Mary Ann Treger is a talker. When she's not talking, she's texting or emailing or surfing social media sites. Being connected is her cocaine. Even alone at home, political pundits yak on the television in the background. So why would this motor-mouthed writer go cold turkey and sign up for a silent retreat in an isolated abbey where shutting-up is the numero uno requirement? Read on...
Deep in the barren Sonora Desert of Southwestern U.S, three days away from the last person I saw, I was hiking alone, in search of quiet. The desert has always been the one place that spiritual seekers, saints, and sinners have gone in search of quiet.
Sonoran Desert, Prima, Arizona. Photo by Ken Bosma via Flickr CCLExcept that, in reality, the desert was not quiet. Its incessant winds whistled by my ears and rumbled up through my feet. Dead and dying grasses tumbled and rolled by. Snakes slithered, lizards clicked, and hares scurried across the sand. The winds sang beneath the wings of hovering vultures and under the claws of lingering thoughts.
There, hiking alone through the desert, reveling in my own silence, late in the afternoon on a tranquil summer’s day, I suddenly came upon a rattlesnake, which startled me with its rattle, louder than any rock concert I had ever been to. I stopped, the snake did not strike, we stared at each other, and then we both quietly went our separate ways.
Sound and silence can come in unanticipated places and at unpredictable times.
When was the last time you took 3 slow, deep breaths? The stress of daily life keeps my breaths shallow, and my stomach tight. Although I'm semi –retired, I still lead a busy 21 st century westerner’s life. I drive in traffic, surf the net, fight to get to the checkout in Trader Joe’s, pay bills, pump my own gasoline, yech! This summer things just weren’t working in my life. I had a disappointing love affair, my friends were unable to keep social plans, I was lonely, stuck with a property I couldn't sell, two-and-a-half years into a self -imposed five year austerity program. When I became aware of how tight my stomach was, I decided to enroll in a 10 day silent meditation retreat at Vallecitos Mountain Ranch in New Mexico to avoid a future diagnosis of acid reflux.
When an old master artist like Di Vinci decided to paint over a part of his initial composition, it was called pentimento, which means to change your mind. Life is just like that; sometimes we paint a composition and then change our minds. Thus, we alter our lives. I went to meditate on order to look deeply into my life composition and alter what needed to be altered.
Set in a pristine mountain forest 9,500 feet above sea level, Vallecitos has nine ponds, flowered valleys, an old restored hunting lodge and private cabins for participants. I joined about 37 like-minded people from various parts of the U.S. and two teachers to explore 10 days of being with my own thoughts, feelings and sensations. Here are some of the awareness’ I garnered.