What Five Days of Silence Taught Me

Mainland British Columbia, from the shore at Hollyhock

Mainland British Columbia, from the shore at Hollyhock

Just before flying to Thailand, I spent five days at a retreat community called Hollyhock. It’s a humble, rootsy little hamlet on the relatively remote Cortes Island. I knew very little about the program I’d signed up for, only that it was about Buddhism.

It turns out that it was a rather intense regimen of meditation. Our group of fifteen or so spent virtually our entire days (from 7am to 10pm) in some form of meditation. Sitting, walking, dancing and even eating. I’ve experimented with meditation, but never for extended periods. This was a bit of a shock, finding myself sitting in a candlelit hut with nothing to do for hours but stare into my own mind.

In the tradition of Theravada monks, we undertook several Buddhist precepts, including refraining from consuming intoxicants, and refraining from killing people for the duration the five days. We also observed “noble silence” which means we were not to talk or engage other people, even with mere eye contact.

It was quite a difficult adjustment at first. Speaking, whether to explain ourselves, entertain ourselves, or assert ourselves, is something that happens almost automatically. Language is a very powerful technology that we use so readily and so frequently that we lose sight of how we depend on it. Having sworn off it for the time being, I began to notice the places where I normally used it and couldn’t, and it was very revealing to me.

Thoughts Against a White Background

Committed to silence, and meditating for long stretches, one’s mind really slows down compared to normal. The urge to explain oneself subsides, the urge to comment and criticize subsides, and you finally realize the obscene volume of chatter that goes on in there on a regular day. Thoughts become much more conspicuous and easy to identify because there isn’t a torrent of other thoughts to lose them in. You can’t help but get a close-up view of your thought processes, which is useful, but can also be kind of ugly and even disturbing.

One of the first things I noticed was that as long as I was mute, I was unable to explain myself, and so I had to let go of that need. For every action I took, I was not granted the luxury of being able to justify it to the people around me. For example, if I noticed I was standing in someone’s way, I couldn’t offer an apologetic look and a quick “Oh, sorry” like I normally would. I could only move out of the way when I noticed, and allow them to come to their own conclusions about me and my manners, without trying to influence their opinion with my words.

It sounds like it isn’t a big deal, but I found it to be a sobering learning experience. I felt a strangely powerful need to explain my actions, I always have. Without this crutch though, I had to just let the moment stand, in all its awkwardness. Whatever impression they had of me — deserved or undeserved — had to be left alone, untempered by my apology.

There are a lot of explanation-inducing moments like this throughout the day, I noticed: when you don’t know if you’re standing in the wrong line, when you’re a bit late for something, when you miss some instruction you weren’t supposed to miss. Without speech, you have to take full responsibility for each faux pas, by letting people see you as you are, without telling them what you are.

A Case of the Sorries

I have the urge to say “sorry” a lot, I noticed. It became clear to me that “sorry” is often not so much an apology as it is something people say when they’re uncomfortable with how they think they’re being perceived. Sorry, I walked on the grass before I saw the sign. Sorry, I started without you because I thought you were going to be a while. Sorry, I’ve left a bit of a mess but I really have to go.

One day last fall I noticed that same need while throwing around the football with some friends. None of us are that great at throwing the ball consistently, so often it sails too wide to catch and the other person has to go chase after it. “Sorry!” the thrower usually shouts.

I threw a couple bad throws in a row, and I realized I was saying “sorry” almost every time I released the ball, sometimes even before I noticed it was a bad throw. I considered the idea of not apologizing after the next ball, no matter what happened. The thought of just throwing a terrible ball and letting it sail quietly into the neighbor’s yard without qualifying it with a “sorry” seemed almost… scary.

That really struck me — the presence of an almost desperate urge to apologize for my throw. I knew it wasn’t because I felt bad that the other guy had to go get the ball and I wanted to let him know that. It was more like I was saying “I am capable of throwing a good ball, as I’m sure you know, but I didn’t this time, sorry” rather than just letting the pathetic, tumbling ball do the talking. To let the moment speak for itself, and perhaps let the bad throw convince us both that I do indeed suck at quarterbacking, was actually quite a leap. But it was much more honest thn trying to explain it away.

Some people are chronic apologizers and self-explainers, and I suspect their reasons are similar. That kind of knee-jerk apologizing is often a stab at coming off as “okay” when deep down you believe you aren’t quite okay. Some of you will know what I mean.

