This wasn’t your typical Vipassana meditation in a controlled environment. I decided to keep living my life exactly the same with the exception of using my voice to communicate. Picture me going about my business and stopping at the store to pick up groceries. It’s funny to see how people respond to something out of the ordinary. It was quite the experiment. Most people were puzzled about my unusual behavior.
The cashier must have thought I was deaf as I touched my hand to my throat and nodded my head indicating I would not be speaking. She smiled and proceeded, ‘Oh.. OKAY HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO PAY?’ Screaming as if I were hard of hearing. SMH. Like yelling would help me even if I was deaf. It was decided: I’d carry a note around with me from now on.
People were amazed and confused. I could see the gears turning in their head as they silently asked, But Why?
I didn’t quite know, when I embarked on this pilgrimage of stillness, what the reason was. My first experience with a vow of silence was with Art Temple at a festival where anything goes and nothing is unusual. It was a beautiful group experiment that I found compelling and fascinating as I was presented with opportunities to communicate and express myself in new and unique ways. I noticed my brain began to work differently as if I was looking at things through a different set of eyes. I could see some serious benefit to this self-imposed limitation.
I felt inspired to try it again and so I embarked on a 10 day journey of silence. No speaking. No digital communication. I didn’t know what exactly I was getting myself into. I knew it would be insightful but I hadn’t considered at the beginning of the 10 days, how much pain I would experience.
Day One: I woke up on this particular morning with the absolute certainty that I wasn’t going to speak, and without warning I referred the people I was living with to my explanatory sticky note.
I had an intense desire to write, to draw and to move my body. I wished to create and play yet I found myself instead battling this inner tension that I couldn’t quite shake. As a healer that helps people navigate this terrain every day, it was increasingly frustrating and the tension grew. I remembered the unique perspective I tasted during vow of silence with the Art Templars. In hopes that it would help me express myself in new and different ways I committed myself to the full ten day journey.
The first day was nice, quiet. Peaceful. I wrote and I rested. The next day I noticed that nobody was talk to me and I felt like my roommate was avoiding me. The empath in me was finding it hard to distinguish my discomfort from hers. Guilt joined the party. Housed in the dark corners of my mind her loathing voice crept in, ‘This is selfish and unreasonable. You’re making people feel uncomfortable. Why would you do such a thing just for your silly little experiment?’ she said. ‘What could you possibly accomplish?’ the beatings ensued.
I wanted to call my mom. I wanted her to tell me that what I was doing was okay, courageous even. I wanted someone to give me a permission slip to my own freedom of expression. The irony was too much and the tension in my body grew thick and heavy. Rarely do I ask for help. I’m strong. I can do it all on my own.
I realized this attitude - this story - has gotten me where I am and if I wanted to get somewhere else I’d have to change the story I was telling myself. I decided to dive into a deeply cathartic practice of writing from the heart. The only rules are to fill three pages minimum, write as fast as possible and don’t lift the pen until I’m done. I never know what’s going to appear on the paper before I begin.
I wrote a letter and imagined I was going to give this letter to a client or friend, experiencing the same thing. I scribbled messy chicken scratch page after page, tossing them on the livingroom floor never to be read again. I felt a slight release but I was most significantly reminded of my lack of trust in others, in myself and in life itself.
I decided to play a hypnosis recording. I sat outside wrapped in a blanket, feeling the warm fall breeze on my cheeks and put on my headphones. I drifted off into a very calm and relaxed state as I received loving suggestions that would help me heal, ‘...you are erasing those old ways of thinking and you’re now developing more trust. You are safe.’ Gulp
My throat closed and my pressure grew in my head. What was once a dreamy slumber under the starry sky was now a blur as tears welled up and my chest tightened. I am not safe. I absolutely do not believe it. No chance. I turned off the recording and tears streamed down my face. I am so fucking over this not feeling safe business!
I’m obviously safe - look how far I’ve come and all that I’ve done completely on my own and I’m still kickin! WHY do I feel this way?? This is total bullshit. It’s annoying and I’m sick of it! Why is this story playing over and over?? I don’t get it!!
I felt so blind and distorted and without the option of talking to someone about what was coming up for me I resorted to just sitting there and FEELING it. I asked myself, ‘Where is this coming from?’ No Answer.
More tears. I just wanted to call my mom. I cried and I cried. My face was raw and the once dreamy, twinkling lights in the trees were now blinding. No matter how many tears I released the pain in my body only increased.
That’s when Guilt came to say hello. She held up a divine mirror and the slightest glimpse nearly sent me into hysteria. I saw the origin of my tears.
I saw the worst betrayal known to man. It was so painful but I had to look, I had to know. What I found looking back in that mirror was a very hurt young girl, abandoned, abused, lied to and manipulated.
That girl was me. And I was the perpetrator.
The most excruciating pain filled my body as sharp tears rushed out. I heard all the lies I told myself. I felt the younger version of me calling for help - asking to be seen, to be heard - not by anybody else but me.
The gates opened and memories came flooding in. I saw a very young teenage girl, lost and alone. I was shown all the times I told myself things were ‘okay’ when clearly they were not. Lie after lie. No wonder I didn’t trust myself.
