When the mind turns silent

Somehow I am still struggling to put words to what exactly happened – in my mind, in my body and in the beautiful Buddhist monastery – from Friday to Sunday as I did a 3-days silence retreat. Because something did happen, which has had an immediate impact on me. Maybe it was the silence around me and within me. Maybe it was the safe circle embracing me due to the small badge saying “Silence“ on my t-shirt. I was avoided, not spoken to and not expected to participate, influence or answer and that turned out to one of the impacting learnings I took home with me. I experienced a closeness and warmth between the 11 silence participants which I have seldom experienced with anyone, and that although I knew absolutely nothing about any of them except their names.

If you would have an interest for meditation overall, you would know by now that meditation yields a huge number of benefits to our health, being reduction of stress, improved attention (mindful), better memory, increased creativity and feelings of compassion. Meditation offers a broad spectrum of technics to learn – and I strongly believe you need to see this similar to training to a marathon, because it is really all about training, training, training of the mind. In many enterprises, including my own employer, mindfulness meditation has been added to the health offers to increase attention, compassion and effectiveness, by concentrating on the breath, observing each inhalation and exhalation – and without consideration of other thoughts. It sound easy, however it is extremely difficult for the majority of us who are in a constant flow of multitasking, 24/7 reach, stress-intensive working (and home) environments. Our thoughts are constantly seducing us to wander into the past, the future, needs, and habits.

During my retreat, I had the luxury to learn from Buddhists monks through many different technics of meditation, being sitting, standing, walking meditation, 108 prostrations, and – for me personally – a very emotional heart chakra meditation – all to hack into my own minds to harness it under control. Intense 3 days which is a luxury not many people will have, but studies show that only 20 minutes meditation a day is all that is required to get beneficial results, like for example stress reduction. Studies show that participants who meditated, as compared to those who did not, performed better on stressful multitasking tests, potentially to have something to do with reduced levels of cortisol, recommending that meditating before a stressful situation may help reduce feelings of stress during any event.

And lastly, meditation has also been shown to increase level of empathy, but it has to come from a specific practice known as loving-kindness-compassion meditation. It’s a kind of focused attention meditation, but the practitioner is asked to concentrate on feelings of love, compassion, and understanding. By comparing MRI scans of novices to those of expert Buddhist monks (each with more than 10,000 hours of practice), researchers watched as emotional stimuli (sounds of people in distress) caused those areas of the brain linked to empathy light up; the monks exhibited greater degrees of empathetic response than the novices. In turn, the scientists speculate that compassion meditation can make a person more empathetic.

I am generally not a person feeling that I have super-powers of changing the world, but during those 3 days I left with a feeling that life can be so simple if everyone of us would be mindful to ourselves, to our environment and to each other, focusing on love, compassion and understanding through the powers of meditation.

I hope you will join me.