Diary Of A Buddhist Retreat Experience

We could have been arriving at a grand country house, instead, it was the imposing entrance of a Buddhist Retreat Centre in the Drakensberg mountains, South Africa. The entrance was adorned with wild Iris and dancing lilies swaying in the breeze – already this was a place of serenity and peace.

I was visiting my good friend from Durban, who persuaded me to try the 5 days of Noble Silence. She only told me this as we checked in. She knew I would struggle, being of a garrulous nature.

After checking in and having a browse round the shop, buying a bronze statue of Buddha, without considering why, or where I was going to display it. Just seemed  natural and an impulsive thing  one does when they come to a Buddhist Retreat Centre.

As I write – it’s now 9.45 p.m. and have been interrupted by a large black beetle crawling across the floor of my very basic room. My compassion for all living things momentarily escapes me as I gently smother it with a plastic cup, then pop it in the bin as if it were a scrap of paper.

Rain is teeming down, I’m pleased, as the Noble Silence is a foreign regime, that defies my natural insatiable appetite to talk to anyone who will listen.

Dinner was early – 5.30 p.m. to be precise, nothing too fancy, soup and toast, cheese and fruit available, and a large pot of tea.

As the inmates take their places in the dining room – the atmosphere  akin to a hospital canteen.  There was an unfamiliar smell that I couldn’t recognise.  The inmates were all shapes and sizes, men and women, all nationalities,  were making the most of our last chance to exercise ours jaws, the contemplative silence was to begin after our meal.

A few of the group attended the introduction, Subject; The correct sitting position for meditation, then the lecture followed. There was a pleasant calmness in the room, accentuated by the roaring log fire. Even the black cat appeared interested in what Kittisara had to say. He is a former monk who teaches the philosophy of Buddhism and meditation. I tried to absorb every word he was saying, but his American drawl was like listening to folk music, instead of the preferred  subtlety of classical strings.

It is now 10.00 p.m. – I’m wide awake – sleep won’t come – wish it would rain again to distract me from this silent world.

Meditation, if one can master it – must enrich and empower the human soul, but not if in the middle of deep concentration and haunting chants, ones nose starts dripping! Yes, the common cold has arrived.

I have to be bright and alert by 5.00 a.m. – a bell will ring, as regimented as sleeping in an army barracks; waking up those horrible pongo’s. Instead it’s to wake all those like-minded beings to pursue an unknown journey.