Silence Retreat Reflection
By: Dr. Porsha Dodson
In February of this year I was presented with an opportunity to attend a silence retreat. The retreat consisted of a full 24 hours of silence with prompts for meditation every so often with the ring of a bell.
I talk for a living and have used communication to navigate my way through relationships, big and small feelings, and basically every other function in my life. I knew going into it that I craved silence at times but there wasn’t much space for me to achieve this being a mom of two and running a full time business, where the goal is to get folks to open up and talk. Though I craved silence and had been moving into spaces where I was using silent reflections to regulate my emotions, I had no idea how impactful a full 24 hours of silence could be.
I traveled to Atlanta for this retreat, coordinating with a friend I met in my previous mediation classes for transportation to and from the airport. She made the travel and unknowns about the event more of a curious experience than an anxious experience because she had attended a silence retreat in the past. She made it out alive so I was assured I could too! (so grateful)
When I arrived at the retreat I attempted to knock on the door and my friend grabbed my hand…you don’t need to announce yourself…. Just walk in.
This was my 1st lesson.
(( you don’t need permission to step into spaces that were made for you. you don’t need permission to step into spaces that God has already called you to. you don’t need to announce your arrival in spaces where God is already expecting you, just show up ready to receive. don’t knock on the door of opportunity, it’s already open for you. ))
When we walked in I saw many women all around bundled in their favorite blankets, like really asleep. Different variations of breathing and snoring could be heard coming from all directions and that was interesting. My first thoughts were conflicting…. Did I just fly here to sleep? And … maybe I can sleep too!?
I set up my space in the living room and got in a comfortable position with my head in my hands in an effort to look out of the neighboring window. I noticed right away that it was very quiet. I noticed even more that there were some emotions creeping up from my belly that felt all too familiar. I hurried and dug my face into my pillow…attempting to drown out my sobs. Ooh the tears went on and on and I was present enough to try and identify what was going on. I was instantly sad and homesick and paralyzed with fear. How would I express my needs without my voice? How would I feel connected to this space without connection to others? How was I going to talk my nerves down about being in a space with new people? I only knew the facilitator and friend from meditation class, both of whom I couldn’t talk to. Lesson 2 was loud. As busy as I am I know it all serves a function to avoid this very experience. Overwhelming sadness for the father I had watched take his last breaths 8 months previous. Overwhelming sadness about being 37 and losing the chance to bring a new baby into this world. Sadness that medical professionals had reduced the experience down to my age and facts about how common the experience is. Sadness about my relationship with my mom, my brothers, and the past. Sadness about leaving my babies behind not knowing if my husband could handle and hold space for me while I was gone. Sadness about every.fucking.thing. Lesson 2 continued: I am sad!
As I nodded off to sleep, still sad, I held myself close. Lesson 3: you can hold space for yourself. (( Wow?!? )) I got up from my nap and I was surprisingly still alive after not talking for one hour! (Lol) I took on the rest of the day challenging myself not to create stories about the other women present for silence and tried my best to think about why silence was so hard for me. An early memory of my mother using silence to teach me a lesson once kept coming up. I remembered how I felt as a little person trying to understand her silence and if she would
Come back from that quiet place. I was confused then and remembered feeling scared
and sad. Let’s be clear here that this is a memory and it can totally be distorted but I’m telling you what came up.
Lesson 4: there’s a difference between silent treatment and choosing silence! Silent treatment is about someone else and choosing silence is for me. I can choose to be silent to slow down the world. I can choose to be silent to hear myself clearly, to hear God clearly. I can choose silence as a form of rest. Choosing silence is exercising strength for you. Choosing silence is choosing God, God often shows up for me in the quiet spaces.
At some point around dusk I went outside and learned all the remaining lessons. The sunset was so beautiful and there was no one outside with me to experience it. I heard God clearly say:: this sunset is for you. you can not share every gift that I have made for you. Some things are just for you. (((((( ohhhhhhh shit God is that you?? ))) and I know it must be God because I had never realized before that maybe God had something just for me. A gift for me alone. A gift that didn’t look like something he had given to anyone else.
I was distracted by a sharp noise in the trees and saw two deer minding their business. The beauty of nature took my breath away. God said the way you look at nature is the way that I look at you. I made you exactly the way you are. It's hard to understand why you work so hard to be something you are not. You are perfect. (( now you are blowing my head up God….))
I heard God again and again in the next few moments. Surreal to hear things clearly but in summary God wanted me to know that my children are always with me there is no need to be afraid and that my husband is exactly who he presents himself to be, a beautiful person inside and out. I cried so loud out there I thought the other women would hear me. Knowing that God understood me lifted the burden of tasks that I had assigned myself related to over sharing and over giving in an effort for folks to see me. God confirmed that he sees me….my children and husband see me…. The lesson here is that this is all that matters.
When I walked back in the house I sat quietly and felt myself in shock at my experience outside. Quietly God said … Porsha, I'm still here. Tears dropped in my soup and I smiled at God’s persistence in meeting my need to feel connected. LESSON: I am connected to God, therefore I am connected to myself.
I am emotional reading this as I’m reminded that God is in the silence. I’m reminded that God has shown me that I will be met there. I’m emotional about how much power I discovered in me during that 24 hours. My effort in detailing this is to encourage you that it’s all in you too. All of the answers are in you. All of the power is there, waiting to be activated by you.
I say this all the time. I’m doing the work I’m encouraging clients to do every single day. Things are shifting for me and I’m grateful for meditation and this silent experience. I am grateful for the space to share this and to Jasai (Guardian Meditation) for creating a space for
me to explore the “more” Ive been looking for. I’m most grateful to God for showing up and showing out…always.
To be continued….