Here is the irony. By just BEING and not being allowed to explain myself to strangers, like my roommate, who I did not know, was like torture for me. I spent most of the first two days obsessing about whether or not what I was doing was bothering her. Opening the window to get some fresh air. Turning on the light too early in the morning. Was my sleeping bag making too much noise as I rustled about. I felt NUTZ. I began to realize how hyper-focused I was on others and how anxious I was unless I knew they were not bothered by something I did. By not being allowed to talk to her (or even make eye contact) I had to figure this out on my own and the conversation went like this: It is ok to open a window to get fresh air, just as it is ok for her to close the window if she is cold. Or she could put on a sweater or the huge jacket she brought. She is not a child who needs my care. She is an adult that drove to a silent retreat and knew she would be rooming with a stranger. Done. I felt my center return to me.
Now comes the funny part. On the retreat there is no food allowed in the rooms. We have these wonderful organic meals in the dining area down the hill. I return from lunch one day to find that the room stinks! My roommate had brought a banana back and thrown the peel away in the trash in our tiny room. The whole place stunk of banana. She had done something that bothered me! Now with four days left with the trash in our room I did not know what to do. Do I take the banana peel out and walk it to the trash in the dinning hall? Do I let it sit in our room for the whole retreat and hope the smell dissipates instead of worsens? In the end, I let it be. I opened the window wide and slept with it open all night. The smell did dissipate or maybe I got used to it. All I know is I let go.
I don’t know if I will ever understand the mystery of what a week of silence and hours of meditation can do. All I know is at some point my racing mind just gave up its frantic race. I stopped trying to figure things out and started to allow, to be fully present. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about anything. I was truly OK with how everything around me was. I could hear and see the beauty that surrounded me in each moment. I found lessons in the paradoxes that presented themselves. I noticed that the part of me that spent so much time and energy trying to anticipate the unknown needs of others was the same part of me that was upset that another person could be inconsiderate of my unknown needs. I began to see each “difficult” senario as a moment full of lessons for me. In my silence, I could finally hear my struggle and let it go.