I was just invited to attend a 3 day “Silence in the Rockies” retreat here in Colorado. The promoters main selling point was “No one will be allowed to speak aloud after the opening session Friday until the 5:00pm closing on Sunday. There will be no access to televisions, no cell phones and absolutely no internet connections.” Which means just you and your thoughts.
They assured me that this “quiet” experience would provide me with a better focused introspective experience and I would finally achieve life balance as a result. Hmm…. So let me get this straight: I give them some money and then they provide me with a safe place to do nothing other than think my own thoughts… very interesting, to be sure, but am I really SO far gone that I need to pay for something like that?!
Don’t get me wrong, I think meditation is a very valuable tool in organizing ones thoughts. I practice every day already, on my own. But, this wasn’t meditation training – this was me paying to get put into what my Mom used to call “time-out” when I got in trouble as a kid.
As I pondered the options here, first, my mind suddenly began to fill with instances that might occur if I attended and was unable to vocalize anything at all. What if I had a gall stone? Could I mime the symptoms of a gall stone? What if the silence overlords misinterpreted my gall stone mime attempt to be “Please sir, may I have more stew?” Catastrophe could abound in an environment of such stringent silence rules!
So as I continued thinking about this gall stone miming that I might have to be prepared to perform, I realized this could then present a perfect opportunity to have a rousing discussion on how “mime” and “pantomime” are different. But alas and to my dismay, I’m utterly certain that discussion would not be allowed, and the galactic insights we could have developed together will as a result, never occur.
I then further thought to myself, okay, maybe I’m over complicating this. Here is another possible scenario: I’m at dinner and my food needs a little seasoning. Asking for salt or pepper at dinner would be doable without speaking, but what if I wanted a condiment like Salsa? I’d probably have to settle for ketchup… but I love Salsa. In the end, because of how much I wanted to give this ‘time-out’ retreat a try, I talked myself into deciding that they’d probably let me speak out-loud if there was a Salsa emergency… it is salsa desires, in the Rockies, after all… they simply MUST make concessions for such seasoning needs.
Once all my immediate fears and trepidations had been adequately addressed, in my own mind, I suddenly realized why these silent retreats are gaining in popularity.
Silent time has gone the way of the bumpersticker, the rotary dial phone and “down time”.
“Down time” used to occur and be enjoyed when we stood in line to get a coffee or at the bank, while waiting to see a doctor or for a meal to arrive at a restaurant… or even during commercial breaks while watching TV. Down time was a reliable and even unavoidable aspect of every single day not that long ago, and during the down time we would almost always “day dream”. We would think about anything and everything, whether we realized it or not, and so it is during this time that we were often our most creative during any given day.
In “olden times” we detached from the constant barrage of information being force fed to us on Television or radio because we just weren’t near or around a TV or radio, but today this type of information barrage – and much more– is ever present and completely self-inflicted. Down time and daydreaming seem to be a thing of the past because now, even when we stand in line, or sit in wait for one thing or another, our hands and minds are busy with our handheld wi-fi or mobile data fed devices, filling our minds with high-speed input of some type of news or entertainment.
As a result, it is quite likely that someday sooner or later, we may no longer even remember what daydreaming was, or how to do it, much less enjoy indulging ourselves in it! At best, because we are becoming so reliant on internet provided mental stimulation, we might even figure out how to connect minds to the net while we are sleeping!
In today’s cyber world, there is just no debating that most of us “daydream” less and less, every day. For many of us, every moment that we aren’t required to be doing something like our jobs or driving a car, we are on the internet, our cell phones or texting…. And sometimes, frighteningly enough, even when we are SUPPOSED to be doing our jobs or driving a car, we are STILL texting or using our mobile devices in one way or another.
In the end, I decided not to go to the “Silent Retreat” this year, and I genuinely suspect the promoters will be happy about my choice now that I’ve given all this so much thought. I simply don’t believe that the solution to our daydreaming deficit is a silent retreat for a few days, once a year. The solution is so simple, and yet so difficult, it may indeed pain you to consider it… but here it comes: I suggest you turn your phone totally off for at least 30 minutes tonight when you get home, and actually connect with your family and friends in person… free of anything electronic. Then, next week make it an hour…and so on.
You could also try turning your phone off while standing in line and dare to daydream without the assistance of the Cloud. Build some silence into your life every day, in small or large ways, and simply make it a habit to be inaccessible each day at 6pm, for example, for however long you can.
Dare to dream and let your mind wander. If nothing else to get your routine ‘time out’ ball rolling, just don’t watch television or get lost in Facebook before you go to bed; I guarantee you’ll sleep better! Just try do something to start somewhere, and give yourself a chance to remember how much more balanced and uniquely creative you felt before the age of technology hit a peak so high that there is now a market for ‘time out’ retreats!