I realized that words are our go-to way of attempting to control our environment. I never thought of it this way, but whenever we request something, express our feelings, explain our actions, or engage in any other form of speech, it is because we’ve found some reason to believe that adding our out-loud thoughts to the moment would make it preferable to what it would be otherwise.

Certainly this is indeed the case sometimes, it’s one of the first things babies learn. But I think it’s easy to lose sight of why we open our mouths at all: because we want something to be different. So often during silence, I found myself in a moment where I felt the urge to alter it with words, yet I had to let it stand. I learned just how much I grasp at things with words.

Speech signifies an intent to change our reality somewhat, which betrays a dissatisfaction with something about the current moment. There is always a desire for a slightly different reality behind our words. Often it makes perfect practical sense to make reality different — a reality in which the taxi driver knows where you want to go is better than one in which you never told him — but more often we’re grasping at petty and vain things, particularly how we come off to others. We’re trying to shape other people’s impressions of us, which is really a roundabout way of shaping our own opinion of us.

Some people probably don’t have that problem at all, but I’m not the only one who mentioned experiencing this during the retreat. By and large we are a society full of justifiers and apologizers. From business to politics, explaining oneself is ubiquitous in our culture. Politicians try to smooth over their insensitive remarks and closet-skeletons, and corporations have to refute bad press and handle product recalls with careful words.

On these levels it is all very calculated, but among individuals it is often much more impulsive and habitual. When you knock something over, or step on someone’s toe at the theater, chances are the word “sorry” comes out of your mouth almost automatically. We seldom look our blunders right in the face as they’re happening, even for a second, before we try to wrangle it with speech. We deny them immediately with explanations and apologies, as if the universe itself made some mistake by having you do something dumb or clumsy, and you need to set the record straight with the people who saw it.

Aftermath

Since the retreat, I’ve learned to let go of that need to explain myself. Historically, I’ve been kind of uptight about “looking like” a jerk or a moron to someone else. I really needed to feel like I didn’t look bad to people. Being here in Thailand, nobody would understand my English explanation anyway, so I can let the opinion-chips fall where they may and it feels fine.

Having had to bear, without being able to defend myself, whatever judgments I triggered during that five days, I realized that the only opinion I was fearing was my own. You can’t actually “feel” someone else’s negative opinion, you can only adopt that opinion yourself, but we explain, apologize, and shy away as if we were actually saving ourselves from judgment. Ironically, the only reason we feel we need saving is because of the judgment we are passing on ourselves. In silence this is obvious, but amidst the soup of the everyday wandering mind, the signals get crossed and we often try to doctor someone else’s thoughts, as if they somehow mattered.

If you find yourself explaining your missteps away, either out loud or in your head, I bet you’d learn a lot about why that is from an extended meditation retreat. This weird thinking pattern is only one of many that became illuminated by my lengthy time in silence. There is just so much going on in our skulls, and against the blank background of a clear mind, you can actually begin to unravel it all. That kind of perspective is so valuable.

It was at the retreat that I realized how crucial this inner work really is. There was such a drastic change in the internal noise level I experienced, that I know the everyday wandering mind has devastating effects on my decision-making and my quality of life. I can’t deny the importance of daily meditation anymore, things got too clear for me to ignore what my mind is doing when I’m not looking. If you are curious as to what your mental chatter is covering up, a silent retreat may be just what the doctor ordered.

R

Photo by David Cain


***

{ 46 Comments }

Hayden Tompkins November 5, 2009 at 3:03 am

Sitting in silence is one of the hardest things to learn how to do and sometimes people never learn how. I simply love where your introspection lead you.
.-= Hayden Tompkins ´s last blog ..How to Use Your Calendar to Stay Motivated =-.

{ Reply }

David November 5, 2009 at 6:27 am

It really is bizarre how difficult it is to just sit and be there. For some reason it is such a struggle for a human being to just exist without doing anything. I’ve got a long road ahead of me, but I like what I’ve discovered so far.

{ Reply }

Groneg November 5, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Agreed it is bizarre. What’s interesting is what happens when you get past that point of discomfort and chatter & are fully existing in the present.

{ Reply }

Lisis November 5, 2009 at 3:37 am

I love this part:

“The urge to explain oneself subsides, the urge to comment and criticize subsides, and you finally realize the obscene volume of chatter that goes on in there on a regular day. Thoughts become much more conspicuous and easy to identify because there isn’t a torrent of other thoughts to lose them in.”

It reminds me of back when I used to close comments at my blog half of the time, to let the messages sink in. The first time I did it, you said you felt a strange, visceral urge to comment and it was weird not to be able to. All these new thoughts had been generated (your personal reaction) and it felt as if they just HAD to be shared… to get them out of your head, or make a point of what you know for all to see.

