A few years back, I enrolled in a meditation course where I was taught that opposite values are complementary. Joy is valued when one has experienced the troughs of sadness. The hero becomes a hero when there is a villain. Darkness precedes light, and a night of rest balances the busyness of the bygone day. All the elements of nature maintain this equilibrium of sorts.
I reflected on my life, and realised that the balance was beginning to tip towards one end. I hardly took breaks between travels, incessantly rushed from one city to another—a week in New York followed another in Spain—till impressions and images began to merge and it became taxing to separate one from the other.
I needed a touch of contrast. I needed to limit my exposure, lessen the stimulants that kept me in a permanent excitable state, questing after adventures. That’s when I decided to experiment with silence.
Sometimes you need to travel first to stand still. Seeking silence, I headed to a retreat located in the Black Forest in Germany. In the retreat, I signed up for a ten-day silence programme with an equal mix of trepidation and excitement. I wanted to follow through, but feared if I would make it. Would I lose interest in the sylvan charms around me? Would the urge to escape the quietness possibly get the better of me?
My basic needs were met—I got a simply furnished room, my meal times were fixed, and I just needed to show up for the meditations. The rest of the time, I could explore the surroundings and take long walks in the nearby hills. I should try to refrain from speaking, I was told.
Over the next few days, I started guided meditations when it was still dark outside. Just when the morning light suffused the meditation hall, I would follow it out. I would walk past the farmers, dressed in lederhosen and working in their fields since daybreak, up the roads through the snaking hills where they broke into dust trails curling and disappearing into the forest.
Activity complements rest. I would walk for hours through the forests, counter-balancing my hours of sitting in meditation. First few days, I was interested in what I saw around me. I missed my camera to capture this paradisal rustic beauty. As days passed through, the urge to capture every view and the restlessness to share it with the world diluted. For once, the separateness with the scenery began to disappear. I looked around me not with the thought of capturing this beauty and nestling it deep in my memory, but to experience it. As boundaries blurred, the seer became the scenery.
When the tenth day came, I was told I could speak again. I could switch on my phone and call those who I had missed. Somehow though the craving to look back at my phone, the thirst to reconnect and find out what had happened in the world in the past ten days, had evaporated. It would appear again I was sure, and so will return the lust to be on the road again, the pining to hop from one city to another.
For the time being though, I kept my phone tucked away safely, and headed out to walk yet another trail in the forest.