In modern society we are surrounded by noise – traffic noise, endless emails and phone calls, the chatter of people, and so forth. It seems that there is never a quiet time to relax and recharge any more. Why not consider a silent retreat as a way of getting away from all this noise? Read on to learn more about what silent retreats involve.
The basic premise of a silent retreat is a simple one – you go away to a place and don’t talk for a certain period of time. This could be one day, a few days, or even longer, depending on what you want. Silent retreats usually involve a group of people in one area. Not only are you not speaking to those people, they are not speaking to you. In addition, other artificial noise is avoided (television, radio, music, etc), so that you don’t hear words for the period of time that you are at the retreat.
The purpose of a silent retreat is so that you can cut out the outside world and listen to yourself and the way that you think. It is avoiding outside noise so that you can focus inwards on yourself. Silent retreats are essentially a period of extended inward reflection, allowing you to achieve a greater clarity of mind as there are no outwards distractions.
People participate in silent retreats for different reasons. Some do it to commune with a higher purpose, while others do it to solve a particular problem that is troubling them. For others, it is simply a way to relax.
Before you attend a silent retreat there are some things that you will need to know. The purpose of a retreat is to get away from the noise that is produced by modern society – the noise that gets so loud that sometimes you feel like you can’t think. You cannot get away properly if you are worrying about work or other things. Ensure that you have taken care of important tasks before you go. Make your work colleagues, friends, and family aware that you are going away and will be uncontactable for a period of time and that they should not contact you at the retreat unless it is absolutely necessary.
It may also help to prepare yourself mentally for what happens at a silent retreat. Many people are not used to spending a period of time in near silence (apart from sessions and the noises of nature). Reassure yourself that it is not something to be afraid of. It is going to help you to achieve a clearer, more relaxed state of mind, and you are doing it for the state of your health. You are learning that you do not have to live with and keep with excessive extraneous noise.
There are no set rules on how silent retreats are structured – different retreats may run differently. In some cases, there will be daily sessions with a lecture, group prayer, discussion, or some other ritual that temporarily interrupts the silence in order to give retreat-goers a context or direction for their reflection. These sessions are voluntary but people are advised to attend. In other cases, there will be coaches, counselors, or spiritual directors who will meet with participants individually in order to help focus attention to where the person needs it most. Some retreats will offer a “do it yourself” approach, so that you can tailor make a retreat that is perfect for you.
In most cases, silence in not compulsory, but silence should be respected in the main areas of the retreat so that other guests are not disturbed.