Fact is, we have way too much “noise” even in the blogosphere. We need to adopt the Buddhist way… if your words don’t improve what is said (or written), don’t say anything at all.

:)
.-= Lisis´s last blog ..Shifting from “Why?” to “Why Not?” =-.

{ Reply }

David November 5, 2009 at 6:29 am

I remember when you had comments closed. It was the same from the reader’s end, there would be this urge to make our opinions known, but we had to just let the post stand as it was. It was an unusual feeling, being used to a blogosphere where you always get to say your piece.

{ Reply }

Louise November 5, 2009 at 9:23 am

A great post. I am one of those people that say sorry a lot and am trying to retrain myself to use other language like – excuse me if I almost run into someone. I think we get stuck in the habitual use of using “sorry”.

–”We’re trying to shape other people’s impressions of us, which is really a roundabout way of shaping our own opinion of us.”

–”I realized that the only opinion I was fearing was my own. You can’t actually “feel” someone else’s negative opinion, you can only adopt that opinion yourself, but we explain, apologize, and shy away as if we were actually saving ourselves from judgment.”

So true. I need to memorize those words!

{ Reply }

David November 6, 2009 at 1:04 am

Hi Louise, thank you. I think my experience at Hollyhock has left me much less prone to feelings of embarrassment and self-consciousness. In silence there was no verbal way to deflect judgment, so you just kind of let them hit you, and I realized that they were only ever coming from me. This was a pretty sudden and significant change for me, and as far as I can tell, it’s a permanent one.

{ Reply }

Positively Present November 5, 2009 at 10:13 am

Cool post. Thanks for sharing what you learned!
.-= Positively Present´s last blog ..kicking ass with kindness =-.

{ Reply }

David November 6, 2009 at 1:05 am

Thanks Dani, that’s what I do :)

{ Reply }

Eric November 5, 2009 at 10:56 am

It’s rather interesting how many folks have a hard time with silence. Being around someone who is more reserved or quiet makes them uncomfortable. My wife and I are both fairly quiet people, and we often get the “you need to talk more,” or “you’re not very social.” It seems a great many people place some value, (or at least some comfort) in talking all the time.

On the topic of “sorry,” it made me wonder. In a retreat such as the one you attended, I would think it would be assumed that if you got in someones way, it wasn’t done maliciously. They would assume it to be a mistake. It’s too bad that isn’t they way of our society, people often think things are done purposely or with mal intent. It would be so much nicer if everyone just assumed that accidents were accidents, and that our intent is always kind mannered, it would lessen the need for a great many apologies.
.-= Eric´s last blog ..The Open Mind Test – Part 2: A Great Teacher, A Little Philosophy, and A Whole Lot of Love =-.

{ Reply }

David November 6, 2009 at 1:14 am

Yes, at Hollyhock there was a very forgiving, communal atmosphere, and I wondered if I’d feel the same when I returned to the city. To my surprise, I found it didn’t matter how understanding or forgiving the other people were, because it was only ever my own judgments that I could experience. If somebody was impatient with me, then that’s their experience, it only becomes mine when I judge them for what I perceive as their lack of understanding or compassion. So even in the hustle-and-bustle of the big city, I lost the desire for others to be forgiving and patient, because that was never what I needed anyway. The ball was always and will always be in my court.

{ Reply }

Dayne | TheHappySelf.com November 5, 2009 at 11:09 am

I’ve always wanted to do a retreat like this, but I am a bit afraid. I appreciate you sharing what you learned David. My brother does retreats like this for 10 days at a time and he loves it. I deeply admire that.

I think for now I will stick with my own meditation at home. :)

Great post!

Dayne
.-= Dayne | TheHappySelf.com´s last blog ..Face to Face With God : A Near Death Experience =-.

{ Reply }

David November 6, 2009 at 1:17 am

Hi Dayne. I was unaware at how intense the retreat was, but I would have feared it too if I knew. I’d recommend just diving into something like this. Put down a deposit so there’s no second-guessing, and go. Discomfort is a sign of new ground being broken.

{ Reply }

Char (PSI Tutor:Menor) November 5, 2009 at 4:56 pm

five days of not killing anyone~ damn!

It is freedom to accept what conclusions others draw of us. I find that when others are looking at what they see is me, I allow myself so much space to actually be. It’s like they are looking in another direction a lot of the time ~:-)

“weird thinking pattern”~ now that’s funny, really.
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Menor)´s last blog ..Tell Stories~ It’s Good For You =-.

