My pee dripped onto the bathroom floor. I had clearly missed the urinal. About 10 feet away, in front of the sinks, a man continued shaving, looking keenly at the mirror. Perhaps he pretended not to notice me, even though the “drip, drip” of pee was the only detectable sound in the room. The screaming impulse in my head was to say something, but I couldn’t. I quietly gathered paper towel and cleaning solution, accepting that there was nothing else to be done.
I was several days into a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Referred to sometimes as “Goenka retreats” after their creator, Satya Narayan Goenka, these are Buddhist-inspired sessions held throughout the year at dozens of retreat centres around the world. Participants meditate 10 hours a day, never speaking except during short question and answer periods with an assistant meditation teacher.
I had first heard about these retreats through a friend who suggested that we do one together. The main information that interested me was that they were free. After a look at the daily schedule, I quickly lost all interest. It basically goes like this: wake up at 4am. Meditate for two hours. Eat. Meditate till lunch time. Eat. Meditate till 5pm. Eat some fruit, drink some tea (no dinner). Meditate, listen to a talk about meditation, meditate, and then sleep. The reviews that appeared when I googled the retreat were written by people who had run away part way through.