I just did a silent retreat

Path for walking meditation

Walking meditation outside in a quiet neighbourhood.

What do you think the first reaction is when I tell people I went on a silent retreat?  99% of the time, the reaction is:  “I couldn’t do that!”.

I admit I had the same reaction to the idea a number of years ago. In fact, I would wonder “why would anyone want to do that anyway?”.

Now having done a couple of retreats, I see the huge value. It is a chance to find stillness, even amongst other people, even in the middle of the city.  It’s a getaway to experience peace and inner thoughts and stillness.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like, here is how it goes:

Rules:

  • You cannot speak or gesture to anyone else
  • You should avoid eye contact
  • When it is time to eat, you eat on your own, continuing the silence. Ideally you eat not facing anyone so you don’t have to worry about anyone looking at you. You practice mindful eating.
  • Even when the class switches from one activity to another, it’s done mindfully.
  • If you must communicate with the facilitator, you can write a note on a piece of paper.
  • And you definitely cannot check your cell phone!

The kinds of things done during the retreat:

  • meditation while sitting, lying down and walking.
  • mat yoga
  • standing movement/poses
  • eating mindfully
dogwoods - pink

Pink dogwood flowers – so vibrant and beautiful

When I was outside walking, the thing that struck me the most was the vibrancy of colours in the flowers. These are flowers I’ve seen many times but it was like I’ve never seen the explosion of colours like this before.

When I think of why people react by saying ‘they couldn’t do this’, I think it’s more that they are saying they don’t want to do it, or are not interested.  Or, perhaps if they are curious, then the  question becomes ‘what is it that you are averse to about doing a silent retreat?’. It’s interesting to be curious about why you might not want to be silent.

rhododendrens - pink

Colours appeared extremely vibrant to me while on this retreat.

If you are on a journey that includes meditation, or mindfulness, doing a silent retreat is something you may wish to explore at some point. It really centers you and gets to the heart of why people meditate.

Thank you for reading my blog, and I wish you a lovely day.

~Wendy

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12 thoughts on “I just did a silent retreat

  1. Hi there, I’m looking for a course to do in Vancouver, can you share which organization you did your 8 week course through?

    Many thanks

    • Hello Jenny,

      Thank you for asking. I attended an 8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course, of which the last class was a full-day silent retreat. This course teaches mindfulness techniques and I found it to be good even though I am an experienced meditator and teacher, I still learned new things and enjoyed the practice. Here is the website that lists Vancouver based MBSR teachers: http://www.mbsrbc.ca/pages/teachers.htm. I signed up with Marian Smith, and the main instructor was named Brett.

      If you are looking for a longer silent retreat, you may know of the Vipassana retreat in Merritt, BC.

      Thanks so much for writing and I wish you well, happy holidays!
      ~Wendy

  2. I have a problem with going on a silent retreat, around other people. I always feel the need to at least smile as I pass someone. I greet those I don’t know. I have to go to ‘no-man’s land’, in order to gain the mind-set I need. However, I definitely recommend it to everyone! Life has a way of becoming overwhelming at times. Deep breathing in the midst of it, while closing your eyes, can bring enough strength to make it through the moment.

    Great post!

    • The beauty of the rules of the silent retreat is that you are freed of the conditioning to interact with one another. It is expected that you do not interact at all, so it feels odd, but it’s rather liberating.
      Thanks for your comment!

  3. I have had such an opportunity in the past and loved it. It has not been available for me recently. I have a book by Thomas Merton through which you, as an individual, can do this in a weekly format, but only for an hour each day. Even that was beautiful. Would love to do a weekend once more! Now you have my interest up and I will look for opportunities. It is an amazing experience! Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Barbara, good for you :o) I think you mentioned previously that you did the MBSR course in the past? If so, and if you have trouble finding a silent retreat, an idea is to ask if you can repeat the silent retreat that is part of the MBSR course but not take the whole course again? There were a number of people in my silent retreat who weren’t in my class, but I couldn’t ask them where they were from! ha ha.

  4. I think this would be a wonderful thing to do, is it in Vancouver or close. I know that it would certainly be a challenge for a chattering guy like myself, but at the same time I could see how it would benefit me also. We shall talk about it more. lol

    • Hi Grasshopper, it is in the Vancouver area and part of the requirement of the MBSR course I’m taking. But there are retreats offered all over the place. Some are ‘non-residential’ which means you only go during the day and go home to sleep in your own bed at night, and some are residential where you sleep at the retreat.

      I’m not a very talkative person so maybe that’s why I find it easy!
      ~Wendy

    • I think the experience is very different for everyone. Interestingly, for me it was not very emotional at all. That makes me sound like an unemotional being (which is definitely not true because I could cry at a sad TV commercial!). I actually pondered this after the retreat about myself, and I think it’s because I live in a state of being mindful a lot every day, so doing the retreat wasn’t a stretch for me. However, for me, it was still very much a welcome getaway and a chance to find calm in a busy city.

      Thanks for your comment, Al.
      Wendy

  5. This is a wonderful sharing. Spending quiet time is indeed very good for one’s whole being. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    • Hi Rolan! Thanks for your nice comment. I know that before I went on a silent retreat, I was curious and uncertain about what it would be like, so I thought it might be helpful for people to read what it is like. I’ve been on two of them, run by different organizations, but they were run in a very similar manner.

      Have a great day Rolan!
      Wendy

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