{ Reply }

David November 6, 2009 at 1:21 am

Yes that’s absolutely right, it is freedom. The silly thing is we have very little control over these conclusions but we often go to great lengths to try and manipulate them. Makes me think of George Costanza, fishing his dollar bill out of the tip jar because the waiter wasn’t looking when he first dropped it in. I should write a post about George Costanza, he’s the quintessential neurotic idiot that is a part of all of us to some degree.

{ Reply }

Patty - Why Not Start Now? November 5, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Oh yeah, I’ve been there. Not the five days of silence part, but the apologizing part. It’s interesting that you characterize it as apologizing for missteps, because lately I’ve come to wonder if those things in myself I feel a need to apologize for are just okay as is. Like, they are what they are. So what if I don’t have a certain skill that someone else has (like throwing the football)? I recently had to get some technical help with my blog, something I’m sure was quite easy to figure out, but not for me. All the way through I consciously chose not to apologize or dance around my lack of knowledge. And it did indeed give me a better opinion of myself.
.-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Dancing Around the Living Room =-.

{ Reply }

David November 6, 2009 at 3:21 am

Hi Patty. Asking someone to help me was so scary for me for most of my life. I hated the thought of looking like I didn’t know something! How stupid and vain. Eventually I began to fail in school because of this.

{ Reply }

John November 5, 2009 at 10:05 pm

David, I myself am a self-explainer. This post have really opened my eyes. All of the “sorry’s” and “excuse me’s” I’ve been saying throughout my entire life. All of the moments spent trying to alter people’s opinions of me. (Even the sports scenario you touched upon – that is so ME)… seriously, I feel amazed by how relatable this is to my life.

I think I’m ready to take a good look at myself and re-evaluate my actions. Good luck on your quest, man. True life exploration and personal development awaits you, my friend :)
.-= John´s last blog ..Thank You! =-.

{ Reply }

David November 6, 2009 at 3:23 am

Glad to hear it hit a chord with you John. What I find so cool about this is that this whole process has been happening my whole life, but it was invisible to me until my week in meditation, where it became so completely clear. I’m excited to uncover other secrets in my head, and hopefully writing about them will help other people discover some of the same things going on with them.

{ Reply }

Zengirl November 5, 2009 at 11:22 pm

I used to attend a monthly retreat (whole day) before kids life, they used to have silence retreat, where you do Karma yoga, meaning you work/help around without no words for hours. It was so therapeutic to say the least. (as long as it was in moderation, for such a chatterbox like myself)

Now with my 4 year old, who is constantly talking, I crave no sounds, so I can hear myself think.
.-= Zengirl´s last blog ..How to resue leftover halloween candies =-.

{ Reply }

David November 6, 2009 at 3:25 am

There is a Karma Yoga program at Hollyhock too, and they help with cooking and cleaning the rooms. I think I might do it one day.

“I crave no sounds.” Haha.

{ Reply }

Erin November 6, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Delighted for you to share the experience. I have been looking forward to this post. Thanks
.-= Erin´s last blog ..Grace =-.

{ Reply }

David November 6, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Thanks Erin. I suspect there will be more along these lines as I continue with daily practice.

{ Reply }

Kaushik November 6, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Some years ago I went to a Vipassana Meditation retreat. It’s a ten-day silent retreat, with very simple food twice a day and frequent meditation sessions. I found it very difficult for three or four days.

As you point out, the fact that we have trouble being ourselves is a hint. We’ve created some very unhappy delusions.

Great post, thanks.
.-= Kaushik´s last blog ..Playing… =-.

{ Reply }

David November 6, 2009 at 7:28 pm

The first day was really awful for me. I was ready to go home. I really did NOT want to be sitting there. There was such strong resistance, I really learned something from that.

{ Reply }

Rocky | R O C K O N O V A.COM November 8, 2009 at 11:12 am

what up David!

sounds like a really fun learning experience and I know I definitely wanna do a retreat one day.

and I definitely do try to make a conscious effort sometimes to be aware of why I am qualifying myself.

great article!

{ Reply }

David November 11, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Hi Rocky. Thanks. Once you start thinking about it, you’ll probably notice it more and more. Certain words like “Sorry…” or “I’m just…” become red flags quickly.

{ Reply }

Sunny Jamiel November 9, 2009 at 3:37 pm

David,

Very interesting. The inner work, like you pointed out, is necessary. It is only when we actually do it that new realizations dawn upon us. Glad that you got to experience all this.

