Recently, I participated in 10 days retreat course about Tibetan Buddhism in Tushita meditation center in Dharamshala, North India. The course included meditation sessions as well. it was 10 days of silence. we were allowed to speak only during the group sessions that was for one hour on the first 7 days. the rest of the days were just meditation and complete silence. in these days, I only recited the mantras during meditation.
From the silence, I learned a lot of lessons about the universe within, the mind, others and life. Here are some of what I learned:
childhood and wars: the silence led me to the universe within, where I'm with myself, with no interruption, where I see things as they are, where I faced myself.
in this retreat, everything was getting to the surface, from recent events in my life to flashbacks from my childhood, and in between the major decisions I took till this moment. even some old events that I thought were minor, apparently, they're not. they still there somewhere.
Today, I have a deeper understanding what wars did to me and all the generations that lived it. Ironically, all the generations from my family (and most of the country) were involved in different wars since 1956.
Going few generations back in my family showed me that the war shaped us, and the way I perceive everything.
we think that the war is over, but it's alive in our traumas, our reactions and our genes. in order to get over it, a lot of healing and letting go should be done. in this retreat, I was trying, as much as I can, to let go of what's left within me.
Our generation, the one that was born in the eighties in the middle of civil war, was raised by generation of fighters and victims, and got all the traumas from our families, then the nineties came where nothing really happened, but then after 2000's, shit hits the fan again. this is how we got stuck in a vicious circle of PTSDs and other mental illnesses that led us to more depression and anxiety.
there is another coin of that. in the silence, I could go back in memories to good days and happy moments in life where I appreciate that I have a family, a sister, a brother and good people in my life, where I notice their role and how they supported me in different ways to be where I am today.
Label-less: according to Buddhism, whatever comes through the mind is an illusion. basically, the mind gives label to whatever we perceive, then we don't see things as they really are. we see them as the mind shows them to us. In silence, I was trying not to label what I experience. it was an opportunity for me to have "less labels" on the world around me. this made the world slower and more realistic.
For 10 days, I was mostly breathing and not trying to analyze reality. I was letting life goes through me with less thoughts and "less mind". the meditation sessions were sharpening my consciousness.
Nothing was distracting me: no mobile, no smoking, no talking, no music, no alcohol, no intoxicants. and even when we have breaks, I was sitting in corners in the forest where I don't see any person.
These conditions helped to just watch the inner world and the outer world. I was the witnesser. To be the witnesser of yourself is a great thing to experience. There, you can't lie to yourself. nothing there to interrupt the flow of life.
Healing: Buddha's teachings invite you to have love and compassion not only to every sentient being. it tells you to start with yourself. it tells you that you're a human but at the same time you have to potential to be a "Buddha", the enlightened one.
These teachings make things easier to not be afraid of your flaws, your mistakes, your behaviors where you harmed others (and yourself).
Buddha gave us as well techniques how to deal with reality, ourselves and others. this is how the meditation sessions became a healing process for me and 112 people who came from every continent of this planet.
Sometimes, we need to heal even from harmful actions we didn't commit. apparently, everything gets stuck in our consciousness even when "it's just an idea".
Facing the Ego: when you breath with awareness, you get confronted with the ego. Buddha's teachings considered the most insightful teachings that understand how the mind works and how the ego operates. in the last two years, I went inside the lab to have a better understanding of the ego: mine and any other ego. Today, I can conclude that the more we have delusions, the stronger the ego. And the more we have foundation for compassion and wisdom, the ego will get more dissolved. I think the most interesting battles we go through are against our ego, because the mind can convince us to identify with any thought or emotion that is going through it. It can delude us to think the ego is our true self, while it's not.
in the silence, I had the time to understand when my past actions were coming from either the true self or my ego. When we breathe, we create awareness of ourselves, then we can easily see the ego naked. the more we breathe in silence, the more we're closer to our source, and detached from the ego.
I understand that this battle will be on as long as I'm alive, because that's the job of the mind to create illusions for us to get attached to it, and our job is to be aware of this in order to have harmony and inner peace in this life, and the future lives.
"let it be": in silence, I learned that life is lighter and more following than it appears when we talk. it's like I "let it be" as the Beatles sang a few decades ago. there is always something happening around when everyone is there. I always have comments on things that are happening. I was watching life goes on as it is.
For sure, many questions or ideas came to my mind to share with others around me during the retreat, but the silence should be maintained at all times. I was learning how things are just in our mind, and they're not real and nothing will happen if we don't say them. I was watching these thoughts coming and going. At the end, life will go on.
Compassion for strangers: it's kind of a challenge to share the same space with 112 strangers that you have no idea who they are. over the days, I started to have this feeling that I know these people. I started to see myself through them.I would wonder what are their stories and how they end up here, but again looking for answers and healing led me here, so probably they're doing the same and sure they have other motivations.
Everyday, I started to see a bit of myself in each of them. and with the teachings, I started to have compassion to each one of them and I could see they're doing the same for themselves and me. This is the essence of Mahayana traditions. with the silence, we were practicing Buddhism, not only apprehending it on intellectual level.
Hearing the mother earth: we're surrounded by mountains and we're at the heart of the forest where a lot of monkeys, crows and other sentient beings are there. the maintained silence allowed us to hear the mother earth. being there is a medicine to the body and mind. it accelerates the healing process and it cleans the mind from a lot of delusions and of course more grounding for the self and more harmony between the inner and outer worlds.
The forest always sharing its wisdom, we just have to be in silence and listen with our hearts. the mind will deceive us at any chance if we let it, but the heart doesn't.
This retreat, that many consider it a lighter version of Vipassana retreat, was for me an introduction and preparing for the Vipassana that I'm planning to do in the coming year. To be in the presence of silence, is to heal, to grow, to have deeper connections with our inner universe and to harmonize it with the outer world. The silence is an excellent teacher, and it's always there. We just have to breathe with awareness.