For many, the mere thought of not speaking, even for an afternoon, is enough to send them straight to Twitter to announce to the world the disadvantages of a silent retreat. However, in today’s world where communication is one of our primary addictions, taking time out to be silent could be the right remedy for an ever-crazier world.
Silent retreats are gaining more and more popularity as we search for different methods to ensure our health and mental wellbeing as well as our connection with the spiritual side of our lives. As such, there are a variety of options for those who wish to try a dose of silence, from a day of silence in your own home, to 10 day silent retreats, to residential silent retreats where you could spend a month or more in silence. For most, shorter retreats are more conducive to our modern schedules balancing work and family, and retreats of 7 or 10 days are often recommended as the ideal.
Choosing a Silent Retreat
Not all silent retreats are the same, and you should take care to research the kinds of places where your silent retreat will take place. For example, some retreats are permanently silent, others schedule a set period where the space will fall into silence while other locations encourage you to hold your silence amongst others who are speaking, using a name tag to indicate that you are holding silence (like Julia Roberts in the movie Eat, Love, Pray).
Likewise, some retreats have a program of silent activities such as yoga classes, meditation, walks in nature etc, others are led by a guide who delivers a talk each day or maybe twice a day (satsang) where you just listen, while some silent retreats leave you to your own inner inspiration, meeting only for meal times. Before choosing a retreat, you should consider the level of interaction you think you need and whether you need more or less support in maintaining your silence.
Benefits of Silence
Some of the benefits claimed by silent retreats include: a sense of increased awareness, both of what is going on inside our bodies as well as our surroundings; the ability for greater dis-attachment to outcomes; acceptance of the impermanence of life and our own death; connection with the present moment and recognition that we are responsible for our own happiness. Silent retreats offer a detox from our own lives, society, the media and work, allowing us to take time to press the reset button so that we can reconnect with who we really are and make healthy choices in our lives.
Perhaps one of the most important gifts that silence brings is the ability to see beauty within the most minute details of life, generating a sense of contentment from existence itself; we learn to take pleasure in the movement of honeybee, a shadow, our own breath. Hitting the base of boredom, frustration, loneliness and isolation encourages us to discover our own gifts, connecting with our higher being and source.