3 DAYS OF SILENCE
You’ve probably heard it a million times, if you want to connect to your intuition you gotta go within.
And meditation is one of the best ways to get there.
But do you have a regular “go within” practice yet???
In 2014 I had just left my second job in a row due to work environments and bosses that were the WRONG fit for me. I’d given both about a year of my life and left both very disappointed, frustrated, and pretty uninspired to keep going.
I’ve always wanted my work to be an act of service- not just a paycheck. I need my time to be valuable, my efforts to MEAN something.
One day while scrolling through Facebook I saw an ad for a 3 day silent meditation retreat about an hour away.
My intuition started sending me big alerts and before I knew it I was signed up to spend a weekend with total strangers in a place I’d never been to, with a spiritual coach I’d never heard of. I’m not one for spontaneous decisions, so I know I was in full desperation mode.
Things were not working in my life and I was ready to do whatever it took to get back on track.
On the first day I drove about an hour to a beautiful little lodge nestled in the mountains of Montana. The instructions said to leave phones and other electronics in the car so I did and put on the cheap watch I'd bought at Kmart.
I took a breath, grabbed my luggage and walked into the main doors.
Inside was a large open room with lots of cozy seating, big windows, and a small kitchen and dining area. Several people had already arrived and were checking in. The coach leading the retreat, Angela, greeted me with a warm smile and I immediately felt safe even in the unknown.
Once everyone was there, we ate dinner together and chatted a little (me VERY little I was not there for talking after all), and Angela informed us that we would be going into what she called "noble silence" after we ate.
We finished up and moved to the living area and got comfortable. Angela gave some introductions and explained that we would be officially refraining from talk until the end of the retreat. Not only were we to observe silence, but we were asked to not look each other in the eye- the idea was to truly let everyone have an internal experience. We all complied and shifted our gaze when walking past one another for the next few days.
Angela explained that each of us (about 20 or so people) would have 1, 15 minute meeting with her before the end of the experience so she could check in with us and see what was coming up internally or if we had any needs. My time slot was set for the next day (Saturday) in the afternoon.
That first evening Angela led a talk and we meditated. Saturday morning we all awoke to the sound of a bell at 7am (we were in large bedrooms with multiple bunk beds- kind of like grown up camp). We had silent meditation. Then silent breakfast. Then meditation. Lunch. Meditation. Dinner. Meditation. Repeat.
I'd never spent so much time in total silence in my life.
And in a room full of people. At times I'd get uncomfortable, need to shift, mind drift. But something about committing to something with others made it doable. We were all in it together.
Saturday morning I woke up feeling very heavy and the heaviness got deeper through the day. By mid-day meditation I started to feel panicked. I noticed the signs of a panic attack starting. My heart started racing, my thoughts were going a million miles an hour, and I felt a strong desire to flee. To get the F out of there as soon as possible, even though there was zero threat. I was in a room with peaceful people sitting with their eyes closed!
I made it to the next break and then practically ran out the door.
I fled the lodge and took a long walk around the property to calm my nerves and talk myself off the ledge.
My check in with Angela was quickly approaching and I wanted to have my shit together for our chat.
Looking at my watch I saw that it was time, so I walked to her cabin on the property and met her on her porch where we sat in two chairs facing each other. Angela asked me how things were going and I told her, "Good now, but I almost left there for a minute."
She looked at me with compassion and asked why. I didn't have an answer.
And then she asked me to close my eyes and breathe into my heart space- get grounded in my body. This was a relief and I was happy to oblige.
I knew stuff was coming up I didn't have the tools to process.
Angela gently asked me several questions, but the biggest one being... when did you first feel this feeling? The panic and desire to flee?
My mind drifted back to a night when I was around 7 or 8 years old. My parents had dropped me off for an overnight at the local YMCA with many other kids. I'd done it before and loved it, movies, pizza, the pool, basketball- it was a dream for a kid. But I'd always gone with a friend before. Had a safety net.
This particular night, my friend wasn't able to come. I was alone in a sea of kids.
I know I made it through the first few hours of the night, but at some point I remember hitting that panic moment. BIG time. My first panic attack. Feeling totally alone and unable to connect to the people around me. I called my parents and had them take me home.
Opening my eyes I talked with Angela about how this moment had shaped me and played out many more times in my life. Tears streamed down my face.
It felt like a lifetime's worth of pent up energy was flowing out of me.
In 6th grade all my elementary school friends found new friends in the much bigger middle school quickly. I struggled and retreated into myself instead, unable to form new friendships easily.
By high school I had a core group of good friends, but the pattern happened again with college.
I spent my entire college years never making a single friend on campus. I barely spoke to anyone besides the teachers and my roommate who thankfully was able to make a few friends outside of school that I "adopted."
For the vast majority of my youth I felt like I was in a fishbowl, looking out at the world, at people connecting and laughing and enjoying each other. I felt different and alone and isolated. And when someone did try and connect with me it made me terribly uncomfortable. I felt like an alien. I lived in nervous system dysregulation for YEARS.
My parents loved me, but didn't know how to connect with me and approach me about the things I was dealing with emotionally. In fact later in life my mother told me they had made the decision to "talk to me when I was 18." This resulted in me essentially raising myself for more than half of my youth- they checked out when they didn't have the tools. They did their best with what they knew, but my feelings of abandonment only grew.
Later when a friend took his life just hours after I'd seen him, when another flipped and totalled my car with us in it, when boyfriends broke up with me... I was left to process it all on my own (not very well as you can imagine).
Talking this through with Angela for 15 MINUTES shifted everything for me. I was able to integrate the energy into my body, see the stories I'd told, and how I'd been telling myself I was unworthy of connecting to others. Unworthy of love even for myself.
In her presence I felt seen and heard in a way I had not in my life by any older adult figure EVER.
I walked away from her cabin, found a place on the property to think and just cried and cried and cried. All the years of unworthiness, shame, confusion, just poured out.
Talk about a release.
The rest of that day and the next we continued meditation and time alone, but I was no longer anxious. I'd settled in and felt very comfortable and at peace.
The end of the third day Angela had us sit on the living room floor in a large circle. She said we were now ending noble silence and could raise our gaze and look each other in the eye and see who we had just embarked on this journey with.
This was one of the most profound moments of my life as well.
We all looked at each other and saw each other deeply. It's not really describable, but the energy was intense. It was clear each of us had experienced as deep a transformation as I did.
We talked a little then about what had come up for each of us and honored the gifts of being able to do this retreat. I spoke up and said for the first time I felt like I could say I loved myself.
I remember an older woman telling me how lucky I was to realize something so important earlier in life than she had. And here I was feeling so behind at life in my early 30's!
I drove home that day in a state of total bliss. It's a high I've never experienced.
I was set free.
I was able to have deep conversations with my family and we were able to come to a new understanding of each other and what had happened in the past.
Life's had it's up's and down's since then, but this experience forever changed me. I signed up to work with Angela the moment I got a new job- determined to make this one work. She helped me heal from my past, learn self-care, and see the patterns I'd been repeating. She helped me work through the inevitable adjusting period of a new position and I went on to be promoted many times and eventually run the organization for several years.
When my intuition said time to go, I left that career behind to start this business and haven't looked back.
Working with Angela introduced me to life coaching and the insane benefits it holds. I've been able to work with coaches since who have helped me get through the rocky stages of building a business and showing up to the world- no more hiding with my head down.
If you are interested in coaching I'd love to talk. Contact me and let's see if support would help YOU get to your next level.