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We lined up outside the special dining room, 21 in total.

Rumors about the silent dinner were circulating, but none of us knew exactly what to expect. I chose to be there because I collect experiences. Besides, I had come to Rancho La Puerta to turn inward and find answers—so I welcomed silence whenever possible.

Phyllis, our spiritual teacher, led the way to Los Olivos, which sat above the main dining room. Once everybody entered, she pointed to the night’s menu perched on a table at the entryway. “We all get soup, salad and dessert,” she said in her perfect British accent. “You have a choice between two dishes for the main entrée followed by tea or coffee. If you want tea, choose the paper labeled hot water.”

I smiled when she showed us how to order our entrée: with a sprig of rosemary, the symbol of remembrance and love. A whole sprig indicated the vegetarian option, no sprig was non-vegetarian, and a broken one denoted the combination dinner.

Tables were arranged in a large square, each side hosting five of us. Phyllis invited all to stand, hold hands, and seal the silence before we took our seats. We connected skin to skin, felt each other’s…