The first time I gave myself the gift of 10 days silent meditation, I came undone.
I went in to simply test my own self discipline — but while there, I experienced the dissolution of everything that I believed to be real. The very physical reality of my own body, but also my sense of my own identity, all revealed itself to be a very convincing illusion.
Everything I ever believed opened up and disappeared, creating space for an understanding of the world that changed everything about everything.
It left me feeling so free, liberated, unburdened — enlightened — I literally felt a million times lighter. Pain and exhaustion went away as nothing more than fleeting red lamps on my dashboard, anger and sadness evaporated, and I gained so much time, the world seemed to slow down and reveal itself to me on a cellular level.
The word “spirituality” started to mean something to me — not in the incense-burning, miracle-believing, fantasy kind of way, but rather, I discovered and developed a conscious relationship with that inner self that observes and experiences everything that I encounter — my own “spirit” or “intuition” or “subconscious” or as I came to call it, “suppressed consciousness” that quietly collects all the data but doesn’t bother the crazy, delusional, limited conscious mind with more than it can or wants to deal with.
To me, spirituality came to mean the awareness, conscious and experiential awareness, of what cannot be perceived by the physical senses, but is equally present, and in fact, informs everything, is the true formless content around which my physical self is wrapped around like a protective sheet around a ghost. That which does not exist in the three-dimensional world that we know and take for granted, but in a dimension that cannot be experienced by eyes, ears, nose or mouth.
The world opened itself up to me. It was like having x-ray vision with my eyes closed. It was bizarre and natural at the same time.
But the physical world and all its noise and stimulation is a powerful and persistent force that slowly but surely pulled the cover back over my mind’s eye. And because I didn’t start meditating to connect with that inner knowing every day, I lost connection to it except in the memory of the unforgettable experience of that wide open world.
I went back to more 10-day retreats over the years, once every 1-1,5 years, trying at times to maintain my awareness on a daily basis but eventually having my efforts washed away when I came under a flood of emotional disruption in some aspect of my life, in a relationship or work or some form of disappointment or upset.
This last time around was the longest gap I’ve let go between retreats, it was over two years since my last retreat, or I should say, reboot, and I really felt it. Not only was the past year incredibly dark and heavy and overwhelming as I encountered older more hidden false beliefs and stories about my own identity, when I got to the retreat, I found that my mind was too agitated to be able to focus. It took hard work to even be able to feel my own breath.
But you know, just having all new stimulation stop for a while is a huge gift. Being able to just stop everything and allow space for all the pain and frustration to play out its course in your own head is a huge gift. And being able to see it come up, hang out, and then leave again, is the biggest gift of all.
Everything is impermanent. Everything. Change is constant, and therefore, trying to hold onto anything is futile. The work never stops because the world never stops. The only enduring happiness can come from a deep-seated inner peace, which can only come from fully accepting the constantly changing nature of everything.
As humans, it is in our nature to try and hold onto things. Good or bad, we hold onto things because they give us a sense of security, false and fleeting as it is. We try to hold onto love, happiness, taste, joy, people, parents, lovers, children, things, anything and everything that we believe about the world around us, we don’t want it to change because it gives us a sense of security in our own being.
We are afraid to face the reality of our own changing nature. That our own being is temporary and fleeting.
Where does this fear come from? It doesn’t matter, really. The reality is that we have to overcome this fear in every living breathing moment. And we have a choice, of either surfing the wave of constant change, or drowning and being washed away by its powerful force.
How do we surf it? By surrendering to it, not resisting it, by not trying to stay still but letting ourselves move with it, and in so doing, we can stand more still than any other illusion we believe in about stillness.
By simply observing the world as it happens, and not reacting to it, by not believing what our mind tells us, about physical reality, about our own identity, about life as we know it, by becoming truly conscious of what we experience and how we are constantly driven by our own subconscious reactive mind, we can hope to discover how much energy we waste on trying to hold onto the illusion that we know, deep down, to be false.
And then what do we stand to gain? Freedom. Liberation. The choice of real freedom in our actions, without the compulsion to keep investing in protecting something that isn’t there, the illusory self that needs constant attention, validation, protection, lest it slips away. The identity, or the “ego”.
Should we be without ego? No, there’s nothing we should do, reject, want to be rid of. The ego helps us navigate the space we exist in. But understanding that it is illusory helps us stay free within the limits of the physical world.
There was a time after one of my courses that I had a conflict about being a designer of brands and identity. I knew that identity wasn’t even real, so why keep creating it? I have realised now, that identity is a language that we use to communicate with each other in the reality we find ourselves in. As long as we don’t put all our stock in it, as long as we do not subscribe to an illusion but authentically, generously and freely create something in service of ourselves and others, in helping them come closer to their own liberation, then this language serves a good purpose.
Because in order to be free of the limitations of the physical world as we commonly know it, we must first come to rest in this world. In a state of stress, we may be one of the rare ones who break open and come free of the illusion, but mostly, the stress just keeps us even more deeply stuck in a state of constant unending craving for peace, satisfaction, calm.
After years of being a restless, never satisfied young person seeking the next object of attention, I have finally come to embrace and accept that this wriggling, restless child in me is of my own creation, to be held and consoled by me, the older wiser observer, the “soul” that knows that there is no satisfaction possible in this physical world after all.
I finally feel capable of just stopping, to watch the world pass by, notice how it changes, only to never stop changing, how it is nothing but a stream of energy, like a lightbulb, creating an illusion of being permanent and constant, but actually dying and arising again and again in every perceptible moment.
The pain I felt last year was the pain of my created identity knowing it’s time was over, that it lay on its deathbed, waiting to be released. And the passion I felt before that was the feeling of connection to my deeper, wiser, knowing self.
I have discovered that passionate people are those who feel deeply connected to their inner truth and wisdom, believe deeply in their purpose and are guided by it.
I have discovered that love is the dissolution of boundaries, distinctions, differences, and the deeper understanding of being united. Not by choice or force, but by nature.
I have discovered that there is no freedom in life until there is conscious awareness of the self.
I have discovered that there is a limitless self within each of us, which we can access, by working consistently to break free of the bondage of the unconscious mind.
I have discovered that all my work, as a designer, facilitator, coach, strategist, storyteller, artist, writer, all originate and are grounded in the deeper desire to help myself and others access this limitless self.
I have rediscovered that this limitless self stops clinging to the fleeting things in the material world to numb its pain, and that this pain is so constant in its craving, it is responsible for all the pain in the human world, poverty, violence, injustice, hunger, ignorance, anger and greed.
I have rediscovered that I am committed to the limitless conscious self, and the stripping down of the house that I have built around that self, until I am truly free.
I have rediscovered that just 10 days of silence and meditation can bring us closer to the limitless self than ever before.
If nothing else, 10 days of silence gives you a chance to reconnect to your deeper self.
If nothing else, 10 days of silence gives you a chance to actually listen to your own voice.
If nothing else, 10 days of silence gives you a chance to empty your internal inbox of input that tries to convince you one way or another of what you should be doing.
If nothing else, 10 days of silence is a gift everyone must give themselves, to discover what could be. To allow for the possibility to discover that in a world free of sensual delusions, what the truth of our own personal reality might be.
If nothing else, 10 days of silence lets the ripples in the pool that is your soul come to rest, so you have a blank, smooth sheet of glass to create yourself in once again.
Hopefully just a little bit more consciously the next time around.
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