On my ride back to the Ashram, after seeing Richard off at the airport, I decide that I've been talking too much. To be honest, I've been talking too much my whole life, but I've really been talking too much during my stay at the Ashram. I have another two months here, and I don't want to waste the greatest spiritual opportunity of my life by being all social and chatty the whole time. It's been amazing for me to discover that even here, even in a sacred environment of spiritual retreat on the other side of the world, I have managed to create a cocktail-party-like vibe around me. It's not just Richard I've been talking to constantly--though we did do the most gabbing--I'm always yakking with somebody. I've even found myself--in an Ashram, mind you!--creating appointments to see acquaintances, having to say to somebody, "I'm sorry, I can't hang out with you at lunch today because I promised Sakshi I would eat with her . . . maybe we could make a date for next Tuesday."
This has been the story of my life. It's how I am. But I've been thinking lately that this is maybe a spiritual liability. Silence and solitude are universally recognized spiritual practices, and there are good reasons for this. Learning how to discipline your speech is a way of preventing your energies from spilling out of you through the rupture of your mouth, exhausting you and filling the world with words, words, words instead of serenity, peace and bliss. Swamiji, my Guru's master, was a stickler about silence in the Ashram, heavily enforcing it as a devotional practice. He called silence the only true religion. It's ridiculous how much I've been talking at this Ashram, the one place in the world where silence should--and can--reign.
So I'm not going to be the Ashram social bunny anymore, I've decided. No more scurrying, gossiping, joking. No more spotlight-hogging or conversation-dominating. No more verbal tap-dancing for pennies of affirmation. It's time to change. Now that Richard is gone, I'm going to make the remainder of my stay a completely quiet experience. This will be difficult, but not impossible, because silence is universally respected at the Ashram. The whole community will support it, recognizing your decision as a disciplined act of devotion. In the bookstore they even sell little badges you can wear which read, "I am in Silence."
I'm going to buy four of those little badges.
On the drive back to the Ashram, I really let myself dip into a fantasy about just how silent I am going to become now. I will be so silent that it will make me famous. I imagine myself becoming known as That Quiet Girl. I'll just keep to the Ashram schedule, take my meals in solitude, meditate for endless hours every day and scrub the temple floors without making a peep. My only interaction with others will be to smile beatifically at them from within my self-contained world of stillness and piety. People will talk about me. They'll ask, "Who is That Quiet Girl in the Back of the Temple, always scrubbing the floors, down on her knees? She never speaks. She's so elusive. She's so mystical. I can't even imagine what her voice sounds like. You never even hear her coming up behind you on the garden path when she's out walking . . . she moves as silently as the breeze. She must be in a constant state of meditative communion with God. She's the quietest girl I've ever seen."