{ Reply }

David November 11, 2009 at 11:04 pm

You got that right, it really is necessary work, but it can be fruitful in a short time.

{ Reply }

Daphne November 10, 2009 at 8:05 am

I really enjoyed reading about your experiences. The freedom of not having to explain ourselves can be so powerful. It could mean that we are much more careful about the actions we take (because we cannot explain them away). It could lead to an increased sense of awareness of our surroundings because observation would be the way we learn things. I’m going to try to decrease the amount of explaining I do. Thank you for the inspiration.
.-= Daphne´s last blog ..To All The Dogs I Have Ever Known =-.

{ Reply }

David November 11, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Thanks Daphne. Yes, if you’re not explaining an action away to someone else, then you can’t really rationalize it to yourself either if it doesn’t feel right to you. Try a retreat, I think you would like it!

{ Reply }

Jared November 10, 2009 at 9:49 am

Pretty amazing experience. Thanks so much for sharing. I tend to deflect compliments in a similar way. Although through some spiritual growth, I’ve learned how to better accept the consequences of being myself. Loving myself unconditionally, thus what others think about me doesn’t mean as much… except when it does. ;-)

I remember an instance where I was playing some songs I’d written for a group of patients in a drug and alcohol treatment center. One of the patients approached me afterwords and said, “I love your songs, you have a really good voice.” My response was, “well, I don’t play that much anymore and I really want to take vocal lessons…. blah blah blah” – she stuck her hand in my face and said, “shut up and say thanks” and walked away. I realized when people would try and give me a compliment, I was making it all about me, taking away they’re joy of giving the gift of a compliment. I can apply this to almost any situation.

When I speak and say I’m sorry or explain myself, that is me vocalizing my intentions. I need to concentrate more on my actions. The goal is that my intentions and actions are inline – that is where I’m the most peaceful.
.-= Jared´s last blog ..Enhance Relationships With the 90 Second Rule =-.

{ Reply }

David November 11, 2009 at 11:11 pm

That’s a great example Jared. Accepting a compliment is hard sometimes because we’re accepting responsibility for appearing a certain way to others. It’s easier to shrug it off. Even a compliment is a judgment. North Americans seem to have trouble accepting compliments. Thank you is definitely the right thing to say, IMO.

{ Reply }

Alex Vance November 12, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Cool post. I have a point about the root of apologizing:

Is it realistic to expect any of us to live life in a way that we will never need to apologize? Our knee jerk reaction is “Of course not. Mistakes are human and natural.” But there are different degrees of mistakes one can make. Some are reasonable to ourselves and our friends, and some are not.

I can be late to an important meeting because of a freak car accident that blocked off the road for an hour. That’s reasonable; I would only apologize as a formality, but would not feel bad or expect blame. I can be late because of a rare fifteen minute traffic delay. That’s less reasonable; I would apologize, feel somewhat guilty for not having left myself a fifteen minute buffer, and expect my coworkers to be low-level annoyed. I can be late because I stayed up watching the complete second season of Lost, forgot to set my alarm, and slept in. That’s even less reasonable; I would apologize, feel completely at fault and somewhat worthless, and expect my coworkers to see this as a major strike against me. In each situation, my level of culpability determines my need to apologize.

I wonder if you feel you should practice more awareness when you stand near doors, if you need to apologize there because you think you are a space cadet too often. Maybe you need to apologize to your catch buddies because you feel you see throwing as a basic skill that you’d like to have, and at some level would like to have more practice throwing and even some knowledge on throwing technique from an instructional YouTube or two.

Often, overapologizing says less about a meek personality, and more about a lack of confidence in one’s lifestyle choices. Let me know what you think.

{ Reply }

David November 12, 2009 at 8:45 pm

I don’t disagree. The post is really not about apologizing; certainly different people will come to different conclusions about the reasons for their actions. I just used my apology habit as an example of the recurring thought processes that can be identified using meditation as a tool.

{ Reply }

Miche | Serenity Hacker November 13, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Hi David, I am fairly new around here and loved this post. I’ve meditated off and on since my early twenties and it has had a profound impact on my life.

“you finally realize the obscene volume of chatter that goes on in there on a regular day”… Its almost obscene, isn’t it? No wonder we miss the present moment!!

I also like your analysis of speech and the need we feel to shape our external world with our own opinions, judgements, and explanations (or rather than “shape”, maybe I should say “impose” our own mental constructs on it…).

