not-talking is actually one of the easiest parts, once you get used to it (took me like, a day). It really allows you to focus on what’s important, and for these 10 days, other people are not important. The last thing I’ll say is that on the very last day, we were allowed to talk, and the bond with other people was amazing – all our thoughts came pouring out and it was really, really good closure. So anyway – if you can make the space in your life to take 10 days, DO IT! It’s so, so worth it.

  3. April 17, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    Hi Sara, thanks so much for the comment. The sneaking paper and writing is almost comfort enough to try thinking about attempting this mayhem. I do like the idea of challenging myself to do something that I can’t talk my way out of.

    I have heard that the last day when you finally get to talk is an experience in itself.

    I can see a lot of reasons for why someone would want to do a 10-day silent retreat, especially someone that spends a lot of time talking and socializing. It would be similar to coaching advice I might give someone that has trouble meeting people. But isn’t there a mini one I could try. Like 4 hours or a day? I promise I won’t even write…

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