Last November, I did something crazy. I went to a meditation center and took a vow of silence for 10 days, which also required no phones, no computers, no journals, and no dinner...the monastic lifestyle, if you will.
Before going to the retreat, I was asked to deploy to Houston when I returned, so I could help with the recovery efforts there. I was glad to be doing this work and was looking forward to it, but everything changed when I went silent.
For the first few days I seriously wanted to quit at every waking moment. The place was smelly, my roommates were inconsiderate, and I began to really wonder why on earth I decided to do this thing. Every day I had to tell myself I would quit in the morning, and then morning would come and I would push it back to the evening, and the cycle continued for at least 6 days in this constant tug-of-war.
And then on day 6 I began to get very, very angry. The fury was bubbling up inside of me and I just could not understand why, but I sat with it and listened to it. It turned out I was angry at myself for agreeing to go to the "plum deployment" in Houston. "You need to go to Puerto Rico" the angry voice said. "You need to go where you are most needed."
So I came home when it was all over, petitioned to go to Puerto Rico, and went there for more than a month. It was a scary experience, but life-altering. And while I was there, I taught the local hires and our disaster managers the art and science of loving-kindness meditation - a technique I learned at my 10-day Vipassana retreat. It was a very odd connection - teaching meditation to emergency managers - but I'm told it really did benefit people and as they struggled with compassion fatigue.
I am fortunate that I was able to stick it out at the retreat, and I am grateful that I learned something unique there that I could then bring to Puerto Rico in times of emergent need. Much love and respect to those who have done Vipassana and to those who have been a part of the Puerto Rico relief efforts. They really need all the help they can get out there, and it is up to each of us to do our little part =)