FIVE REASONS WHY I WOULD GO BACK TO A SILENT MEDITATION RETREAT
Have you ever been to a silent meditation retreat before? If not, it is probably time to. Trust me, this is the greatest gift you can give to yourself in the midst of the busyness of life and constant noise. This precious time of silence can be a breath of fresh air.
It becomes a nice tradition for my husband and I to go on a yoga or meditation retreat. This year we have been to a yoga retreat in January and now – a 5-day silent meditation retreat in July organized by Brussels Mindfulness in a small village of Dongelberg, Belgium. I promised to myself that a silent retreat is the must to experience yearly, or maybe even twice a year.
Why would I attend a silent retreat again? Here are my five reasons to go back again and again to this experience.
Reason #1: Take time to slow down
The whole idea behind meditation is to let you slow down by going from a ‘doing mode’ to ‘being mode’. You focus on what is happening to you right here and now, whatever it is, even the difficult feelings and sensations.
When we are in a no-time-to-stop mode, we act on an autopilot. An autopilot by itself is not bad, otherwise we won’t be able to effortlessly drive a car or a bike. It becomes unhealthy when we are acting on an autopilot all the time without realizing it. This is threatening for your body and mind.
On a silence retreat you don’t have much to do besides meditating (sitting, walking or laying), eating and sleeping. There is nothing else to do except being yourself with yourself. Everything else is put on hold.
It is amazing how many things can surface once you hit the pause. On the second day of the retreat I felt extremely exhausted; my whole body was aching; all the tiredness and stress of the months before were on the surface. This sensations lasted for one day and I started to regain my physical strengths. By the last day of a retreat I felt fully recharged and reenergized.
Reason #2: Listen to yourself
Silence is precious. When we talk less and listen to others less, we create space for our own voice. This voice finally can tell about your desires, dreams, needs, true emotions, about what you love and what not.
Two years ago I attended my first ever silent retreat. Before that I was fearing to find out that maybe living in the woods as a hermit is the thing I want to do. In reality I discovered things much less revolutionary, but more evolutionary. I discovered a few simple truths about myself and my life. I listen to myself and changed a few things in my life for better. For example, started to teach yoga and opened my own yoga studio.
During this last retreat I had a similar evolutionary experience. I noticed a few unhelpful patterns on my mind and behavior that keep repeating itself. This will become my work on until the next retreat.
I also realized that I need more time to rest and recuperate. Teaching yoga and meditation is what I love the most, but even then I need more ‘me time’ – my own yoga and meditation practice just for myself with myself. In order to give others you need to give yourself first.
Reason #3: Let someone else to take care of you
Sometimes you need to feel pampered – let someone else to cook for you, to organize your routine, to make sure you feel great. That’s how I feel every time I go on any retreat.
This allows me to truly focus on myself and my own experience, without worrying about any practicalities. I just needed to follow a schedule, show up on my yoga mat to meditate. How awesome is that! I felt blessed and grateful that someone else did all the rest to make sure I have the best stay ever.
Just to be clear – the silence retreat is not a luxurious experience. Accommodation and amenities are designed very simple and modest to reduce unnecessary distractions and let you focus on what matters – YOURSELF.
This experience teaches me to see self-care as a norm breaking a pattern of perceiving it as something selfish. Allowing someone else to take care of you cultivates self-love, kindness and self-compassion.
Reason #4: Just be
Being intimate with your thoughts is probably the most difficult, yet invaluable, experience of meditating. This is especially during a retreat when you meditate in an intense way, about 4-5 hours a day and even about 10 hours a day during some retreats.
When you are left with your own mind face-to-face, when there is no other destruction, the only thing you can do is to breath, observe and notice what’s happening to you. Time and again thoughts will pop up from nowhere. And still you go back to your breath, anchoring yourself in the now, letting your thoughts stay as a background. You don’t run away from your thoughts; instead you recognize them as events. Your recognize that you are not your thoughts. Thoughts come and go, just like clouds on a blue sky.
We can deep dive into the thoughts and stories we tell ourselves; we ruminate about the past and fear the future. Just do anything to avoid being here and now! Or we can do our best to just be by brining back our attention to the breath or any other anchor you choose.
And oftentimes, when the hurricane of thoughts calms down, your minds gets cleared and you find the answers on the most important questions in your life. Sometimes if can be questions that you didn’t think you had!
This what happens to me when I meditate and this what happened during the retreat. There were a few important questions I would have liked to have an answer to. I didn’t purposely meditate on those questions. Instead I set an intention and let the answer come. The outcome didn’t really matter. But the answers did come in the most unexpected moment. And that’s because my awareness was resting in the present moment, the only real moment of my life.
Reason #5: Cultivate gratitude
I believe in the power of gratitude. I think I became much more aware since the moment I started to notice things I am grateful for in my life. When you meditate a lot, you realize that every moment of life is precious and every moment counts. You start notice things around you and be grateful for what is happening to you. This is my personal list of what I am grateful for during the July retreat:
- Slow down and take a break from stress and busyness
- Get my physical and mental energy back; feeling recharged!
- Being silent, take a break from external impulses
- Morning yoga every day
- Meditating outside in nature
- Delicious healthy vegan food cooked with love
- Bare foot walk in the soft grass
- Walks in nature
- Being able to go on a retreat and invest in your own wellbeing
- Being able to share this experience with my husband
- Getting answers on a few important questions
The list can go on as there were so many nice moments during this special experience. More importantly, I am so grateful to share my experiences with you in this post!
My husband and I are thinking to organize a retreat day just at home, when we meditate and practice yoga. I hope we will make it happen!
Have you ever been to a silent retreat? How did it go? Or are you considering to attend one? Share your thoughts with me via my social media channels or drop me an email. I would love to connect!