Many years ago, I did a Vipassana meditation retreat: ten days of silence in a forrest on a mountain with fifty other men and women. Many afraid of themselves. Many afraid of what they would hear in the silence when all distractions – phones, music, pens and notebooks – were gone.
I didn’t dread the silence. I dreaded the strict routines and the pain of sitting in stillness, unmoving, for days in a row. I dreaded being so physically close to other people, without the safety of solitude.
On the first afternoon, after awkward greetings and nervous chitchatting, the bell rang for silence. Gradually, we surrendered to ourselves. And I witnessed something amazing:
in the silence, with our eyes to the ground, we finally saw each other
without the words, our feelings were heard
attune /əˈtjuːn/ verb 1. make receptive or aware 2. accustom or acclimatize 3. make harmonious
Like radio masts, all things living transmit a frequency. Without the outer disturbance, we tuned in – attuned – to ourselves, to each other, to our surroundings. We felt and were felt. We belonged.
On the tenth day, we slowly left the dark meditation hall, our silence broken as we passed through the large doors walking out into the harsh daylight. Several girls flocked around me, hugged me and thanked me. One girl, in tears, said she wouldn’t have made it without me. Every time, she said, that dispair sucked her in, she would look for me, sitting there somewhere in the room, feel me, and my belonging would become hers, too.
during nine days of silence
we were humans, together
on the tenth day
back came the words
up came the walls
on came the masks
and within minutes
we tuned out of each other
again, we were alone…
In a place where any attempt to communicate – even eye contact – was prohibited, I learned Belonging. And then I saw it fade before my eyes, as the words came back.
It used to be crucial for us humans to stay attuned – to the earth, to each other, to our environment – in order to survive. As our intellect developed new ways of reducing that powerless state of dependency by inventions, financial and social constructs and technology, attunement, empathy and connectedness seemed less and less a matter of survival. Somewhere along the way we started believing that our own wellbeing was independent from the wellbeing of those around us. That there can be a winner and a looser without the winner loosing, too. The ‘other’ became commodities to be used for our own benefit.
And so we are continuing, until the global hurt from disconnectedness finally out-weights the human fear of dependency….
no place is lonelier
more painful than pain
is the pain no one sees
Is there freedom in the freedom of speech, if no one listens? Is there beauty in the beauty of diversity, if no one sees? What is the value of independence if we cease to exist to each other? What exactly are we then independent from?
I still sometimes slip into choosing solitude to avoid the uncomfortable loneliness radiating from us humans as we try to connect whilst hiding behind masks, resisting to feel each other. I disconnect to avoid the disconnection, paying the price by feeling disconnected. It’s not working.
I have to step up and find a way to live in conscious interdependence, attuned and naked. Because I don’t want to live in a world that does not feel. And I don’t want to live without feeling the world.
is you and me, all of us
uncovered, bare as autumn branches
vibrating at the frequency of Belonging
But sometimes the very thing we do to connect, can be what keeps us apart.