Last week, I was lucky enough to attend a week-long silent retreat, lead by experienced and gifted meditation teachers Christina Feldman and John Peacock.
Here are some of my reflections on a sometimes challenging, always enlightening, seven days in silence:
The dazzling pin-pricks of silver dew on grass tips in the early morning.
The music of birdsong, and absence of mobile phone ringtones.
The gentle clanging of ancient pipes and plumbing.
The importance of a simple smile or gesture in the absence of words.
The judging, story-telling mind.
The insistent tick-tock of a clock.
The relief of slowing down.
The realisation of how easy it is to say too many words.
The strange, yet relieving, absence of chatter at mealtimes.
The unfolding of life in moments.
The challenge of it all.
The relief of a body now strong and open enough to sit in relative stillness!
The (unhelpful) exasperation of a mind continually grasping, searching, judging, planning, conceptualising.
The dazzling whiteness of May blossom.
The terrifying, motivating knowledge of mortality.
The abstract knowledge that, beyond the craving, restless mind, lie tiny glimpses of pure awareness.
The indulgence of a 9.30 bedtime!
The alive-ness of rising early.
The numbness of feet and legs after 25 minutes sitting.
The tiredness of practising after lunch.
The wisdom, fluency and inspiration of the evening Dharma talks.
The strangeness of 40 strangers living intimately for a week, yet in silence.
The simple relief of no words.
The lovely unpredictability of sunshine and showers: a fresh, wholesome English late Spring.
The image of figures moving in slow-motion through the gardens and meadows, at dusk-fall.
For more information about guided (or individual) silent retreats in the UK, for two nights or longer, see the website of Gaia House in Devon.
Lucia Cockcroft, editor