What I Learned From Sitting in Silence

A 10-day meditation retreat taught me surprising lessons about life — and myself

by Jenny Douglas • Next Avenue
meditating image
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

One spring evening a few years ago, I was cooking up a slab of salmon and half-listening to “All Things Considered” (along with a boisterous fight between my daughters over the rightful ownership of a cherished shirt) when my cell phone rattled my kitchen counter with an incoming text.
 
Like most texts, the message wasn’t terribly significant (“coffee tomorrow morning?”). But the level of excitement I felt in receiving it suggested that something might be out of balance. I wasn’t just used to being interrupted — I had actually come to crave it. And I realized how exhausting that was.
 
In many ways, mine was a charmed life. At 44, I was blessed with good health, a gaggle of fantastic, loving friends, the family I’d always wanted, a brownstone in the city and a country house in the Catskills. I’d worked in television and radio journalism when I was younger, and I was now (mostly) grateful to have the means to do volunteer work in my community, spend plenty of time with my girls, take on the occasional freelance gig and travel en famille.
 
And yet, I was slowly coming to see that I was losing my way.
 
What I considered the tail of my life — emails, texts, the sundry tasks that expressed themselves as urgencies but invariably washed into a sea of forgetting once completed — was wagging the dog. And the dog sensed there was much more to experience.
 
And so I decided to enroll in a 10-day silent meditation retreat.
 
“Couldn’t you just take a vacation?” asked my neighbor Wally.

(MORE: Meditate Like a Monk With Technology—Robes Optional)

Click here for "Ten Days of Silence: What Was I Thinking?"

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First Published Fri, 2012-08-24 16:06

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