Sooner or later if you have a formal mindfulness meditation practice, the question about if it is worth to attend a silent retreat is going to emerge, and chances are that you are going to give it a lot of thought, you will consider so many things, such as where to do it, the length of the retreat, the dates, the costs, your readiness level, etc. Believe me, I have been there and I know how it feels going through the decision process. By any means, I am an expert on this subject and this post is not about guiding you through the decision process, but it is about my personal experience attending my first meditation silent retreat and the key learnings that I got by doing so and that I believe it would have been difficult to learn any other way.
Any human experience is unique for the person who is going through it, no one has the same exact experience for the same event. Therefore the experiences lived while attending a meditation retreat are extremely personal and unique, with this in mind, I want to share with you what my personal experience and learnings were by being in silence for 5 days:
Even in silence, you can create community: This might be a difficult concept to grasp because we are trained to believe that the only way to create a community of people is by sharing ideas and talking, that’s the way we communicate to each other. Nevertheless, the silence and meditation are powerful forces that help you to connect in a deeper and meaningful way with others. By being in silence you appreciate yourself better and you are able to see other people in a completely new light with fresh eyes and a greater sense of appreciation for their presence, for simply sharing the space and experience with you. Silence promotes connection.
A renewed sense of purpose by having a healthy sense of interdependence: At check-in, we were assigned with “Yogi Chores” which are tasks that we are responsible for during the length of the retreat. In my case, I was responsible for mopping, swiping and vacuuming one of the dorms, I should confess that at the beginning I was kind of reluctant about all this Yogi work responsibilities, but then I realized that while I was doing my part of the deal, someone else was doing theirs by helping on the kitchen or cleaning the bathrooms, then became clear to me how there was a healthy interdependence system in place. This simple realization induced my chores with joy, commitment and a sense of a higher purpose that I had never experienced before. Silence reminds us how we support each other for the benefit of all.
There is enough of everything: During the first day of the meditation retreat, I started experiencing a mentality of scarcity, especially around food. I started to think that there was not enough food for all of us, that I was going to be hungry all the time, then I translated that scarcity perspective to other aspects of the experience. What about meditation space? Do we have enough space to meditate in a comfortable way? Or what about the sharing bathrooms at the dorm? Do we have enough for all of us? Then, something shifted, I realized that we had enough. There was enough for all of us, enough food, enough meditation space, enough bathroom facilities, and with that realization, I started to experience the feeling of having the right amount of everything to be content, fulfilled and in a deep state of gratitude for what I had. Silence helps us to experience gratitude by being aware that we have what we need.
And you might be asking, but what about the meditation practice? Did you learn something new? The short answer is yes, I learned a lot, but that might be the subject of another post. In the meantime, I hope that you have enjoyed reading this one and that if you go to a retreat (or if you already attended one or many), please share your experience, let’s learn from one another.
Thanks for reading.
Be mindful. Be present.