Being silent is hard. Being silent for more than two hours in the company of a group of strangers while you trek 3.5 miles up a muddy trail through the pouring rain in a redwood forest is even harder.
That’s exactly what the STRIVENT weekend adventure Meetup group did this weekend though. With intention, at 7am we set out from Stinson Beach to hike Mt. Tam’s Matt Davis 7-mile loop trail in a group silent meditation.
Silence is powerful.
When there’s no noise coming from the external world, the internal chatter goes from being something that’s happening largely unconsciously in the background, to something that is brought to the very forefront of the mind.
In the beginning, the mind is extremely noisy and negative. It brings up a lot of fear and doubt about why you’re doing what you’re doing and whether or not it’s worth any value. Then it starts thinking about what the other people in the group are thinking about. Next, it starts thinking about all the plans it has to make and work it has to do.
Without any awareness or intention brought to the mind, it continues to jump from thought to thought, simply executing its primary task, which is to make sense of the world surrounding it.
The brain is brilliantly effective at what it does, but if we’re ever going to fully experience the present moment, we need to learn to quiet down the chatter of the mind and tap into the sensations of the body.
As soon as you tap into your breath, the plans you’ve made for later that night fade away and the subtleties surrounding you reveal themselves. The sound of the pouring rain hitting the canopy above, the feeling of howling winds blowing across your face, the hunger pangs from the depths of your stomach, the icy numbness in your hands, and the richness of nature in all her glory present themselves to you as soon as you stop thinking so much about being the center of your own world.
The simple truth is that the majority us spend our time consumed with ourselves in relation to the world.
Will I get that promotion?
Can I be a better spouse?
How will I be perceived if I do so and so?
On and on the thoughts about ourselves go unending.
However, we’re not the center of the universe, and though the complexity of our lives is magnificently fascinating, it’s all distracting from the beauty to be beholden in the present moment.
So regardless if you’re silently walking through a rainy forest, having your morning coffee, about to give a presentation, or simply sitting down for dinner, do yourself a favor and take a couple deep breaths to bring yourself into the present moment.
Once you’re there, the real experience of life begins.