It’s amazing what silence can teach us, and your story and discoveries are inspirational. Regarding the football throwing… maybe underneath that need to apologize is some perceived need or desire for perfection… some judgement that if the ball isn’t thrown right every time it’s simple not a “good enough” game of catch… just a thought!

Cheers, and look forward to going through your archives and what else you have to come.
Miche :)
.-= Miche | Serenity Hacker´s last blog ..Accepting Suffering and A Call for Compassion =-.

{ Reply }

David November 23, 2009 at 8:42 am

Hi Miche, welcome to Raptitude. Impose, yes, I like that word. It seems that we’re always either absorbing the world, or imposing ourselves it. I don’t think a person can do both at once. Does that make sense?

{ Reply }

Suzanne November 13, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience during the retreat.

I can’t deny the importance of daily meditation anymore, things got too clear for me to ignore what my mind is doing when I’m not looking.

That’s funny. :-)
.-= Suzanne´s last blog ..I Wish I Could Stop Doing This =-.

{ Reply }

David November 23, 2009 at 8:34 am

Haha, it sure is. The mind is so ridiculous, it’s a real gong show in there if you ever get a good look.

{ Reply }

Emil November 23, 2009 at 6:44 am

Intersting article. I liked this observation:

Having had to bear, without being able to defend myself, whatever judgments I triggered during that five days, I realized that the only opinion I was fearing was my own. You can’t actually “feel” someone else’s negative opinion, you can only adopt that opinion yourself, but we explain, apologize, and shy away as if we were actually saving ourselves from judgment. Ironically, the only reason we feel we need saving is because of the judgment we are passing on ourselves.

It is true. The only thought we fear is our interpretation. Maybe this is where alchohol comes in: it is an easy way of shutting up that chatter and change the voice into something else. For a brief moment. Getting rid of that chatter takes time and skill/practice.

Good writing.

{ Reply }

David November 23, 2009 at 8:33 am

Thanks Emil. Alcohol does work exceedingly well for shutting up that self-conscious chatter. Too many side effects though. Meditating regularly really slowed down the chatter for me, until it was much quieter than I’d ever experienced. Only then it ceased to be ‘chatter’ and I could actually pick out the individual thoughts happening, and their origins.

{ Reply }

Inoldhope December 11, 2011 at 12:59 am

you definitely love with low price with confident

{ Reply }

Sarah February 28, 2013 at 9:23 am

How did you come across this place for your retreat? I am a quiet person and bc of this I have never had a huge group of friends which I am fine with, the ones I did make are awesome but I have had people get confused about why I dont care to talk constantly. I have moments of chatter but Id rather not if it isnt really needed. Now when Im home I have all manner of noise going on with the tv and everything lol but I really am trying to do things to change how I spend my day and I think a retreat like this, maybe shorter then five days like a weekend length would be wonderful as a starter.

{ Reply }

Kendall February 28, 2013 at 11:00 am

“My life is not an apology, but a life. It is for itself, and not for a spectacle.” “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.”

Emerson’s essay, “Self Reliance”, though not so much about mindfulness, really has a lot of good to say about our attitude towards the judgment of others. The perspective of others is often construed by our fundamental insecurity as capable of providing the “justification” and “security” we desire. As if our own existence is not enough, we need to see the approving image cast by the mirror of another. Of course this is absurd, but it seems to be a universal tendency. I myself am constantly fighting it, but I never thought of meditation as a possible approach. Thanks for sharing your experience.

{ Reply }

Adventurous Andrea April 15, 2013 at 9:33 am

Hey, David! I love that you gave the name of the location you went to. I’ve been wanting to do something similar, but haven’t opted for a specific location yet. I’m definitely going to look into Hollyhock.

Your thoughts on saying “sorry” are so fascinating. We really do tend to use it as a place filler for when we’re unsure of what people are thinking, opposed to genuinely feeling regretful of our actions.

“Speech signifies an intent to change our reality somewhat, which betrays a dissatisfaction with something about the current moment.” This blew me away! Thanks for the great content- I’ll definitely be returning.

{ Reply }

Garrett April 27, 2013 at 2:49 pm

“…we undertook several Buddhist precepts, including refraining from consuming intoxicants, **and refraining from killing people for the duration the five days.**”

Hmm. Is this a typo?

Love your writing, was just confused by this sentence.

{ Reply }

Leave a Comment

{ 3 Trackbacks }


Raptitude is an independent blog by . Some links on this page may be affiliate links, which means I might earn a commission if you buy certain things I link to. In such cases the cost to the visitor remains the same.