Silence, please!

Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Guatemala  , Western Highlands,
Thursday, April 5, 2012

Incredibly supportive as he is, Mr Lee completely understood when I wanted to stay for the second half of the Moon course. He returned from Spanish school/homestay in Xela after two weeks so we could spend a few glorious days together. That weekend coincided with the Festival of Consciousness featuring our very own Juliet (France) who had run away with the Spanish circus! 

We got our LoveLee fix and then I needed to get refocused.

How could I leave without focusing on my mental and spiritual aspects? Week 3 is aimed at finding one's mission in life. Maybe now is the time to decide what I want to do when I grow up? I was also curious to see how I would deal with the silence. The "best part" according to ex-mooners.

Silence in San Marcos?
It is not exactly the sleepy town that people believe it to be. At night it comes alive with a fiesta of sounds. Dogs barking. Cats meowing. Roosters... er, roosting? These confused "gallos" are the noisiest of the lot, cocker-doodle-doing right through the night! But, hey, you gotta have chicks at the party, dawg! Speaking of parties... whenever the revellers were out, the whole valley knows about it. The echo is relentless. Best to adapt your sleeping schedule accordingly rather than fight the futile fight. And what's with the constant fireworks? Oh yes! Despite all the gringos we are still in Guatemala where absolutely everything is celebrated with fireworks. I especially hate the "Boom-baah", an exceptionally loud explosion that sounds more like a cannon and rocks your very core!

This was the back-drop to our week of silence. 

Premature banter about playing April Fool's day tricks on each other came to an end when Chaty announced that the retreat week would start two days early. We would do 7 days of silence instead of the usual 5. It was Semana Santa (Holy Week) which means lots of spiritual energy around the lake that we should capitalise on. I was itching to start the silence and had considered starting it two days early in any event, so I welcomed the news.

That also meant we had 7 days on a restricted diet of liquids - soups, smoothies, water and teas. The idea is to spend less energy on digestion and redirect that energy to spiritual ends. I didn't feel challenged enough so I intensified the experience by not eating at all from 09h00 to 19h00, i.e. from after yoga until after meditation. In earlier years they used to do a proper fast but too many people made themselves ill, I'm told. 

I was pleased with my diligence, waking around 4:30am each morning even though I didn't need to. This meant time before yoga to brush my teeth, to brew the assigned tea of the day (Mexican sage was my fav!) and head down to the rocks to see the sunrise. An awesome start to the day! 

There was little time to nap because we had work to do. A series of exercises. Questions to meditate on. Places to go. The medicinal garden. The lake. The temple. Our rooms. Daily saunas. My notebook was my only companion (except in the lake and sauna). I love to reflect and to write so I was totally in my element!

It was funny to see how each of us dealt with the silence in our own way. Initially there was awkwardness. Should we make eye contact? Is that allowed? How can I totally ignore my friends? That's just rude! How do we strike the balance? Fortunately 18 hours on we were allowed a brief open session to clarify such matters. 

Such was the journey inward. Alone with me, myself and I. My physical, emotional, mental and spiritual selves. Don't worry! Instead of schizophrenia, a deep serenity set in. With all the energy freed up from digesting food and from interacting with people it made me more alert to the present moment. I paid more attention to my surroundings. Smelt the roses. Interacted with the elements. 

To say that it was life-changing is perhaps overly dramatic, but I think it changed me in ways I haven't yet fully realised.

The grand finale was three hours of meditation leading up to the Full Moon ceremony on the evening of the full moon, all clad in white. It was a special event indeed, a culmination of everything we had learned.
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