In a recent interview, the founder of Yogapedia, Sharleen Oborowsky, caught up with yoga and meditation music maker and mixer, DJ Taz Rashid, on his experience undertaking a 10-day silence retreat where he learned about the importance of connecting the mind and body and handling emotions. In her interview, she started with a simple question, "Why 10 days in silence?" to which DJ Taz put into perspective the importance of viewing and valuing change as a constant, something that requires us to change our ambitions over time as we achieve goals set in another, younger life.
(For more with DJ Taz, read Yogapedia Sits Down With DJ Taz During Podcast.)
Why 10 days in silence?
The last time that I went on a spiritual retreat or getaway was back in 2011 when I went to India for a month. Honestly, since then, I’ve been on this uprising journey of just doing, doing, doing, which has been great. I have daily spiritual practices like meditations and yoga, but I have not really had a chance to get away from it all in over five years. I was a completely different person in 2011. What I’m doing with my life, my ambition, my drive, my mission - all that has shifted. I set ambitions in 2011 that I have since accomplished; it's now time to set new ones. This whole year, even last year, I just had a certain yearning to put a pause on everything that I’m working on and just unplug from the doing energy of what I am normally working on, relationships and life.
I felt Vipassana was a good way to do this; I heard about it from a lot of people, and the response from everyone described it as epic. It’s the quietest thing, but it's one of the most revealing things about yourself, so I researched it, applied and got accepted into a program. I had been looking forward to this all year. This is really a mental vacation and a physical vacation from everything as I know it.
Vipassana is unlike anything, and true silence can only really be achieved through it. With the technology of the day, we are constantly plugged-in. The only other human experience close to it is when we're in the womb; there are 9 months of silence. (Read on in What Will Silence Teach Me?)
Describe your experience at this retreat.
On the first day, we took what I believe is called a "noble silence," essentially, you don't speak to anyone. You’re really not even supposed to make too much eye contact or gestures. If ever there was something that we needed, we did have a good teacher or a guide that could assist us. You can speak to them, but very minimally. Daily, we had access to an interview with a teacher that was guiding the process where we could speak, which was optional and consisted of a 5-10 minute conversation where we could ask questions or seek guidance, even talk about emotions.
We held noble silence from the night we reached the center all the way through to the day we left; however, we were given a day to reacclimatize ourselves with speaking and connecting with one another. The silence removed the practices of speech, reading, writing, music and there weren't many stimuli.
You went from your room to meditation hall to breakfast. You took a rest. You meditated again. It was like one meditation to another. You really didn’t have the chance to get creative, make a mind map or write stuff down. I actually didn’t do any writing. I didn’t do any reading. I really followed their guidelines just to give it a full affair of experience.
Was there any point where you felt a little agitated? What kind of emotions were present?
All kinds of emotions were coming up. Physical pain even came about because you're sitting a lot through all the meditations. But I got used to that; it’s amazing how the body can do that, transform and adapt. And that's actually the whole point of the Vipassana, to really watch that everything is changing.
I experienced everything from excitement to anger, and with the emotion came sensations in the body, which we were instructed to start observing to feel when they came and went. On occasions, I felt an itch, but I just sat there and observed. Other times, it was the sensation to remove a hair from my face, but again, I sat and observed, without acting on the impulses. Honestly, in 2 to 3 minutes, it's gone. By Day 4, we were literally instructed to stay as still as possible. We were given leeway to move slightly, like if we felt a gross pain or had to shift our feet. But I didn’t even move my hand gesture or uncross my legs. Now my meditation practice is completely shifted.
Would you recommend 10 days? Would you do it again?
I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to do this for the first time. Our mind works in a certain way where it wants to grasp something, put it in a bag and move on to the next thing. Just going for 4 or 5 days, doesn't seem like enough. The 10 days allows us to get over that hump. It’s like mind surgery in a way. I’m not going to get up in the middle of surgery on Day 5 and just walk out because half the surgery has kind of been done. The doctor hasn’t fully covered it up.
I had a roommate that did this. Around Day 4 or Day 5, he got angry about something - I have to mention, I didn’t know him. I just met him that week and I didn’t get to speak to him deeply because I was observing my silence - but this guy was just like "I’m out of here." He was angry. Something came up, and he actually left in the middle of the thing, just before we started scanning our body and really getting into it, he like bolted. I was thinking man, it wasn’t the right time for him; I trust that, but he literally left in the middle of surgery with an open wound kind of thing. He didn’t get full closure, and I hope he's okay, but when we start opening up our mind and all these different things are coming up, it's good to have closure and understanding.
I feel it's super important to go through the 10 days. And I would definitely do it again, because every time you do it deeper, you get more things that are sitting there that we don't even know about, and they all have the opportunity to come up. The more you do it, the deeper the mind-body connection gets. (Learn more in (Mind-Body, Health and Happiness.)
What is your practice like now that you're home? Are you meditating and how often?
Their prescription is to meditate for an hour in the morning and then meditate for an hour in the evening. It sounds like a lot, but it’s substantial as a home practice. I see the benefit of it because we can meditate for any amount of time we want. We can meditate in many different ways. This is a specific type of meditation, Vipassana Meditation. They started doing this thing called Anapana meditation, which is very simple, like a breath awareness. You just watch normal breath in and out. You are not changing the intensity. You’re watching the flow of the breath in and out of the nostril, and that is it. That is the only place you keep your focus on. That is how we started our training, and then, we started moving over our body. We would start scanning our body for emotion, for a different sensation. (Read more in 15 Minutes with DJ Taz: His Personal Yoga Practice.)
The Vipassana that we do now that I’m practicing regularly is basically body scanning and feeling sensations throughout the whole body, and then, watching those sensations with the wisdom and knowledge of how it comes and goes. We’re constantly training. These meditations are really like a way to live our lives on an expanded scale in regards to everything that we do. It’s constantly being aware of our body. That is not easy to do because we're still in our minds. We can’t really feel what is going on in our body at times because we're so in our heads. (Read on in Discovering Yourself Through a Body Scan Meditation.)
It takes some time because it's a muscle that you're building. You’re building this awareness muscle. I’ve been ranging between half an hour to an hour each day. I’m trying to find the balance now.
DJ Taz also offered our readers a FREE gift of music -- a full album, perfect for yoga practice.