A Week of Silence

by Dirk Gysels

A Week of Silence in Rishikesh

In the more than 3 decades of various kinds of sadhana that I have behind me, I only attempted for the first time a few days of silence in a quiet ashram in the Swiss Alps. This was in 2002. The results were mixed, yes I didn’t speak but my mind couldn’t stop chattering....The reason: my immaturity plus the fact that there were no efficient methodologies to tackle the mental noise.

But then in the spring of 2003, I participated in my first ever Silence Retreat with Swami Veda, Ashutosh and Pandit Ananta -now Swami Ritavan - in Holland and guess what? The magic happened! I still remember vividly returning from the retreat and waiting for take-away pizzas in a crowded restaurant. I felt enveloped by a blanket of silence that could not be disturbed by the outer turmoil……

In the summer of 2014 Swami Veda, there and then at the Ashram, urged me to do a week of silence, but due to circumstances I could not fully go into it. But I made a sankalpa: I will come back to Rishikesh to take Swamiji’s advice at heart.

My week started under the best of circumstances. Swami Ritavan initiated me in a special practice to anchor my meditational depths. Lena assured me that I would be cared for on all levels. I could even have my meals brought to my room on ‘noisy’ days like the upcoming Holi!

I tried to live up to a schedule that Swami Ritavan allowed me to create myself.

It meant following the basic ashram routines like the Joints & Glands and Hatha sessions in the morning and in the afternoon, the 2 meditation sessions, and the public teaching sessions in the evening.
For the rest of the day, I did extra sessions of meditation and japa in the Ma Tara Temple as well as in the nearby Virbhadra temple. To remain inspired I read the splendid book of Mohan Swami on Swami Rama. I also tried to include regular 61 points and shitili karana relaxations even up to Yoga Nidra.

One day I was reading how Mohanji was tested by Swami Rama. He was invited to Swamiji’s cottage in Honesdale but had to brave the ferocious dogs of his master. Swami told him this was a test because the first teaching of the Himalayan sages is to be fearless. After reading this, I went up to the Virbhadra temple taking the road near the small Kali river. Immediately a menacing looking dog, barking heavily, came running up to me. Did I feel fear? Well, yes…I did…..

One evening Rabindra Sahu gave a definition of meditation: to stop talking to one’s self. This became a measuring stick to my silence: keeping silence of the mouth was not that difficult but I discovered that I kept on entertaining myself with stories about myself….Luckily consistent mantra japa allowed me to silence this mental blabbering as well to some extent.

One of the highlights of the silence was the evening of kirtan. Of course, I did not chant along but I could sense all the devotion, the various moods of bhava which were evoked by the bhajans. Same thing during the evening celebration at the night of Holi. The festive atmosphere really entered me, such a bath of joy I felt…..

I will not go into any meditative experiences, some were profound but it is better to cherish them in my heart…..

Have I become a person with a silent mind? No, not really, I still lose myself in the different vrittis. But yes, there is a little bit more mindfulness and the edges of my emotions have become a little less sharp and hurtful, at least that is what I hope……So still a long way to go!

Editor’s Note:

Guided Silence Retreats are offered at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) in Rishikesh, India. Participation is with approval of the silence guide and may be contingent upon prior systematic silence practice and/or experience in the basic practices of the Himalayan Tradition.
In 2018, there will be some special silence retreats:



The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation

Purification of Thoughts     Dhyana     Mindfulness     Japa     Dharana     Shavasana     Breath Awareness     Qualified Preceptor     Guru Disciple Relationship     Unbroken Lineage     Silence     Full Moon Meditation

Copyright © 2009-2017 by AHYMSIN ®