What surprised me most about the first few hours, was how distracted I was. Having registered, found my room, and left one final voice message for her, I walked around the castle grounds, doing what I thought people did on a silent retreat. I was quiet. But others were still talking. That was perplexing, but not necessarily distracting. My attention, instead, had been captured by the people themselves.
I had thought there might be 500 present. There were 1500 of us. People everywhere. I was fascinated to see who was attending. They were all strangers to me, but we had something in common. We had all come to experience Mooji and dive deeply into ourselves. The gentle flow of people captivated me. Even when I sat and closed my eyes to centre myself, they opened again at each voice or footstep.
I felt a little frustrated at this, and wondered whether the effect from the previous Saturday had evaporated. After dinner I stood outside next to one of the team whose job it was to make the running of the retreat as smooth as possible. (They did a superlative job.) I asked him why some people were still talking. He explained that at the end of the evening’s introduction session, Mooji will ring a bell for the silence to begin.
(A few times during those days, I wondered how it might be when I return to the talking world. I told myself I could pretend I’m attending a retreat with 7.6 billion people, but that Mooji hasn’t yet rung the bell for everyone to be quiet.)
The silence, when it came, helped to alleviate the distraction. We were also instructed to avoid any eye contact in order to maximise the chance to be as completely with the self as possible. I found I was still a little curious about the faces which belonged to the feet I was looking at, but the distraction of the multitudes had certainly lessened. That led to the first insight of the retreat: Everything is a distraction.
No longer preoccupied with people, I was able to see that every thought and feeling – every movement of the mind – is a distraction. Everything and anything which keeps me from being fully with the is-ness is nothing more than a distraction. Of no importance, other than to keep me from that state of peace and emptiness where nothing exists, yet where there is everything you need.
It became clear that I don’t even know I’m distracted, because that’s my usual state. I only know when my attention is not drawn. In that state there is noticeable peace, space, and ease. Eventually, of course, it will be the other way around. I will see clearly each and every time I’m distracted. It will be so obvious because it will no longer be the norm, and it will have taken me out of the emptiness I prefer.