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2013-02-22 15:11



Then everything started coming up. In that state of silence, there was room now for everything hateful, everything fearful, to run across my empty mind. I felt like a junkie in detox, convulsing with the poison of what emerged. I cried a lot. I prayed a lot. It was difficult and it was terrifying, but this much I knew—I never didn't want to be there, and I never wished that anyone were there with me. I knew that I needed to do this and that I needed to do it alone.

The only other tourists on the island were a handful of couples having romantic vacations. (Gili Meno is far too pretty and far too remote a place for anyone but a crazy person to come visit solo.) I watched these couples and felt some envy for their romances, but knew, "This is not your time for companionship, Liz. You have a different task here." I kept away from everyone. People on the island left me alone. I think I threw off a spooky vibe. I had not been well all year. You can't lose that much sleep and that much weight and cry so hard for so long without starting to look like a psychotic. So nobody talked to me.

Actually, that's not true. One person talked to me, every day. It was this little kid, one of a gang of kids who run up and down the beaches trying to sell fresh fruit to the tourists. This boy was maybe nine years old, and seemed to be the ringleader. He was tough, scrappy and I would have called him street-smart if his island actually had any streets. He was beach-smart, I suppose. Somehow he'd learned great English, probably from harassing sunbathing Westerners. And he was on to me, this kid. Nobody else asked me who I was, nobody else bothered me, but this relentless child would come and sit next to me on the beach at some point every day and demand, "Why don't you ever talk? Why are you strange like this? Don't pretend you can't hear me—I know you can hear me. Why are you always alone? Why don't you ever go swimming? Where is your boyfriend? Why don't you have a husband? What's wrong with you?"

I was like, Back off, kid! What are you—a transcript of my most evil thoughts?

Every day I would try to smile at him kindly and send him away with a polite gesture, but he wouldn't quit until he got a rise out me. And inevitably, he always got a rise out of me. I remember bursting out at him once, "I'm not talking because I'm on a friggin' spiritual journey, you nasty little punk—now go AWAY!"

He ran away laughing. Every day, after he'd gotten me to respond, he would always run away laughing. I'd usually end up laughing, too, once he was out of sight. I dreaded this pesky kid and looked forward to him in equal measure. He was my only comedic break during a really tough ride. Saint Anthony once wrote about having gone into the desert on silent re-treat and being assaulted by all manner of visions—devils and angels, both. He said, in his solitude, he sometimes encountered devils who looked like angels, and other times he found angels who looked like devils. When asked how he could tell the difference, the saint said that you can only tell which is which by the way you feel after the creature has left your company. If you are appalled, he said, then it was a devil who had visited you. If you feel lightened, it was an angel.

I think I know what that little punk was, who always got a laugh out of me.

On my ninth day of silence, I went into meditation one evening on the beach as the sun was going down and I didn't stand up again until after midnight. I remember thinking, "This is it, Liz." I said to my mind, "This is your chance. Show me everything that is causing you sor-row. Let me see all of it. Don't hold anything back." One by one, the thoughts and memories of sadness raised their hands, stood up to identify themselves. I looked at each thought, at each unit of sorrow, and I acknowledged its existence and felt (without trying to protect myself from it) its horrible pain. And then I would tell that sorrow, "It's OK. I love you. I accept you. Come into my heart now. It's over." I would actually feel the sorrow (as if it were a living thing) enter my heart (as if it were an actual room). Then I would say, "Next?" and the next bit of grief would surface. I would regard it, experience it, bless it, and invite it into my heart, too. I did this with every sorrowful thought I'd ever had—reaching back into years of memory—until nothing was left.









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