That time in 2009 when I locked myself in an ashram for ten days of silence in an effort to fix myself. I lasted seven.
Most retreats observe what is called 'noble silence' it means not talking unnecessarily. It makes a lot of sense. It asks for discernment from the participant rather than blind obedience. At the time of my first self imposed silence in India I had not heard of noble silence. I went in instead with the dogmatic mindset that if I followed the rules and didn’t utter a peep for ten days, even if this logically made no sense, I’d be rewarded somehow. Like almost every story I share here, it didn’t go so well.
Over the course of my first few days, I made of a point of going to the Ganges at least once a day to sit and meditate. I used this time to draw inspiration from the long line of seekers that had prayed at its edges before me. I liked the postcard-like image of myself sitting in contemplation on its sandy shores. Looking back I was somewhat akin to a spiritual Derek Zoolander- moksha seeking by being ridiculously good looking. I also went because ashram life got old fast and it was a change of scenery.
At the insistence of the ashram staff I'd usually take one of their guard dogs with me, who were trained to protect anyone they left the grounds with. While very safe, Mungalam and Sitara had a habit of routinely crashing my zen.
Getting the dogs to leave with me was the first problem. How do you wake up a large napping dog that is trained to bite people when you cannot speak? Hint: The answer is not poking it with a stick. How do you ask someone to help you wake up the large napping dog for you when you cannot speak? Again, the answer is not poking them with a stick.
Secondly, as well trained as the dogs were, their training did not include instruction in Hindu religious etiquette. This caused many problems. Such as Mungalam sending a few good natured swamis running with their dhotis hiked up to their knees after they dared walk within ten feet of me and give a polite, "hari om."
Or the day I took both dogs with me and they decided to play chase the sacred cows. It was quite the show by the banks of the holy Ganges that day. Dogs chasing cows. Me silently chasing the dogs- arms waving like a lame-ass Kali impression. Am old Indian lady not chasing anyone- choosing instead to wisely stand at a safe distance and yell at me for defiling Krishna.
The silence wasn't going well and I felt like I wasn’t teaching my full Zoolander-ananda potential. Shit was also starting to get real and I honestly wasn’t up to facing it (this was around the time the peanut butter started to run out. Link to previous post). Logically, I blamed the dogs. So I stopped taking them with me. In retrospect, this was rather dumb.