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01/09/2006 Archived Entry: "The purpose of silent retreat"

HENSHAWE EXPRESSES ELOQUENTLY the purpose of silent retreat is a freedom lover's life.

Although I'm not yet in the full of my silent year (some interesting projects holding me in place), already I see some unexpected -- but again unsurprising -- effects.

One of the first things that struck me when I withdrew from blogging about daily news is how absurd much of the political world is. It's horrible, dangerous, worthy of outrage, certainly. But it's also built on crazy illusion. A few examples:

I started out my silence with a sincere intention to blog at least three times a week, as often as my (soon-to-be) limited 'Net connection would permit. But almost instantly, most potentially bloggable material seemed simply to absurd to comment on. I mean, how much more self-evident can it be that we're preoccupying ourselves with a system that's not merely evil but insane?

And -- as the example of the no-fly babies shows -- it's a system in which individuals have willingly surrendered their own knowledge, commonsense, and responsibility to the lunatics.

So no. Although I'm still entertained by what other freedom lovers blog in response to the news, and although I do believe that both the evil and the lunacy must be eliminated, I'm not slogging through that icky-sticky mire myself. (Um, well, yeah. Not quite as much, anyhow. I'm ... er, tapering off.)

Thoreau said it best. We whack at the spreading branches of tyranny every day. But we get so busy doing that that we neglect to go after the roots. Sometimes to perceive the roots -- and to find our best tools for attacking them -- we have to step back from the constant effort.

Rest. Analyze. Synthesize. See the world from a different perspective. These steps are important, too. Otherwise we risk spending our lives flailing in futility at every new twig and leaf of tyranny while the roots of all the horrors spread and strengthen.

My alternative blog plans -- to talk about my own experience of silence, insight, and healing -- are still active. But I'm simply not far enough along the path to have anything truly useful to say. And I'm currently too preoccupied with interesting, but mundane, projects.

On February 1 I'm scheduled to begin a 10-day meditation workshop in which the students observe complete silence -- not even communicating by written note or gesture (except during a few defined question periods or, obviously, in case of dire need). I'll be away from my hilltop, away from all familiar routines, even away from the dogs (whose care friends are helping to arrange).

Parts of this experience I'm dreading. I expect the long days of meditation to be boring and hard work ("spiritual boot camp" as one friend called it). I wonder how I'll stay awake. I wonder how my lazy, undisciplined self will handle imposed routine. I wonder how I, who can hardly sit through an hour of enforced tutelage (e.g. a boring lecture) will keep my promise to remain for 10 days without just picking up and strolling out when I get antsy. Ten days seems "mere" when observed from outside. I fear it'll be endless when experienced from within.

Yet I'm excited about this serendipitous opportunity to break my routines, to really get away from everything I habitually do, think, or feel obligations toward. And to learn a potentially new way of being.

My guess is that, after that, this year of silence will actually get more productive and insightful. Who knows? My job now isn't to struggle or fight or fret about the future (something I do habitually and all too enthusiastically). My job is just to learn to silence my own clamoring mind and go wherever the year takes me.

Posted by Claire @ 08:56 AM CST

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