Silent Retreat
Kosher Sutra: Shemini 5772/2012

When were you last with someone who spoke a lot but said nothing?


Oftentimes, it can be a human tendency to speak as a way of letting out anxiety. Rather than acknowledging uncomfortable emotions, we chatter so that we don’t have to feel the discomfort. Few people take the time to go on a retreat into silence, which is why very few discover the incredible rewards from this practice.

Moses’ brother Aaron makes a powerful choice of words when faced with an extraordinarily challenging personal situation concerning a Divine punishment on his sons: he says nothing. Instead of wailing, blaming God, or anxiously talking through his problem, he chooses not to make it a problem and retreats into a contemplative, accepting silence.

The Hebrew word used is ‘Dum’, which is a form of silence. It is a self-controlled, spiritually connected, completely aware, active silence. The same word is used when Elijah hears the ‘still, silent’ voice of God and the same word also appears when King David wrote ‘Be silent and know God’ (Psalm 46:10). This is Aaron’s form of silence; it is not passively accepting tribulations from heaven but acknowledging that there is a time listen rather than speak.

Ayurveda is the primary school of yogic medicine that originated in India over 3000 years ago . It is based on the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. One of my yoga teachers suggested that our society is engulfed by the air and ether elements, what Ayurveda calls ‘vatta’. In other words, we have tendency towards a flitting, airy nature which would benefit from grounding. How can we ground ourselves? Through holding the air within and using the tool of silence. Yoga postures which are good for grounding include all of the standing poses, such as Triangle, Mountain and Pyramid pose.

In today's world it is harder than ever to be silence, but the rewards can vastly outweigh the effort.