There are people who talk and there are people who do. I like to see myself as the second type. Like when I came across a post by Miessakit Association advertising something called a Retreat of Silence. I had no idea what a Retreat of Silence was. But still I immediately signed up.
And, in the end, the experience was way more than I could have anticipated.
Retreat of Silence
The meaning of a retreat is deeply rooted in religion and different religions have their own types of retreats. So for example Wikipedia describes a Christian retreat as follows: “The Christian retreat can be defined in the most simplest of terms as a definite time (from a few hours in length to a month) spent away from one’s normal life for the purpose of reconnecting, usually in prayer, with God.”.
Quite naturally not all retreats these days emphasize the religion aspect. It may be part of the routines in the retreat, but in no way is that the whole point of them any more. It is about reconnecting with yourself. Your own inner thoughts. Your own ‘self’. Whatever that is to you.
Regardless of the foundation of the retreat, silence is always the key.
Silence isn’t empty,
it’s full of answers.
This retreat was scheduled for three days. And three days of silence can be quite a a frightening thought.
I spend most of my days in more-or-less total loneliness. So three days of not talking was an inconsequential thought to me. But I know I’m at an end of a wide spectrum, so to speak. For many people, a thought of multiple days of nothing but quiet self-reflection can be a high hurdle to climb.
Just think about the fact, that there are people who need ‘white noise’ to be able to sleep. They need the sound of a TV, or even traffic. And how disturbed our lives actually are when we search relaxation from ‘something that we can do’, rather than ‘doing less’. In this, as well as in so many other aspects of life, doing less can often result to gaining more.
All of this only emphasizes the point of how important a Retreat of Silence can be. For each and everyone. Since we all have our own noises that we from time to time need to get away. So we can hear ourselves.
Retreat of Silence needs to be located as far away from everything as possible. Our retreat was in a tiny rural village. Maybe a handful of cars drove past the house each day. You could only barely see the neighbouring houses. There was no internet, no TV, no radio. And we were encouraged to turn off our cell phones as well. So the amount of distractions to the silence were at minimum.
It took two daysfor the noise of my mind to start slowing down.
When you are dropped from your daily routines to a place where there is nothing to distract your thoughts, the initial backlash from your own mind can be quite loud.
I think I took on the silence quite well, as I said it’s not that uncommon place for me. But still it took two days for the noise of my mind to start slowing down.
When there is nothing to distract your thoughts, they really gain a lot of power. There were moments when I felt like my own mind was yelling at me. One thought came, then another, then ten. All at the same time. All I could do, was to concentrate on breathing slowly and let all the thoughts come as they pleased. And after a while, they started to calm down.
I’ve always been the ‘thinking’-type. I think a lot. I love philosophy. But as my daily life is in an endless treadmill between taking care of the family and struggling with depression and self-loathing, there is really no time for thinking. So naturally when my mind gets to roam freely, it has a lot to say.
At first the silence is all around you. No one is talking and neither are you. But your mind is talking louder than ever. And it took two whole days of letting my mind yell at me, until it had said all it needed to say.
And I found silence.
Inside my own mind.
But then the retreat was over. Had to return back to the treadmill. And the silence was gone. But the memories remain. That fleeing moment of total freedom and complete silence. That is an experience I can now carry with me. And even though I might not be able to reach that kind of clarity in everyday life, it does give me hope. And that is more than I could have ever hoped to gain from this experience.
If someday I get a chance to do another Retreat of Silence, I will be the first one in line!