I remembered talking myself into doing things that did not feel good, surrounded by people who did not care about me. Being bullied, teased and harassed is to be ‘expected’ by kids. Obviously there was something wrong with me, I believed. I’m too sensitive. So I toughened up. Decided to ‘join the boys’ at their game. I’ll be the ‘cool’ one. It’ll be fun, I said, as my competitive nature would have me always winning flip cup and doing the most keg stands. It was exciting, new and a great escape from the unpredictable chaos that was waiting for me at home.
I didn’t think about what I really needed or wanted deep down. I wasn’t taught to turn inwards as a child, I learned how to fear, avoid and numb. Besides, I was just doing what everyone else seemed to do, we all did. It brought us together. It was a party. It was fun. And when it wasn’t fun - there I was armed with reasons it was my fault. Feeding myself reasons that I should care less and just be more ‘easy-going’. That would make it more fun. Just have a drink - lighten up. Literally manipulating myself into very uncomfortable situations with people that did not respect me. I did not respect me. No wonder I haven’t felt safe. I wasn’t.
I was reminded of the horrible things I’d put this beautiful body through. The years of poisoning it with copious amounts of toxic substances, numbing the truth of my deeply rooted, cleverly disguised pain. That liquid warm tingling in my body as all my worries are washed down with a drink and everything is suddenly much more interesting. Exploiting my body, giving my power away and submitting myself to the wrong people. I couldn’t count on the fingers of a hundred people how many times I ignored the little girl crying inside that so badly needed me. I learned very young how to please others so they wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. The violent complacency. Always wanting to keep the peace and calm the nerves, I would do anything to make others happy.
I realized I was sitting outside shaking, crying and probably making a lot of noise. Barely able to see through the tears, I made my way into the house and I returned to the pile of papers strewn about the livingroom floor. I grabbed another stack and began to write furiously across each page completely ignoring the thin blue lines.
As I wrote I reflected on the party years that faded and how I continued to feed myself more lies: “what a great time, those were the days.” The patterns didn’t change but the story did. I replaced alcohol with smoking and parties for yoga and work. It looked great on paper and of course this would make me happy, everyone is doing it. My seemingly ‘healthier’ habits secretly embedding the patterns deeper every time I tried to ‘be better’ and ‘more disciplined’ at getting on my yoga mat or being more productive at work.
I developed this skill so well; purposely training, as if a radar for finding ways to improve and be greater was what I needed. I even had choice words for the times I let myself down in the ‘self-love’ arena (I’d be lucky to give myself time for a bath). The abuse swirled in the darkness while on the surface everything was great! Great job, making great money. Doing whatever I want whenever I want, traveling the world, living the life some people only dream of.
But it wasn’t enough. I was always looking for answers and searching for the place where I belonged. Restless and motivated I searched high and low. What I didn’t know then is that in all of my searching, what I was looking for was already inside of me. I just couldn’t sit with myself long enough to see. It was never safe and I never understood why. I avoided sitting with myself because I didn't' want to see the painful truth of what I had ignored and denied for so long.
No matter where in the world I am; if I can’t trust me when how could I ever feel safe? I spent most of my life out of my body, disconnected, so I didn’t have to feel. And it worked well as long as I kept moving.
Worse than any pain inflicted by another person, was the betrayal to myself. The decades of lies and deception, the pain of this realization was intense. It was visceral and sharp and filled every ounce of my being.
Did other people know? Could they see through the lies?
A wise man once said to me, ’You're so good at faking vulnerable that it’s better than other people’s real vulnerability.
I can’t believe I fooled myself for so long.
Thank Goddess my dear friend Guilt showed up so I could be reminded what self-love really is.
The four pillars of love: Compassion, gratitude, trust, forgiveness.
I begged forgiveness for the pain, the hurt, the betrayal. Forgiving others has always been easy for me. As my childhood would have it I didn’t have space to hold other people’s baggage and I’d been hurt so many time there’s no way I could have survived this long if I didn’t let those things go. It had never occurred to me the most important person I would ever forgive was myself. The thought had never even crossed my mind.
I spent several hours writing the longest letter I’ve ever written. I apologized and asked forgiveness to every girl in me I had abandoned, lost and hid away. I filled a lot of pages. My hand cramped. It didn’t stop me.
Ink running down each page, written with a shaky hand, drenched in tears and snot. I couldn’t reread them if I wanted to. It was cathartic. Each word I wrote released a little more pain.
I held myself for the first time in my entire life. I forgave myself for the criticism, the judgments, the years I didn’t know self-respect. I had compassion for the girl inside of me that always did the best she could with what she knew at the time. I felt deep gratitude for following my instincts to do the vow of silence in the first place, and for Guilt, teacher of the shadow. I held myself longer. I felt the warm embrace of all of my ancestors. I made a promise to myself, that I would never again abandon ship.
I finally stopped running. Words cannot possibly express the profound insights and healing I gave to myself through this process. This is the very moment I made peace with all aspects of myself, fully surrendered to the power of love, forgiveness and healing my inner child.
‘I trust myself because I am now and forever here for me and I will always love, respect and honor the divine infinite truth that I AM LOVE.’ And so it is.
With this newfound embodiment I felt safe for the first time in my entire life. Nothing to figure out, nothing to strive for, nowhere to go and nobody to be.
I did this vow of silence in September 2017 and I’ll do another one this spring. This was such a significant, life changing experience. Combined with the stream of consciousness writing I couldn’t recommend a better practice that holds up a divine mirror and shows you the story running in your mind.
It’s an incredible pattern interrupt that is free and available to anyone, anywhere.