A silent retreat is a powerful thing. I’ve done 1 day, 2 days, 3 days and failed a ten day. But for some reason at some point during a working weekend I was talking to a colleague and started investigating retreats. I found one on Koh Samui and around 14 months later I finally got there. Sharing the decision to do a 7 day silent retreat raises eyebrows. When you share the fact you’re doing it over Christmas makes the majority think your bats.
But hey, aren’t we all?
The day before I was terrified. Absolutely bricking it. And responded to that fear with cocktails and sleeplessness. That was probably the wisest decision as it’s impossible to be anxious when you’re hungover, exhausted and sweating vodka on a ferry….
Then I had the hour wait for the retreat with zenned out people in lotus tshirts and the aura of purity… During which all I wanted to do was vomit. Joyful and serene it was not. The ‘pickup’ turned up, all of us crammed into what is literally a pickup and drove the vertical uphill road to the retreat… Then we got there. Abandoning our luggage, we read the painful list of ‘house rules’ signed our lives away and handed in our tech. I say we… We were in this together. A bunch of strangers, most of whom their names I will never know. We ate, we chilled and then bam. Question time before silence.
The questions were basic and mundane ‘what are we eating’, ‘can we get more blankets’ ‘can I leave now?’ and then we were one down.
Despite practicing sitting cross legged at a bar stool for six days before, 5 minutes in to the first session that Sunday evening my knees were burning and my back was breaking.
For those wanting a tell all, I’m sorry. It was an intense personal experience. By day three I might have been bawling like a mo-fo, laughing (internally) as the monk lectured us about ‘penetration’ for an hour but sitting on an empty bar stool as I type this; a pool party kicking offing the background, the tears were needed and the experience electric.
Three days of highs, lows, snakes and cats later,I was ready to bounce. Vey very ready. I’d dispensed with the tears, exhausted the highs and the only way was out. That was a packed ferry journey to the next island and ordering food I couldn’t eat. Two days later and my voice is finally no longer a separate entity but the mind is still half there. I’m getting back to reality slowly. The thoughts still swirling; action is needed.
Was it worth it? Hell yes.
Would I do it again? Hell no
How do I feel? Ask me later, with the black eyed peas echoing in the background I’m off to bed, hoping tomorrow I’ll be less ‘monked out’…
Update: You’re not sitting all the time, you get to meditative walking and listen to a lecture for an hour a day.