If you read my blog post from yesterday, you are aware that I embarked on a self imposed 24 hour silent retreat. The "retreat" took place in a friend's apartment that I am staying at in DC. The picture above is my view from her apartment. This 'retreat" consisted of 24 hours of silence. No TV, no music, no phone and internet access limited to only items related to reading and writing.
I didn't have any expectations for my day except for one. I figured I would probably sleep most of the day away from sheer boredom considering there is only so much reading, writing and meditating you can do. I was wrong. I actually didn't sleep at all. However, by the end of the day, I was tired and I went to bed at 9pm. I slept like a baby and was up at 5am! I thought this was surely some kind of miracle because one thing you should know about me is that I LOVE SLEEP. I have been making a conscious effort to get up at 5am though (more about that in a later post) so this was a win. As I maneuvered through my day I learned quite a lot about myself and had some A-ha moments. Below is a list of things that I learned.
1. Being silent is harder than being alone. On any given day, we are communicating in one way or another. Talking on the phone, talking to people we encounter as we come and go or texting a million times a day. I like to spend time alone but outside of daily meditation, I don't spend much of my time in silence. I am usually listening to an audiobook or music while surfing on Instagram. I don't own a TV but I sometimes watch Netflix on my phone. (I am a documentary lover). All of these activities involve some type of distraction. To be in silence for 24 hours, except for the sounds outside my window, was more difficult than I imagined and allowed me to have empathy for those who cannot communicate. Being in silence can be very isolating and very freeing at the same time.
2. I talk to myself alot. I didn't realize just how much dialogue I have with myself on a daily basis. Yes, we all live inside our heads and have conversations with ourselves but I literally was talking to myself out loud yesterday. I caught myself 3 times and by the fourth time I put my hand over my mouth and thought "shhhhhh, silence!" I wondered just how often I talk to myself out loud on a regular basis without even noticing it.
3. Solitary confinement needs to be abolished. As the day passed, there was a moment that I thought about prisoners in solitary confinement for some strange reason. I thought about how they are confined to a small space, with no view, in silence. How it would be easy for a person in that space to lose their mind. I thought about Shawshank Redemption and how determined Andy was to escape. Not only from the confines of the prison but from the confines of his mind. The other prisoners seemed to have adapted to the fact that they would be in prison and didn't know how to live outside of it. We saw this from Brooks committing suicide. This is only a movie but one I am sure most of you have seen several times. I thought about Kalief Browder and how he was imprisoned for a crime that he didn't commit, was subjected to solitary confinement and committed suicide once he was free. More than likely part of this was because of the abuse he suffered at the hands of those in prison with him, but the other part was probably from the abuse he subjected himself to mentally. I spent my day saying affirmations, praying and meditating. I am a positive person so I could imagine that if you were not positive, the crazy things that would go through your head. The reinforcement of those negative thoughts over and over again.
4. You can accomplish a lot in silence. I had to find ways to keep myself occupied throughout the day and by the end of the night I was astonished at all the things that I had done. I read "Your Invisible Power" by Genevieve Behrend and "Kehinde Wiley; The World Stage: France 1880-1960." Part of this book was in french so I enjoyed seeing how much french I recalled from high school. I also cooked breakfast for myself, washed dishes, did a load of laundry, meditated, prayed, worked on my website, wrote a blog post, worked on an online course I am enrolled in, reformatted my resume, wrote a cover letter and applied for a position that I am interested in. (Prayers up that I get it, if it's meant for me.) I never would have gotten half of these things done if I was on Instagram scrolling or getting my Netflix and chill on.
5. The ego is cantankerous. I had plenty of time to think yesterday. During those thought processes, I realized how difficult it can be to combat the ego. It wants to be in charge. It wants to be seen, to be heard, to be the center of attention. I found my ego caused me to continuously read over my blog post to make sure there were no mistakes. My ego made me question whether or not I could have the position that I applied for. My ego created a whole dialogue around how any one would see my blog post since I was on a social media hiatus. Honestly, I wanted to slap the shit out of my ego. I said to my ego that mistakes happen and that if my writing wasn't perfection, who cares? I released my fate with the position I applied for to God and the Universe. If it's meant for me, there is no way I won't have it. And I laughed at my ego because there is a such thing as auto post to social media so even when you're on hiatus, you can still post. Death to the ego. I know that is just wishful thinking but with continued work, I think I can get close to alleviating ego's attempted grip on my life.
I was anxious to turn my phone back on this morning to see if I missed anything. Guess what? I didn't. I had informed my loved ones of what I was doing so no one texted me during my 24 hour retreat. My ego questioned that too. But I told my ego that they respect me and my wishes and that is why no one reached out to me. Overall, the 24 hours was enlightening and something that I think I will incorporate into my life at least once of a month moving forward.
Have you ever taken time off to be silent? If so, share your experience in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you.
Depression survivor that discovered the power of positive thinking.