The Healing Power of Silence
In 2015 I went to Thailand for a month. It was my first trip to South East Asia, and coincidentally part of the reason I'm now in debt up to my ears and working at a roadhouse in the outback to make up for it. You see, I had planned the trip because I knew I could get tax deductible flights if I visited Bikram Yoga Teacher Training while I was there to recertify. And I am a fan of giving my money to adventure and experience and creating new memories rather than handing it over to the tax man! It seemed like a good idea at the time. Heard that one before haven't you?
Well karma got me on this one because by the time my trip was two months away, I got hit with the tax bill from the previous year and had to spend all my Thailand savings on it. I was pretty bummed out, especially because I'd already spent $700 on the flights. So I decided to say 'screw you money! You don't own me!' and refinanced my loan to pay for the trip. You can see where this is going can't you?
What's the big deal? It's only $2000, I can pay it back, no problem... Except that clever bank gave me $5000 didn't they? And I took it 'just in case' didn't I? Needless to say, once I got to Thailand, nothing went ahead as planned. I didn't make it to the 10 day (nearly free) meditation retreat I'd planned to attend because of an injury on my first day in the country (why does this ALWAYS happen to me!?). So I had to spend those ten days spending money.
Well, you know what? Even though I spent all that money, I had a dang good time, and I feel like the universe threw me that curve ball to make sure I experienced the joy of spontaneous unplanned solo travel. I've always wanted to do it but was too afraid to let go of the reigns. So I came home saying 'no regrets'. I evolved in ways I couldn't have imagined.
However, that whole trip was marred by some form of physical pain and suffering. Clearly I needed to learn some lessons. Most apparently, how to suffer in silence, having no travelling companion to complain to.
I went to a three day silent mediation retreat near the end of my trip with Tantra Yoga Chiang Mai (http://www.tantrayogathailand.com). Just to clarify, I know that for most people, the word Tantra congers up images of the Kama Sutra and kinky sex stuff, but it's nothing like that at all. Tantra Yoga is a practice that uses meditation, asana (postures), chakras, mantras, and many other modalities in order to awaken consciousness. But unlike most ancient Indian tradition, rather than demonising desire and striving to purify the body, Tantra Yoga embraces sex as a vital component of one's journey towards enlightenment.
So back to my point about suffering. I had volunteered to work in the kitchen for a reduced entry fee and on the second day realised that I must be allergic to mosquitos, because I had been washing my hands so much that I'd washed off the insect repellant that was barely keeping them at bay on the rest of my body, and my hands became unbearably swollen and itchy. On my one hour lunch break I laid on my bed in my air-conditioned room with my hands propped up on pillows...seriously... suffering.
I'd never felt anything like it. And all I wanted to do was to tell everyone how much I was suffering! My ego wanted so badly for others to acknowledge what I was going through, to somehow validate it. Whenever I'm going through something, I find it very therapeutic to talk about it. I talk to anyone and everyone, until it's been expelled out of me, and I can process it and move on. I'm not a private person, I have no secrets, and I wear my heart on both sleeves... and pant legs and socks! I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with this, though I've had to learn the hard way that not everyone appreciates this approach! It's wise to be sensitive to the needs of others when openly venting ones problems.
However, I do think there is something to be said for suffering in silence. It shifts your focus away from the ego, and into the heart. Acknowledgement and compassion from others is amazing, and necessary for a kind and human existence. It allows to be vulnerable and to connect authentically with each other.
But can we achieve this kindness towards ourselves without outside influence? Without the outpouring declaration of pain - which can move the pain out of ourselves, yes, but also potentially onto others around us - we can observe our pain from within. And if it's not going anywhere, we'd better make friends with it. Pain is an inevitable and necessary part of human existence. Pain teaches us compassion, but for some reason it's so much easier to feel compassion for others than for our selves.
I'm making friends with silence in a new way these days. It's not at all what I expected when I decided to work in a remote roadhouse. It seems, when you have a job that doesn't require a lot of thought or energy, paired with a lot of spare time without commitments to friends or family, and basically nothing else but yoga to occupy yourself, your mind is free to ruminate on all the things that it was too busy to think about before. It's like everything that I unconsciously pushed down because it was too painful to feel at the time, is finally surfacing. I know this must sound like it's excruciating, and at times it is, but to be honest, it's also incredibly liberating. I might be walking around crying at almost everything and not exactly sure why, but heck, is it ever cathartic! I highly recommend =)