Seeking Through Silence
by Andrew J. Borus
After nearly 4 years working in Wealth Management, I was left feeling burnt out, unfulfilled, and still years away from any form of respite from the corporate rat race. In the wake of the catastrophic events of 2020 my consciousness and sensitivity to social justice issues and the needs of the oppressed increased tremendously. While my heart grew, I also felt increasing anxiety about spending 40+ hours a week in an insulated skyscraper office, and deepening dread related to using my talents for a job that helped to enrich those who are already relatively wealthy. The droning buzz of racist-capitalism and cries of oppressed people seemed to be growing louder and louder, yet I felt helpless to make it stop. To find answers, I sought out silence.
In February of 2022, amongst the cold and snow, I took a three-day retreat to the Hermitage at Agape to reflect on my role in the world. I spent three days mostly in silence, pondering how to be less of a consumer and more of a giver. At times the silence seemed louder than the hustle and bustle of my daily life. Without a phone or computer to keep me occupied I felt finally able to rest and allow my mind to begin thinking about larger issues than the day-to-day minutiae of my life.
Upon arriving at Agape Brayton led me along the short path up the hill behind Francis House to the Hermitage. Trudging through the snow up the steep hill, Brayton’s agility and stamina amazed me. I had been to Agape several times but had never seen the hermitage before. Although I had spent many weekends as a teenager in the Scouts camping, the Hermitage and woods surrounding felt different – there was something sacred about the place.
After a short discussion about my retreat and itinerary, Brayton left, leaving me by myself in the silence. Completely alone in the woods, and without my phone I felt the weight of my anxiety lifted for the first time in a long time. Free from worry and with nothing to do for the next few days, I felt able to relax and begin my discernment process of what changes I needed to make in my life.
I spent most of my time at the hermitage alternating between meditating in the prayer loft, reading the Bhagavad Gita, and making ginger turmeric tea. I tended to the wood stove and ate small meals cooked on the camp stove. Best of all, I got to catch up on sleep – Brayton said sleeping is how we detoxify from the hustle and bustle of working life.
Most memorable of all was my walk to the Quabbin reservoir. I followed an unmarked path back behind the Hermitage. I got a little lost as the snow made the path hard to follow, but eventually found my way. The sleeping forest was beautiful; I could hear trees creaking and the snow crunching under my feet. Sunlight poured over me, and I felt so grateful to be alive. I had not seen the Quabbin since I was a child and was struck by its immense beauty. I found my way out to a jetty of rocks and let the water splash up all around me. On my way back to the cabin I did a Maitra prayer and sent thanks and well wishes to every person I could think of. Amidst my prayer a mighty burst of snow came pouring down out of nowhere. A moment later It was gone.
Despite the beauty and grace of my three days spent in relative isolation at the Hermitage, I left without any firm answers on what changes I should make in my life. Despite that, I had three main takeaways: 1. To spend more time contemplating and enjoying the silence 2. To do my best to always act with love, and 3. To drink more Ginger Turmeric Tea.
Borus’s discernment outcome: he is now Agape’s office assistant.