When a friend first asked me to join the Silent Retreat, I was quite uncertain about it. I’m a very talkative person; I crave for conversations. 3 days of not talking? You must be kidding me. It’s almost like being maimed.
Weeks after, I found myself walking along a very quiet hall, eerie to a point, I must say, and being led to a room which I’ll have all for myself. It was night time when I got there. And it was in Tagaytay. So you could just imagine how I must have felt at that time, also bearing in mind that I’m the type of person who get spooked easily: night time, cold winds, new place, isolation.
After the assistant campus minister briefed me on the house rules, the activities I missed and the spiritual exercises I’m supposed to do before sleeping, I was left all by myself. And then I realized I have to go down to the dining area to take my medicine. I tried to be brave. So I went out of my room, walked down the lonely hall again, and struggled down the stairs. The dining area was dark. And through two sides of the room, you could see and feel the darkness outside. Usually, such a situation gives me goosebumps and makes me turn my back. So my first victory that night was opening the lights and drinking my meds—in a room where no one else was present, with a view of the darkness and stillness of the night. Usually, also, going back, my tendency is to run away, heart beating fast, as if someone who I don’t want to catch up with me is after me. This time around though, since I couldn’t run given the condition of my legs, I had no choice but to calm myself down. So slowly, I walked… past the huge window by the stairway, past the quiet hall, and back to my own cold room.
In my room, I preoccupied myself with the exercises. I wrote a bit on my journal and then slept. That was pretty much my first night.
But I won’t go boring you further now with a detailed story of how my second and third days went :p
What I just want to note now is how everything that happened during those two days acquainted me to the paradox of silence. I wasn’t such a big fan of silence back then. Utter silence makes me feel alone and vulnerable. It makes me feel unconnected and missing out on a lot. It also scares me at times. It disturbs my peace, so I yearn for noise for the comfort of knowing that there are other people around me (except, of course, when silence is needed, like when studying). But during that retreat, it was in silence that I felt most not alone. Because then, I felt enveloped in God’s presence.
The following is an excerpt from one of the journal entries I wrote during the retreat. I wrote them as reminders for myself. I decided I want to share it :)
Appreciate silence. Appreciate the times when nothing seems to be “happening” in your life. You’ve hurt people just because you tried to make them fill the emptiness or boredom you are feeling. When nothing seems to be happening, use it as a time for prayer. A time to reflect. A time to bond with God. A time to realize how blessed you are. A time to ponder about life. A time to just be still.
Right now, my heart is at peace. The confusions and all the uncertainty, I just lifted them up to him. And it feels a lot lighter now. When I went there, I was initially expecting I’d get to talk to someone, share to that person how I am feeling, and maybe that person could give me an answer so that when I go back, I already know what to do. I never approached the Director to tell him about my story and what confuses my heart. I realized that I have to stop thinking too much, and also to stop looking for people to confirm my feelings and actions. I realized I don’t have to solve everything. Life is intricate. Human interactions are still a puzzle even to people who spent their whole lives studying such. Every person is different, and so each time the lives of people intertwine, you can never really be a hundred percent sure about what will happen. So I thought it’s best to just lift up to God all my worries. And so I did. I told Him that I know I may not have the answer yet when I come back, but that I am sure that if I just stop worrying and pray to Him to keep my heart safe and steady, things will fall into place.
So instead of entangling my thoughts with too much thinking and analyzing, I decided to just see and accept things as they are, be still, and listen. He talks. We just first have to be silent to hear all the great things we miss out on hearing when we’re too enamored with the hustle and bustle of everything.
And then you’ll realize how festive silence can be, if you haven’t discovered that yet, that is :)