Attending a silent retreat isn’t an easy experience for anyone, and it wasn’t easy for me either. Having attended around 20 silent retreats with each being 10 days long, I can say each retreat was a transformative experience.
Every retreat showed me something about myself. Each 10-day course gave me something I truly needed but wasn’t even aware that I needed it. If a 10-day silent retreat feels too long, know that you can start with a one to three-day retreat.
So, are you curious about what happens when you have nothing to distract yourself with and absolutely no need to do so? I’ll explain what can happen during a silent retreat and feelings that can arise during deep inner reflection.
Resting in the Stillness of Being
I think attending a silent retreat is an experience everyone should go through at least once in their lives. It is so rare to have day after day free from distractions and having attention turned within. For a lot of people, this is the first time they actually discover their “within.”
We are so busy in our lives – everything is competing for our attention and energy. We move so fast even when we are “resting”. A lot of rest in contemporary culture is still more activity, often passively engaged in (like watching tv) instead of truly replenishing, deep rest.
When attention is turned within and is no longer fixating on external objects (what we see and hear) or internal objects (our thoughts and emotions), we experience peace.
We can call this “meditation,” but we don’t have to call it anything at all. Labels tend to complicate simple things. I call this resting in silence; resting in the stillness of being.
Turning Off Thoughts at a Silent Retreat
During a silent retreat, you might be asked to sit in silence for a period of 30 minutes to an hour. During this time, your mind will likely get very busy, but this is natural and very normal.
You get to witness, closely, how agitated thought can be. How much thought likes to move you around, going from one topic to another at the speed of light, branching in every direction, endlessly.
This seeing alone has tremendous power for transformation.
You get to see the inner workings of your body-mind. You get to be with your suffering and explore it from the inside out. No amount of reading can give you the experiential learning that is possible through direct noticing.
Connecting with your Body
After a while, your mind begins to settle on its own and your attention stays within your body more and more often and for longer periods of time. This is when you may notice pain, be it physical or emotional.
As you stay with the pain, your body begins to soften, your attention begins to widen and you naturally begin to feel more at peace and comfortable in your skin. Usually, once peace is noticed, a deep dimension of you comes to the surface: a sense of wholeness and the feeling of who you truly are.
You get to encounter your true self underneath all defences and masks. You make contact with wholeness, the already completeness of you, with a sense of existential enoughness.
This doesn’t mean we don’t need anything or anyone, but simply that a sense of fulfillment is already present within our very selves. If a silent retreat can potentially offer us this sense of wholeness and connection, isn’t it worth a try?
At Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic, we believe in exploring all avenues of healing. Our weekly schedule incorporates meditation, Qigong, yoga, and guided energy work. Clients are able to explore a range of healing workshops and can discover methods and techniques that will aid in successful long-term recovery. To learn more about our mental health and addiction programs, visit our website or call us today.