I went on a silent retreat...here's what happened
Updated: Aug 1, 2020
Below is my silent retreat experience. At the bottom of the page, you'll find a #MusicMoment where a song selection is offered that correlates to the blog post.
So when I first heard about a silent retreat I was both confused and intrigued.
"What do you mean a silent retreat? You actually stay silent the entire time? ...For DAYS at a time?!"
The people in my immediate family know especially that I LOVE to talk. If I'm not dancing around the halls then I'm singing a song or sharing random facts I learned during the day. So needless to say, I was shocked by this concept. I had never gone 3 full days without speaking at all. I'd never even gone 1 day without speaking, but I immediately signed up and knew I had to be apart of this.
Here were the rules:
Do not speak.
If you do need to speak, make sure it is a whisper and keep it to a minimum.
One-on-one check-ins with the retreat leader is the only designated time where speaking freely is permitted. Check-ins happen on Saturday.
Try to dwell in spaces away from other people.
If you see another participant, you can acknowledge each other but there's no underlying expectation to greet them. (This wasn't an official rule, but I soon learned it was an unwritten rule)
These rules are designed to help participants get grounded and perhaps get to know themselves better. The idea is what when you do not speak or engage with others, only your thoughts remain and those thoughts help you learn more about yourself. Silent retreats are also designed to boost intentionality.
When you eat, do you take the time to savor the food or are you too distracted to really enjoy it? When on a walk, do you really take in the scenery or are you too caught up vibin' to your music to take in the views?
I never stopped to think about these questions until I was on a silent retreat myself.
Not gonna lie, the first meal was awkward.
I wasn't sure how to go about entering rooms and sitting down for a meal without verbally addressing the people I was eating with. In my culture, it's disrespectful to enter a room without speaking to someone. Super disrespectful. It's even more disrespectful to sit at a table with someone for a meal and not speak to them.
When it was time eat, I got my food and made my way to my group's designated table. I cracked a smile as if to say 'hello' and sat down to eat my meal. I was still new to the "intentional eating" concept so I finished my meal in about 10 minutes and made my way to the yard to sit at the pond. (I later found out that some people sat at the table eating their food for 45 minutes!).
Over the weekend I adjusted to this new life of silence. It was surprisingly peaceful--a drastic difference from the NYC livin' I'd become accustomed to. No noise from the foot traffic on the street. No sirens or cars honking. No looming assignments or work obligations. Just me and my thoughts, on an island of my own.
I grew to like the silence. I liked watching the stillness of the water in the pond. Something about resting water relaxed me. My walking pace slowed down, my shallow breaths grew deeper, the tension in my shoulders dissipated.
As a whole the silent retreat was wonderful. I recommend them to everyone willing to try something different to ground themselves. Mine was only 3 days but how long you stay is really up to you. Some retreats are shorter and some can last for weeks.
What I learned most from the silent retreat was that most of the day-to-day stressors I carried really didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. The work I left behind will still be there after I take time to myself. In fact, I come back to my work refreshed after taking time for myself. I walked away with the understanding that people who are grounded, are not easily swayed by superficial woes. Daily meditation and intentional time in nature bring me peace. I credit the silent retreat for my shift in perspective.
Our minds are constantly busy--our bodies rushing from one event to the next. With so much anxiety in the air right now, knowing what brings our bodies peace could quite literally save our lives. My wish is for you to also find what brings you peace--to discover where you find stillness. This post's music moment will hopefully add a little relaxation to your day.
Check out the song below for a relaxing Neo-soul jam
Voodoo by Patrick Paige II 🎶