Retreating In Silence

A silent meditation retreat naturally appeals to me. I’ve always been quiet. The hardships of being in public include having to talk to people when I don’t feel like it. At a silent retreat, I’d be out in public but not forced to chit chat. I’d be able to do a deep dive into my own brain with the guidance of a guru. I found Kadampa Meditation Center. They offer Silence Is Golden retreats that last from five to six hours. That’s about the speed to ease into this thing.

My morning pre-retreat found me excited, looking forward to all the not talking I’d be doing. The excitement turned to anxiety as my GPS decided to test all that is calm and focused within me by taking me to not-the-mediation center. It kept telling me I was there when I was not there. I wasn’t really anywhere. It kept exclaiming You have arrived! when there was nothing to arrive to except for the backs of buildings. I figured it might be on a corner. Nope. I drove in a few circles. Then by the grace of all that is not GPS, I spotted it on a wider swath of circuity.

After checking in, a lovely woman brought me over to where the coats and shoes were, and showed me where the meditation room was. Thankful, I peeled off my jacket and my boots. I headed into a room filled with meditative souls, sitting on bolsters on the floors and on chairs. I took a chair. I took in the Buddha inspired vibrant paintings. Then everyone stood up. So I stood up. Oh, here was the leader. This is some heavy meditation respect.

The leader is a lovely woman who began with basics of why we meditate and why in silence. She spoke of people finding a challenge in keeping quiet. Ha. Nope, not me. This was heaven. I can only imagine how tiring this day was for her because her energy radiated in every moment.

We meditated through her guidance and readings. We took a break. They served mini Mrs. Fields cookies. No one talked. There was tea. This is what life should be.

We meditated again for a longer while. This took us to lunch, which they provided. All vegetarian. Soup. Quinoa. Vegetables. Fruit. More tea. No one talked. I went for a walk around the block. Then I circled again. These circles were a lot calmer than the GPS anxiety ones.

We meditated again. And then it was done. Five and a half hours of silent contemplation, cookies, soup, and tea.

I can’t explain how I felt afterwards. Driving home, an exhaustion overtook me. I couldn’t wait to pull into my driveway. Then when I got to my street, I drove past my house in a burst of energy and did some errands. Then I got home and felt somewhere between those two. Ah, I’d found equilibrium, which is exactly what we’d been meditating on. This stuff ? Works.

 

 

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The World Is Sound

IMG_0625The Rubin Museum of Art brings the East to the West. The Himalayan art makes a strong impact in scrolls and statues. In addition to the visual, audio was the focus in The World Is Sound, an exhibit that offers chants, instruments, artistic snippets of sound, and a ceiling to floor soundtrack from the first floor to the top and back down. Really, sound is everywhere all the time, and in this exhibit, it’s electric.

Normally, I skip elevators, but since I was starting on the top floor and working my way down, I took it. The elevators played interviews with artists about sound. This is how all-encompassing this exhibit is.

IMG_0626The curators want everyone to experience sound with your entire body through all five senses, so some art appeared next to signs that read Touch To Hear, and you could hear the vibration of a chant that went along with a piece of art. I like museums that encourage touching stuff. I also like museums that don’t allow you to touch stuff so that I can try to touch stuff and feel a bit of a rebel when I pull it off.

I found the Om Room that plays recordings of people chanting om. I sat and hummed and listened. I went back a second time before leaving the museum because it was really neat and relaxing.

Next to that was a video that showed graphics of space and molecules and talked about sound vibrations. It was stunning with a vibrant gold statue of a bodhisattva next to it. A bodhisattva is someone reaching toward enlightenment who helps others do the same, one step down from being a Buddha, one who has attained enlightenment. See how much you can learn in one trip to the museum?

There was a bank of headphones to listen to short compositions of sound and song. I like almost all of them. While I usually refrain from putting on public headphones, these were necessary for the full experience and did not seem germy at all. The descriptions of the compositions were also artistic.

Then came my favorite thing in the whole exhibit aside from the Om Room. I did this twice. They had a recording of someone reading the┬áBardo Thodol, the Tibetan Book of the Dead. To experience the reading, there was a bench, and you lay yourself down on the bench to listen. Some people were sitting. I laid down. Then I went back and laid down again because I like laying down in places, especially in NYC (see: Yoga In Times Square and that trip to the Whitney where after you lie down you find out you’ve been temperature recorded). I want to find that recording because I would lie down and listen to it every day.

After taking in the permanents and other exhibits on the other floors, all the while listening to the sounds coming from the center of the museums spiral staircase, I headed back to Penn. On my way, I found the key to the city.

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