I spent 7 hours of my day today in total silence. The idea of a silent retreat was planted into my brain several months ago, thanks to my amazing ex-roomie, who had spent many a day and night in this Nobel Silence.
I left early from a weekend of friends, mountains, relaxation and comfort, (not always easy) and drove 6 hours solo through snowstorms to attend this first, silent retreat for myself.
It was an interesting session – overall a lot less intense than i was expecting, though I went in with seemingly no expectations. The silence and stillness was welcomed and was not as difficult as one would imagine. I had an intense emotional reaction at the very beginning of the sit, but after that, it was pretty clear being.
One nugget that I took away from the experience, is to ask what? instead of why? in regards to feelings, emotions, thoughts, etc..
I tend to internalize a lot of shit in my little noggen – many times never letting it settle into my physical body. Today, I asked the teacher what he does to “Face the Shadow” – meaning, if an unpleasant feeling/emotion arises – what do you do?
The answer he gave made so much sense to me. He said that when things like this arise, the goal is to be curious about them – as they are now – not where they came from. Much like people, relationships and ultimately, our self, I suppose. To ask, “What does it feel like” rather than, “Why are you here?”.
We all have a shadow, a dark place where memories, behaviors, beliefs, feelings and actions hide that we are ashamed of or afraid of. We are human – and humans have experiences that are unpleasant. Years and years of shoving these ‘negative’ aspects into the closet create this stigma around them as being dangerous and threatening – a completely irrational belief if you live only in this moment. However, even though that is the goal – livin in the moment – most of our experience has been to celebrate and soak in the good, and to hide and forget the bad. Today’s darmah talk was all about reversing these patterns – embracing the shadow and inviting it into our daily lives, so that it becomes lighter and we become more familiar with it – ultimately releasing us from our made-up fear of it.
He crafted a scene of a dinner table, at which all of you is sitting, enjoying the scene, meanwhile, the ‘dark’ side of you is locked up in the closet – ignored, hurt, resentful – when all he or she wants is to be included. To sit at the table with you – respect, mon.
This scene made me laugh – I like it a lot and think it’s a phenomenal picture to paint. To embrace all aspects of self – and to invite them into our daily lives, I have a feeling can be quite transformative. And, rather than asking them “why they’re here” (when they come to the dinner table), inquire instead, into “What they’re like” – get to know them – as they are now. Chances are, they’re not as scary as you thought.
I’m looking forward to this practice, as I am visited by sun beams and shadows on the reg – and have not made a consistent, constant effort to experience them for what they are when they are.
Pass the butter please, Shadow.