Today we welcome Veronika from The Elementarist who is sharing her personal story about the challenges – and rewards – of not speaking for a week!
I was sitting totally stressed and overworked at my working desk in Australia. My mind couldn’t stand still. I needed a break from life. Suddenly this feeling overcame me: I need to go to Chiang Mai, Thailand. While researching about Chiang Mai the Doi Suthep Vipassana Meditation Center kept coming up. I didn’t want to talk to anyone anymore. So, 1 week of meditation, not speaking and eating vegetarian food sounded just perfect. Especially as I always wanted to experience living with monks in their temple.
2 weeks later, I arrived at the center, totally unorganized and with way too much luggage. While carrying my 30kg luggage up the 309 stairs to the temple, I slowly started to realize what I had actually agreed to. I traveled from a totally toxic environment to a peaceful place of meditation. Little did I know that this would going to be everything but a relaxing and balancing experience.
A simple daily routine
My days started at 5 in the morning. Then we chanted at 5:30 am, had breakfast at 7, meditated and had some free time until lunch at 11 am. After lunch, we started to meditate again, knowing that the next meal was going to be breakfast the next day. In the afternoon we had 10 minutes to report to our teacher – the only moments we were allowed to speak in the day. Our evenings consisted of group chanting and meditation before going back to sleep. Everyday.
3 meditation practices and no one to talk to
Luckily, you are not left alone. Every day, the teacher advices you and tells you how to improve your techniques. At that time, I was a beginner, so he advised me to practice 3 meditation techniques: walking, sitting and laying. Each technique 20 minutes at a time. I was also allowed to talk if I needed to, but as everyone else in the meditation center was not allowed to talk, I had no real opportunity to do so. Phones, laptops or other medias were fully prohibited.
An easy start
On the first day I thought that hunger would be the most difficult part, yet it wasn’t bad at all. By meditating all day and making sure to drink enough, I didn’t even feel like eating throughout the day. However, the meals were very basic, so I made sure to have enough vitamins and minerals supplements for my body.
I spent around 5-6 hours meditating per day. My entire body was in pain and my mind was going crazy already on the second day. Sitting cross-legged, I could feel my legs and back aching. My mind kept discussing silly topics with itself. It started to punish me: “Why are you doing this to yourself?” “You are in Thailand and wasting your time with this!” “You know that you can leave anytime!” “Business is waiting, you have so many important things to do!” I really wanted to talk to people who were around me. I wanted to know if they feel the same. I constantly asked myself: “Is this normal?”
Losing my balance in the silence
On my third day, I felt completely out of balance. I was annoyed. I wanted to go out and do things. Talk to people about their story. Eat yummy Thai food. Play with the rescue elephants. But instead I was stuck in this temple. I started to believe my mind and felt like I was wasting time. My mind was angry. But the teacher said I am on a good way, I should practice.
This didn’t calm my mind. I just wanted to get out of there.
Crossing the threshold by letting go
I had committed to this week and did not want to surrender. It was an inner fight for already three days. But on the fourth day, something strange happened: I started the be tired of this innerfight. I came to a point to just let go and accept. To accept the pain, accept my angry mind, accept that I am in a simple environment. I surrendered and just breathed.
This is when I started to see and feel the amazing side of this experience. A world hidden by anger and inner fights suddenly appeared in front of me. I was able to be in the now and to focus on my breath. I was able to stop thinking. I started to see the monkeys playing in the trees. Smelling the fresh air. Seeing the amazing moon rise. Feeling the morning sun touching my skin. All of a sudden the world seemed so positive, beautiful and calm. All my inner anger started slowly to disappear. There was nothing to worry about.
I felt calmness and inner peace.
An unexpected but great experience
After spending one entire week fighting with my inner self, I learned to let go and accept. Not the mind controls you, but you control the mind. The mind is like a monkey who always needs a banana to stay calm. This week taught me how much my mind was influencing me. And how wrong and cruel my mind can be.
This experience helped me to live in the now. Meditation helps me to stay within myself instead of letting my mind wander to other people’s life, the past or the future. When I left the temple, happiness was all over me. Only 2 days later, my body started to crave the meditation, the peace and the simplicity. I was able to enjoy my following adventures more by practicing a mindful life.
Meditation won’t give you any miracles. You won’t see some ghost telling tomorrow’s lotto numbers. But it can teach you a lot about yourself. I strongly recommend this experience to anyone. The experience and the outcome of not talking for one week was totally different than I expected. It wasn’t relaxing at all. However, this week of silence has changed my life. And I hope that it will change yours as well.
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day; unless you are too busy, then you should sit for an hour” — Zen Saying