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  • I was on a three day silence and meditation programme in the Highlands of Scotland.
    There were many other people in the centre on other courses, and we were told that the best way to ensure no one tried to draw us into a conversation was not to make eye contact and wear a sign that stated ‘I am silent’.

    It was impossible for me not to acknowledge other people, so I would nod and smile at them. I am an empathetic person; which means that I am acutely aware of the emotions of others and am strongly affected by them. In this centre of spirituality I came across more emotional struggle than I have ever experienced before. People were grieving that as much as they strived for perfection and to achieve 'Nirvana', guilt and perceived weaknesses dragged them down.

    I broke my silence three times. When we walked through the woods in a line, a man from the local village passed by us walking his dog; and I said, ”Good morning.” (His dog ran up and down our formation barking sensing something was unusual about us.

    Later in the day one of the facilitators in the college teased me by asking, “Are you in silence?”
    “Yes”, I answered; fooled again.

    I had no fear of silence. In fact for the first eighteen years of my life I had been quite a silent person.

    So nothing prepared me for the inner conflict I was about to experience.

    On the third day an internal battle began in my head. My debate was about temptation. It raged around my head whilst I was supposed to be experiencing deep peace. Usually I am quite accepting of myself, but this day I was angry and judgmental of my futile struggle with my hormones.

    It occurred to me that whilst striving to be perfect our human frailty becomes more evident.

    When the three day silence had finished someone told me that internal debates are a common experience on the third day of silence, but the mind becomes quieter on the fourth day. Next time I will try a five day silence, on my own in nature, rather than in a college teeming with lost souls and dynamic feelings wheeling around the environment.
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