Wednesday, June 23, 2004

In the shadow of the mountain IV: The Mountain Stares Back

Continued from In the Shadow of the Mountain I: A silent beginning,
In the Shadow of the Mountain II: The Hunter's Dance and
In the shadow of the mountain: Mastering Anicca

It’s the silence. Always, the silence.

The first thing people want to know is, how DID you handle the 10-day silence?

Were you able to keep quiet for that long? Did you miss talking? Did you feel like banging your head against the wall? Did you whisper to the trees when no one was looking?

What’s the most intimidating aspect about silence, I’ve asked these last few days? The bewildering unfamiliarity? The exacerbation of loneliness? The fear of losing one’s identity? Or confronting the demons within?

Its answers to these that I sought. My enduring quest has been to uncover what lies beneath. I admit too that I’m not the garrulous sorts. Sentences flow only when a comfort zone has been reached. So being among 300 women without having to strike up a conversation was a bit of a reprieve.

Still, I wasn’t in want of company.

Stepping out of the Meditation Hall one morning, I was jolted out of my stupor by a mesmerizing sight. A majestic peak towered from the periphery of the Institute. And clinging to the crest was a dense swathe of mist. The mist writhed languorously and dreamily, sometimes revealing a wee bit of the crag beneath, sometimes closing in. I don’t recall how long I stood there, but I only remember the mountain forming in my throat. There were no words to filter the moment. None were required.

From then on it became a daily ritual. During breaks, before sessions, during the afternoon walk. I’d stop by my perch in the shadow of the mountain and gaze. Strands of thoughts, tangled hopelessly over the years, would effortlessly unravel. And the clarity was so astounding that a thought could be plucked from the bottom, read, and if it was no good, pitched into the distance.

One morning, while we were deep in contemplation of Anicca, a storm raged outside. Thunder roared, wind gusted and rain fell pell-mell. A momentary yearning to see the mountain rose and subsided. There would be time later.

On the last day, when I stopped to look, the craggy, red brown face was enveloped with green.

Part V - It takes all kinds...

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