Going on a silent retreat is not something new or trendy. For thousands of years, in all traditions and religions, people have been going on silent retreats.
The need for silence in modern day society is becoming increasingly high though and no wonder…
If you work for a living, your life is most likely filled with noise. From the time your smart phone wakes you up in the morning to the time you put your smartphone next to your ears at night, there’s very little silence. Even when we’re physically on our own, we’re usually still happily (?) whatsapping, scrolling on Fakebook feeds, checking Instagram or doing ‘something’. Most of us rarely—if ever—experience true silence.
The go-to solution seems to be to cover the ears with a pair of headphones and shut it out with more noise… or we distract ourselves with going out, even more noise… even less time to slow down and give ourselves a break.
With all that mental noise, we find ourselves feeling increasingly fatigued and ‘addicted’ to our distractions. Leading to all the modern days issues like burnout, high blood pressure, hyperventilation, headaches and so on.
A Typical Silent Retreat: How does it work?
There’s no such thing as a typical silent retreat. Some are very spiritual or follow a certain tradition; others might give you a very gentle introduction into silence.
Vipassana for example is a 10 day silence and meditation retreat. It can be an incredible experience and a serious boost for your meditation practice as you can meditate for about ten hours a day. These retreats are organized around the world and run by the followers of the Indian teacher S.N. Goenka.
As Vipassana can be a bit too much or plain scary if you’re new to all this, there’s always the chance to experience silence for a day or for a weekend. On every Revealing Vajra Yoga Retreat week for example, there is at least 1 Day of Silence. Just to experience how you deal with Silence in the warm and safe container of a yoga retreat.
If you would like to take it a step further, there’s 3 and 5 Days Silence Retreats where you can start emerging in silence. On these retreats, there might be yoga classes and other activities. Sometimes there are daily lectures to guide you through the silence days. Just check the programs and see what appeals to you.
On most retreats, you will live together, while relating to each other in a completely new way. You will relate through the common experience of yoga and meditation, with all its bliss and joys, discoveries and frustrations. Without talking. Without any kind of verbal communication.
This is what Trine had to say after her silent retreat:
“This silent retreat was just perfect and exactly what I needed. The hatha and yin classes supported the silence days really well. All I can say is that you will not regret joining one of Rachel’s retreats. Everything is so very well organized that you can be completely worry free, she takes care of it all. Lovely food, great people. If you have the chance to join: Do it!”
Trine Johansen, Norway – Trine joined us in Portugal on our Revealing Vajra silence retreat in June 2017.
Why is a silent retreat usually linked to Meditation?
Much energy and ego goes into our speech. We say things that don’t need to be said, are silly, gossipy, or even harmful. This not only makes the world noisy, it makes our own mind noisy.
If there is nobody to talk to we just chatter away to ourselves. With meditation, we start to understand and slowly get a grip on this chatter.
So we keep silent by not speaking or passing notes to each other during the silence days, in order to quiet our mind and maintain a quiet, peaceful environment for everyone. This can be challenging at times, but most people find it a very powerful and wonderful experience.
Even training ourselves to walk, move, eat, and do things quietly leads to a calm and graceful experience.
Silence and meditation remove the pressure of outside influences, allowing you to examine what really brings joy and meaning to your life. Therefor, a silent retreat can provide an entirely new perspective on major life changes.
Me, myself and I: an Attitude of Solitude
During a silent retreat, it is recommended that you aim to cultivate a state of experience resembling solitude. This can at times feel alienating and lonely for people who are very sociable and miss such simple human contact, but it will drastically help your experience of interiorization.
This means as little outside communication as possible during the days of silence. This time will offer you the opportunity to communicate in a much subtler way, through a very different kind of language and energy.
Full on Digital Detox
On most silent retreats, you will be asked to not use any electronics or the Internet during the silent days. No listening to the news or music, checking email, watching movies, etc.
Just to be clear: This means no use of mobile phones…
Before starting your silent journey, you might need to make a firm commitment to yourself about this one 🙂
As a side note: How long has it been since you were voluntarily off line for longer than a day? Any idea what the impact of this on your stress level might be…?
Silence lets practitioners recharge from the stresses of daily life. However, the practice of silence and its intention goes way beyond relaxation.
Outward silence shines a light on the parts of your inner life you don’t usually experience, teaching you to acknowledge and process even your most uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. From craving to aversion and back.
Focused periods of silence and meditation can help you turbo boost your energy levels and make you less vulnerable to frustration and anxiety.
You will be able to let go of emotional baggage and transform negative emotions more easily.
How Julia remembers her silent experience:
“Fully able to escape my normal life! This silent retreat gave me the break I needed. I was fully able to escape from my normal life and gain perspective, relaxation and rejuvenation. The yoga, the food, and place were all the restoration my body and mind were asking for!”
Julia Willinger, NYC, USA – Julia joined us in Morocco on the Revealing Vajra silent retreat in July 2016.
A silent retreat is not a quick fix but for sure, it can kick start a lot of positive evolutions in your life! Achieving a greater degree of mental balance and well being.
I would love to hear about your “silent experiences” and as usual, welcoming any and all questions you might have about a silent retreat.
Rachel Bonkink has organised and hosted over 50 yoga holidays and retreats in the past 6 years, after leaving her corporate life far behind. She loves people, food, yoga, exploring, travel, writing, reading, and, doing absolutely nothing. Her favorite activity is walking along the beach in Essaouira, a small fisherman’s village in Morocco, that she calls home.
Every year, she follows at least 2-4 (silent) retreats and teacher trainings as a student. On her Revealing Vajra Retreats, she thrives in sharing knowledge with others and guide them in experiencing the power of stillness that she finds in yoga and meditation.
Find out more about Rachel’s story, from the boardroom to the yoga mat.