Is it possible to create powerful communication with silence?
I observed the noble silence rule for an entire 10-day Vipassana meditation course, and I learned that YES, it is possible for silence to speak louder than words.
Vipassana meditation and noble silence
Vipassana is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation, rediscovered by Gautama Buddha 2500 years ago. The technique aims to eradicate impurities of the mind and help you reach a state of happiness and liberation: Enlightenment.
Over 10 days, you gradually learn the meditation method and to support the learning practice, students commit to a code of disciplines that includes a rule of noble silence. Hence people often refer to Vipassana as a silence retreat.
Silence means silence of body, speech, and mind, therefore gestures and written notes are also a no-no. You can speak to your Teacher during certain times of the day or when she addresses you, and with your course Manager, in case of problems only.
Surprisingly, the silence wasn’t the toughest part of the course for me.
Why I did the Vipassana Course
Life coaching and solo traveling have taught me the power of silence. Add to this the many benefits of meditation, and I knew Vipassana could do no harm. Quite the opposite, its goals aligned perfectly with my Freedom Coaching objective of freeing ourselves from mind gremlins and limiting blocks.
If a place, book, experience, or anything shows up in some way 2, 3 or more times, and it somewhat resonates with me, I take it as a sign to investigate it further and go for it.
Recently, many friends experienced and mentioned the Vipassana to me. Then while traveling in India, I found a book by Paulo Cohelo in a café overlooking the Ganga, in Rishikesh, and read about how Vipassana was key to Siddhartha’s attainment of Enlightenment.
I wasn’t ready for the Vipassana during the one month I spent in India so I set an intention to find a centre once back in Europe. My van life adventure offered a great opportunity to fit the course. I picked a period and location that worked with my sketchy itinerary, and I applied for a place as soon as the list opened, 4 months in advance.
My Vipassana Experience in Italy
There are many Vipassana centres around the world and the only one in Italy is in Lutirano (FI). The natural and peaceful location (and the mild, sunny weather) helped, because the course is NOT easy. But my experience turned out more pleasant than I anticipated. The special moments overrun the struggles.
I woke up at 4am for 11 days. For a late sleeper like me, I was surprised at how I’d bounce out of bed at the first gong, shouting “Good morning, Everyone!” – in my head.
The only reading material allowed was the welcoming leaflet: “Introduction to the Technique and Code of Discipline”. Here’s when I took on board the daily programme of 11hrs meditation. Individual, group, in the hall, in your room.
The long meditations were challenging (physically and mentally), but ultimately rewarding.
You start by focussing on your breath, in and out of your nose, then very small areas of your body (i.e. between your nostrils and your upper-lip) for 2/3 days. From day 3, you widen your focus and practice meditating without moving for a full hour, 3 times a day. The pain from sitting in one position for that long was excruciating at times. With practice, it becomes more comfortable and the meditation deeper. And the healing starts showing its magic.
Doubts only emerge on the first evening. Before entering the hall for our last group meditation of day one. “What am I doing?” I needed validation, it was the right thing. I looked up to the starry sky and hoped for a beam of light. But nothing. The shooting star manifested the next morning, at 4.25am as I stood at the same spot, for the first meditation of day two!
I didn’t struggle to disconnect from my phone and communications. I was longing for a time-out from social media and mindless phone usage. I did, however, miss taking notes and music.
I confess to cheating twice on the course… I noted a few words buzzing in my head on a corner of the leaflet with a makeup pencil, and I found myself singing while walking on the dedicated paths on the green hill, which offered amazing views. Perhaps singing to yourself was allowed.
The meals prepared by volunteers were tasty and healthy. Breakfast was served at 6.30am, lunch at 11 am and a light snack of fruits and tea at 5pm. I imagined skipping dinner would be tough but I never felt hungry. The food was perfect.
Silence As A Powerful Communication Tool
When you go silent, your mind and body are anything but silent. Silence helped me raise my awareness of my surroundings. Without distraction from words or noise, other senses are heightened and you become more mindful.
It's no surprise silence is the powerful ally of great listeners. And I don't mean listening only with our ears.
If you can't make it for a 10-day retreat (although strongly recommended to everyone), try introducing smaller spurs of silence in your day to day life. See what happens. Pause more during conversations, don't feel you have to fill the voids in meetings, turn your music off on your walks or runs.
During the retreat, silence helped observe the mind and body sensations at a deeper level, and through this observation, healing and clarity take place effortlessly.
“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” ~Hermann Hesse
I really appreciated the “noble silence and when it switched to “noble chats” on day 10, I wasn’t ready to speak for another 30 minutes. I feared to let go of the inner freedom and peace I reached.
The first fellow-student who spoke to me asked if she could give me a hug. She wanted to thank me for the light and joy I added to her experience. Then more people said the same. I was known as the big smiler.
In spite of the silence and staring mostly at the floor or the skies, to avoid eye contact, my being carried on communicating through body movements, energy, and a smile stuck on my face.
On my 10-day Vipassana, the sound of silence spoke louder than words. It was enriching, peaceful and freeing.
For anyone interested in this tool I recommend using my experiences as a guide to see if Vipassana could be used to improve yourself and your business.
Founder of Gr8fool Limited.
Francesca is a Freedom Coach with a mission to help everyone find freedom and happiness. After 22 years of office life and the last 16 in the legal & corporate secretarial sector, Francesca took a big leap of faith and swapped her successful career for exploring new horizons. She went volunteering in Nepal, solo travelling in Asia, riding her Harley from London to Italy (and back!), walking 930km along the Camino de Santiago then launched her own life coaching business. She recently also completed a solo vanlife adventure, touring Europe in a campervan for one year. All the while, she continues to serve as a Freedom Coach, to share her passion for freedom, gratitude, foolishness and positivity, through writing and speaking, and to manage her rented properties in London. You can follow her stories and updates on www.gr8fool.com and