On the third week I embarked on a silent retreat. I messaged everyone goodbye as if I was setting sail on a long sea crossing (in a way I was). I handed Steph, my room mate my phone and asked her to hide it. And we began. On the second day I was hit down with nasty flu....on top of CFS. I found Atma Mandir, our Swami and quietly told him "I have the flu". He just looked at me quizzically, cocked an eyebrow and said, "...And?" Not unkindly. I stopped. "I'll just have to work through it..". I walked away chuckling to myself. Realising I had broken Mouna, my silence (which is allowed for something truly important) to say the equivalent of, "It's cloudy". And I did meditate through it. I sat there meditating through the banging headaches and flu along with CFS for a few hours a day. It was bloody hard! On reflection feeling that ill would be a decent enough excuse to skip meditation on any day. If I can have insights and experiences that profound, feeling like that, then it shows that we can meditate through most states.
I’ve never been that bothered by the desire to find inner peace or the other reasons someone might normally go into retreat for. I went to get to know my mind a bit better, to stop as deeply as I could stop. What happened on retreat is between myself and the mountain top. But let's just say (and this part really amuses me) ...all those so called cliches revealed themselves to became true. I now understand why people talk about 'finding yourself', about being ‘at one with all that is’. I met a part of myself that is far deeper than whatever my mind and physical body is going through right now. It isn’t going too far to say I had an actual conversation with my soul. I’ll share just one part of it... I asked, towards the end of a deep meditation session..”and the ME...?”
“I had to get you closer to me somehow,” came the reply.
The answer was light, casual and matter of fact.
What we really learned was a little bit more about the nature of the human mind. To be aware - as aware as we can be in any given moment. That's really all that meditation is. And then to never try to control, suppress or judge the mind. That can be a harder part. Don't interfere with it, just keep shifting your focus back to the breath.
When we still the thinking mind, whatever has been floating below the level of consciousness - samskaras (as they are called in Sanskrit), or imprints (you could say that everything you experience or ever think could be described as an imprint) are able to rise to the surface. It can be everything from something mildly annoying to hugely challenging emotions and memories. I had a huge amount of music that hadn’t swum through me for a while since I stopped working as a musician cascading through me. Everything from songs I used to listen to in my teens to new orchestra parts. The more time I spend with my mind, the more I wonder if it should really be a silent retreat at all.
Finally we came out of our silence - even those not in the retreat sessions with the Swami who kept the centre running had been living in silence for the week. Words came bubbling out of me like a river again, but the funny thing was, my usual need to speak and communicate had dissipated. And it felt both profoundly still and fizzingly alive.
And what I will keep with me is the knowledge that whatever happens, there is a part of me that is stronger and more infinite than anything this lifetime will ever throw at me.
An ME/CFS Thriver