Wednesday, March 18, 2020
I'm still processing a week-long silent meditation retreat I just attended this month. The experience didn't enforce stringent isolation nor did it establish a blissful zone of peace for me. For the dozen of us present it did encourage speaking only when absolutely necessary or for brief questions during meditation talks. Eye contact was discouraged or any real interaction. The primary task at hand was to focus on presence of mind through breath work and during mindful walking throughout each day.
Having meditated off and on in the past, I had anticipated that a week of silent attention might provide a breakthrough exploration of what exactly consciousness is. In execution, the "being present" activities were intriguing and vivid at times, though toward the end of the week I developed a mild headache from the intense persistence of attentiveness. In the final days I ended up journaling and contemplating a variety of ideas rather than sticking to the meditative regimen. The many solo nature walks I made were joyful, taking on the guise of childlike adventure. (There was also a "secular buddhist" component to the experience, but I'll reflect on that aspect another time.)
In the end, I still like the idea of choosing to immerse in short silent periods to stay in touch with the real world, a world of sensation that often gets set aside in favor of the busyness of everyday life. And though ones own mind may have mysteries to reveal in its depths, I have become a bit cautious of trying to deconstruct what millions of years of precarious evolution have assembled.