In 1979, I ventured off to Alaska for 10 days for an adventure with my dear friend and college roommate Debbie. For the last few days of our trip, we reserved a National Forest Service cabin on the Kenai Peninsula, requiring a ten-mile hike through dense forest after parking our car.
Over the past ten years, I have attended eight 10-day Vipassana meditation retreats. Vipassana means to see things as they really are. One of the requirements for participants in the retreat is to remain in Noble Silence until the ninth day, when you are allowed to engage in what the teacher likes to call “Noble Chattering.” In my experience, however, even after meditating ten hours a day for 10 days, it’s easy to lose “nobility” of thought and speech, and people often return to their habitual ways of speaking, whether noble or not.
by Sasha Silberman
In my high school years, deeply depressed, I self-medicated with food up to the point of morbid obesity. Full of self-loathing and snacks, I didn’t think I deserved any better. Once I improved mentally, my sole aim was to shed the weight and get thin - and I did so with a ferocity that I had never experienced before, and have never experienced since. Even once I was back on the healthy side of that bridge, having shed the excess weight, I could never shed my fixation.
“Words for the Journey” is an ideal medium for sharing the insight, beauty and power of language. Well-intentioned and well-crafted words can enlighten, heal, empower, illuminate, and awaken. I have revered words since I was young, probably inspired by my mother who was among the first copywriters in the early days of the Martin Agency and lead writer on its creative team that originated the Virginia is for Lovers campaign. Language and discourse have obviously been critical elements of my own profession as a trial lawyer for forty years. My left brain has commandeered most of my life, so concepts, thought and expression have reigned ascendant.
Over time, however, I have become increasingly aware of the inherent limitations of language. How does one adequately express in words the ineffable sight of an exquisite sunset, the feeling of romantic love, a moving piece of music or a transcendent experience? Correspondingly, I have realized that some of the most profound revelations in my life arose from observation of others’ actions rather than their eloquent dialogue or prose. There is just a different quality to the experience.
Recently, I was invited to a friend’s for lunch to meet her new granddaughter. When I arrived, eight-week-old Baby Maya was sound asleep, lying sprawled on Grammy Barb’s chest, heart to heart. Dressed in a pink and white striped top, black pants with flowers of all colors gaily spread across them. White anklets on her little feet.
Even as a mindfulness practitioner, I still find myself from time to time, showing up stressed out, fearful, perhaps even with great doubt as a result of the pace of life and its challenges and threats. Or in moments of exuberance show up wondering ‘how can I make this last longer? how can I do this again soon?’ Both of these ways of showing up are full of discontent, even when the experience is pleasant. We are caught up in some mix of denial, resistance or wanting things to be other than they are.
It is a belief in the Buddhist tradition that we are brought to a given moment - to whatever is the Now for you- as a result of multiple causes and conditions, many of which have been beyond our ability to control. We have been influenced by our genetic makeup, by the conditioning within our families as we grew up and by this culture in which we live—none of which we chose