Lyrics and Lessons.
Updated: Jun 7, 2019
I recently attended a 10 day silent meditation retreat. The first thing that I noticed was that when you stop talking, your mind starts getting mighty chatty. I often had a huge variety of thoughts going around my head along with a specific song lyric from The National, “Oh the glory of it all, was lost on me.”
On the retreat we learnt that our minds are conditioned to react to whatever is going on, whether it’s happening in our environment, or in our head - the thoughts that randomly pop in and out. We react with either craving or aversion, and this reaction drags our attention away from the present moment, causing us to miss what we’re experiencing in the here and now. If we can learn to pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment, without judging it, we can break that conditioning and enjoy what’s going on, instead of pushing it away or trying to make the good feelings last forever.
I learnt a lot in 10 days, and a lot of the lessons came from the things that I noticed when it got quiet. When there’s silence you start to really hear the sounds of nature. Birdsong becomes richer, as you hear how different melodies blend together and the sound of crickets becomes a rich, resonate vibration.
In the quiet, the noises that your body make stand out much more clearly. The scrape of a chair as you pull it out or the sound of two plates clanking in the sink becomes really loud. This changes the way that you do things. The way that you move. You automatically start to slow down, you start to take more care, pay more attention to what you’re doing. The way that you were charging around previously starts to feel a bit silly. You start to walk slowly, carefully. Hearing and feeling each footstep. You notice how the sound of your footsteps soften when you reach the leaf covered floor beneath a tunnel of trees.
And then you start to notice other things too. You see a leaf falling from a tree. A bird swooping down. The stars twinkling above you like the multitude of different sensations you can feel on your skin. You start to hear your own breath, feel your own heartbeat.
As you start to really experience what’s happening in the moment, your thoughts grow quieter too. It’s as if they’re holding their breath in wonder.
Nature comes alive. As you walk under a tree, its overhanging leaves gently stroke your head. Eating becomes the most amazing experience. You savour all the different tastes, textures and temperatures in your bowl. You sit and watch the steam come off your cup of tea. It’s a magnificent show, a dance of steamy tendrils moving so beautifully that you want to weep.
You think about how many of these everyday miracles you miss out on when your focus is only on what’s going on inside your head. How few moments you’re actually present for. And you worry that at the end the life you might have missed most of it. That the glory of it all will be lost on you.
Find out more about the retreat here: https://www.pataka.dhamma.org/the-centre-in-south-africa/