I recently went on a five-day silent retreat where I was surrounded by nature. I shut off my phone and disconnected from the world, and, it was life-changing. In that time, I realized how little time I spend listening to my body in my day-to-day life, and I discovered how integral nature is to connecting with the stars above me. Above all, I realized that my fear of death needed to be annihilated.
As a “free spirit” type, I often get lost in the belief that because I know my purpose on this planet and because I know where the real me exists, I don’t have to get grounded on the soil or actually be connected with nature because I have a deep connection with an invisible nature within me. I don’t think that this feeling is less than, but it surely isn’t the whole picture.
This trip changed me. Right before we had to shut off our phones, it occurred to me that my fiancé, who was traveling at the time, might die while I had my phone off. I know, I know—it’s a dark thought. But to give you some background, my grandparents went through two world wars as Jews, and when I was a kid I heard about death and murder on a daily basis.
The trauma of hearing this at such an early age has left me in a constant state of fear. Even though I have been completely healthy most days of my life other than dealing with drug addiction and a near-death experience at 24, I am a super-healthy, safe person. However, I have lived in perpetual fear that I (or someone I love) could die at any moment.
Nature has a way of being so silent that you can hear your true self.
At this moment—and because I was in silence and nature—I realized I had an opportunity to do this differently. I meditated and saw that in all likelihood, my fiancé would not die (he didn’t) and that having my phone on would not save him. He was 10,000 miles away from me!
So I turned off my phone, and over the next five days, I felt safer than I ever had before. I realized that if I was going to die, I would be able to deal with it then. Now is the time to live. I know that’s a simple concept, but it had never fully occurred to me on a physical level. I believe that being in nature is what helped me finally hear the truth.
Returning with new beliefs about life and death.
Since returning, many bad habits and fears have completely washed away as a result of my taking this time out. I didn’t try to fix anything I just took the time out to stand back and see the truth. For instance, I have been biting my nails for 35 years—maybe longer—and I just stopped! I think this must have had something to do with letting go of this fear that I could die at any moment. I worried that if I let go of this insane fear of death, I would not cherish life in the same way. To my surprise, I cherish life even more now! Not only is the fear gone, but my nails look better than ever.
I do think shutting off my phone was tremendously helpful, because if you are in nature but you’re still Instagramming, it’s not quite the same thing, is it? There’s something about surrendering to nature and silence completely that really helped me.
To me, this experience showed that these types of breaks are tremendously important. I love it all! I love the green grass, and I love the copper and steel of the city. It’s all a part of me, so I must be a servant to both.
Inspired by Biet’s story? Take a look at her Meditation for the Modern World class on mbg.