I settled onto my throne of pillows, seated in the lotus position. I closed my eyes, relaxed my hands and arms and let them rest on my legs. My breath was full and purposeful. I placed my attention only on my breath in the true Buddhist tradtion of meditation. Minutes later mental mind chatter charged in, disrupting the momentary peace--I wonder what's happening at home?...Mmmm, something smells good. I wonder what we're having for lunch? As much as I focused on my breath, the chatter refused to cease. I had no control! Then I felt the first "sensation" from my neck. I recalled the conversation with the master earlier in the day.

"Stop judging the pain." Shankara had said. I smiled outwardly while screaming silently, "What! Stop judging this self-absorbed, disturber of the peace as it needles every joint and muscle in my body with its tortuous tentacles!" Despite Shankara's willingness to shed light on my chaos, I felt like a lost tourist desperate for directions and unable to speak the language. "Call what you are experiencing sensations. Then name them as they come up", he had said. I heard serenity and confidence in his tone. Sitting across from Shankara on the overstuffed, semi-circular couch earlier that day, I was reminded of a young Robert Redford--blonde hair,blue eyes,chiseled chin--my idea of gorgeous! But wait a minute weren't masters suppose to be old---white thinning hair, wisdom wrinkles and little folds under the eyes? I decided to trust this thirty-something master. In the short span of an optional ten minute consult I acquired a nugget of wisdom that shifted my entire experience of being in the silence.

I traveled several hours to Sky Meadow for a silent weekend retreat. Nestled in the heart of the Green Mountains in the quaint blink-and-you'll-miss-it town of Greensboro Bend, Vermont, it advertised what I craved--peace and quiet. The retreat rules mandated absolute silence with a regimen of alternating sitting and walking meditations throughout the day. My plan was to escape life; instead it followed me into the silence.

Strolling back in silence to the main facility after meeting with Shankara, I gazed at the majestic Green Mountain range. My thoughts drifted back to one month ago when my soul ached for "nothingness", a place void of responsibilty and the heaviness of caring for others. Twelve years of commuting sixty minutes each way to my psychotherapy practice, managing my own home and developing a life coaching practice left me feeling depleted spiritually, drained emotionally, and exhausted physically. I always arranged time for monthly massages, personal growth retreats, and my own psychotherapy--no expense was spared on self-care. How had I become so lost? Sitting in contemplation I heard the powerful voice of Spirit giving me a loving order..."Stop now and reconnect with Self." I listened. I took the biggest leap of faith in my life and closed both my psychotherapy and life coaching practices to take a year long sabbatical. Sky Meadow was the first stop on my journey.

The screen door creaked as I entered the recently restored one hundred year old barn. Despite my attempt to enter quietly I interrupted the small group of meditators. They were an eclectic bunch, a blend of Wall Street sprinkled with granola. The scene was reminiscent of a group of monks in walking prayer in a Tibetan temple. Although they had not shaved their heads or donned orange robes, and the pine paneling and large picture windows of the barn didn't resemble a temple, they all walked at their own pace slowly, reverently, back and forth across the shiny pine floor, heads bowed, arms and hands folded in prayer stopping momentarily at the end to reflect before turning around to walk the same imaginary line back. It was a peaceful sight to watch.

My thoughts were interrupted by the gentle tinkling of the bell signaling a change from walking to sitting meditation. I experimented that morning with some of the options for meditations including kneeling benches, chairs and sitting benches. The only requirement was that we, not an object, support our backs. None of these other methods relieved the physical pain I experienced during the thirty five minute sessions. I felt a sense of excitement instead of dread this time, because this meditation was different. Tucked tightly in my heart was the gift of the master's wisdom, the key to my freedom from piercing pain and charging chatter to blessed bliss and serene silence. Well not quite...

Within five minutes, I felt it: pinching, throbbing, burning, aching...As each sensation from my neck, arms, elbows, and knees stood up to be recognized I acknowledged everyone with a name. When I let go of preconceived notions and became the observer in this field trip into silence my experience shifted. By the end of the day I sat for thirty minutes without any sensations, and the charging chatter slowed to a crawl. Wow!

In the silence that nugget of wisdom had transformed into a mountain of insight. The master spoke and I listened! I discovered that my mind was a mirror reflecting my life. It was cluttered with distractions, worries, and responsibilities like a dusty attic strewn with unwanted junk. Some escape! Then I realized what the theme of my sabbatical was: when I stop trying so hard to make things happen and accept what is I'll experience peace and serenity.

After forty hours of silence the weekend came to a close. Sadness cropped up as I thought of leaving the peacefulness behind. I loved the quiet and functioned surprisingly well with no talking, no reading, no writing and no eye contact. The blend of structure, simplicity, and setting created the ideal recipe for a new perspective. The silence came with its challenges, however. On Saturday the chef made the most fabulous summer squash soup I had ever tasted. It was painful not to be able to compliment him. When the silence broke, though, the first words I spoke were, "It was absolutely delicious!"

Author's Bio: 

Maggie McCauley is a practicing Certified Life Coach and holds a license in clinical social work. She can be reached for comment at maggie@anewviewforyou.com.