I’ve been interested in going on a retreat at the Insight Meditation Center in Massachusetts, because I figured if sitting for a full day with the folks from Insight in Morristown makes me feels so grounded, 3 or 4 days of sitting just might be amazing. I haven’t wanted to spend the money on it though, because I see it as a luxury, a huge indulgence. Why would I spend the family’s money on sitting in silence when I can just do it at home for free?
So I applied for a Fellowship Grant. And today I found out that I received it! When I got the email I was both elated and scared shitless. While this all sounded so good in theory, I now find myself actually registered for 6 days of silence.
It’s 6 days of silent sitting and silent walking, sleeping alone in a tiny bare-bones room, silently sharing bathrooms, eating meals in silence, and working silently either cooking or cleaning for one hour a day. There will be no talking at all except once a day when the teachers will give dharma talks. There will be no WiFi! No cell phone usage. They want me to put my phone in some communal phone basket for the whole week! No contact with the outside world. They strongly request that we don’t read books (!) or write (!) while we’re there. They don’t even want us to keep a journal. It’s all silent introspection and no escape from myself! It can get scary in there after a few minutes, what the hell will it be like on Day 4?
I’m already thinking about breaking the rules. Maybe I can keep my phone and just text home once a day to check in? And scroll through the world news every other day? Bring a book to read before bed and a journal to jot down notes about my experiences every time I go back to my cell, I mean room?
I have two months to prepare for this. I will start by weaning myself off of my unhealthy attachments slowly, so this retreat won’t be cold-turkey-painful. I’ll put my phone down for longer stretches of time. And I will scale back on the multitasking. When I eat breakfast, (sometimes) I will only sit and eat. I won’t scroll through the internet, or read a book, or write. When I drive, (sometimes) I will only drive. I won’t talk on the phone, or listen to podcasts, or sing.
One task at a time, slowly, mindfully. Because in a few weeks I will have 6 days of complete and utter mindfulness. I am thrilled to have received this grant, and I know I will take this valuable experience to my teaching, but… What have I gotten myself into?