Although it is a silent and mindful experience, there is always too much things to tell about.
I was four days living an intense state of awareness, mental quietness, that made me look inside of myself and deepen my interior experience as never before.
It was a rainy morning, and another public holiday in Portugal, the sky was being presented by the incessant passage of rapid clouds, I grabbed a fluffy blanket, my meditation pillow, some warm cloths and left the house. As I closed the door, I instantly felt a mix of freedom and fear.
I entered my car, convicted for my decision of integrating the Karuna Centre mediation and silence retreat. I was aiming to be with myself, far off from people, distant from daily expectations and especially in a context where I could see my ego losing its force. I saw myself in the midst of a thick set of mountains, distributed through the rough valleys of wild Monchique.
“What a perfect place to be”, I thought.
The silence has never been a problem to me. I usually spend too much time with myself, the solitude being a necessary state. I knew, though, the actual silence was not the absence of sound, but the mental quietness only reached with the practice of meditation or nature contemplation.
We were around 40 people – all ages, different backgrounds, the same predisposition to look inside and seek within.
The fact of being all together in the same physical space, sharing the same experience, suffering from the same kind of difficulties and being blessed by the teachings and wisdom of the only one Balkrishna, kept us bonded and connected. It’s incredible how energy, the smell and movements are what essentially make us be in the presence of each other. Nothing else matters.
The first meditation session took place a few moments after my arrival to the centre. We were introduced to the retreat and teased with the big brown eyes, old soul and humble manners of our mentor and “father” of Karuna Centre – Balkrishna. He started to launch the question “What are you retiring from? You must be retiring from something, or you wouldn’t drive so many hours to come here. What flavours you don’t taste at home, what smells you don’t scent, what experiences you don’t experiment that make you come here?”.
That was neither a lecture, nor a conference or a proper interaction. Balkrishna was boosting our interrogative beings and the answers were being sought, silently, inside. He was putting the seed, we were watering it in the best possible way.
After more than an hour of an ancient wisdom and Buddhist inspiration, all innocently in the position of listeners and contemplators, we started to close our eyes, patiently feeling the path of our breath coming in and going out, to reach the so-called universal state of consciousness.
“You know what is the real meaning of Buddha? Buddha is not a God, Buddha is not an entity or a religion; Buddha is the Universal Consciousness of All Living Beings. Buddha is a state of mind”, he continued with a low tone of voice, slow pronunciation of words, mixed with involuntary whistles.
Listening to this kind of messages and I would get into a deepest state, once in a while being disturbed by noises around me or that voice called Ego. I had the realisation that I have two entities within myself, “one being the contemplator, another one being the drama creator”. I saw myself like in an action movie, where the bad guy tries to defeat the good one, fighting so badly we ourselves end up by being tired and perturbed by his presence. This was the drama creator in my head, trying to defeat my purest Soul. And it keeps being this way if we don’t make a positive change in our lives.
All absorbed by this, and we were told to be in the kitchen within the next 30 minutes, for our first meal in silence – dinner, at 5 pm.
The noise of cutlery picking food from the plates was almost shouting and the slow movements of us being calm, gentle and patient with the act of eating a generous meal were more a choice than a spontaneous act.
After my meal, I remember I closed my eyes for a few seconds and thought “this is probably the first time I close my eyes with the certainty I will not be addressed by anyone. What a state of freedom”. I then smiled to myself, content for being in the first night of an intense experience – the first of many.
Meditation in the darkness of night was counterbalanced by the calming presence of two candles – one in Buddha’s sanctuary and another one in the section dedicated to Balkrishna’s Masters. I enjoyed myself reaching the mental quietness with the possibility of not being seen by others. Balkrishna started the session with a short though meaningful story.
“One time, a man told Buddha: I want to be happy. Buddha answered: Remove the “I” (ego), remove the “want” (desire) and then be happy”.
It touched my soul. I opened my eyes, slowly, eyelashes hardly getting apart, and inspired the powerful energy of so many physical bodies trying to go beyond the physicality of themselves – converging together to the same Wholeness.
It was one of the best mindful experiences ever. I keep thinking we could all become better people living better lives, if we’d start trying to shift the focus to ourselves. Just saying. But we all know how hard it can be.