During the period of Kali, all moves fast! The body is restless, the mind is often negative and the intellect seeks happiness externally. In efforts to evolve from being extroverted (dependently joyous) to being introverted (independently joyous), 18 Sadhakas (seekers) met on September 19th in Pittsburgh to be in SILENCE for 100 hours.
Several Sadhakas were SILENCE retreat pros having attended retreats in the past, while others were new to the experience. A few days prior, Sadhakas received clear instructions from their guide, Vivekji, on what/ what not to bring, how/ how not to come and most importantly, how to best be prepared for the intensity of SILENCE.
The packing list included loose clothing, basic toiletries, a simple alarm clock and a reusable water bottle. Phones were not permitted and water was the only substance that could be consumed at all times. Also on the list and arguably the most important of all packing items, were materials for a personal meditation seat. Six hours were spent daily in a seated contemplation practice, so basic physical comfort was essential. Sadhakas were also instructed to not bring reading, writing, or ritual materials. They would come and go as monks and even in packing, were tactfully being prepared by Vivekji to reject dependencies and distractions of the outer world.
Each day, the schedule was cyclical – wake up, contemplation, nutrition, reflection, rinse and repeat. Sadhakas slept around 9pm for ~8 hours each night. Developing an introverted personality requires much energy and one of the first obstacles on the path of self-unfoldment is laya or sleepiness. Therefore, a good night’s rest was essential for the sadhakas’ internal growth. The regulated schedule also allowed sadhakas to break out of their usual limitations of space and time, so sadhakas were generally unaware of where they were or what time it was.
Contemplation sessions served as training grounds for the sadhakas’ SILENCE journey, while nutrition and reflection sessions reflected testing environments. Where training and testing overlapped, sadhakas could identify truth. Vivekji led sadhakas through Vipassana meditation during contemplation sessions. Vippasana comes from the Sanskrit word vipashyana or vairagya, meaning to see things as they are, without color. This practice allows one to live in the present, experience positivity and even improve concentration.
Over the span of 100 hours, sadhakas acquainted themselves with this means of spiritual purification and by the end, found their bodies’ to be calmer, their minds’ quieter and their intellects’ stiller. Purification prepares a sadhaka to ultimately transcend the same equipments to realize one’s true nature of joy. In this process, sadhakas began to cultivate an appreciation for the role that their equipments (body, mind, intellect) play in liberation. Sadhakas caught a glimpse of what it feels like to be independently joyous.
With freshness in their hearts and clarity in their minds, sadhakas packed their belongings and returned home to their real testing environments. All returned back to their daily responsibilities, yet this time, with a new and peace-filled vision for life.