A Personal Silent Retreat : My Takeaways
Have you ever waited a really long time to try something (maybe even decades)…massage, a facial, skydiving, could be anything, then wish you’d tried it years ago? I’ve certainly heard about silent retreats, and know many who travel sometimes great distances to participate in them and swear by them. I’ve just never attended one.
Recently I decided to give myself the gift of a personal silent retreat, at home. It’s easy for me to have an entire day at home in which to do this; I realize for many this would be a challenge, so for that I’m grateful. And yes, I wish I’d done this a long time ago. I now recommend it to everyone.
A silent retreat is not the same thing as self-care or alone time, which itself is extremely important. That can include long baths, reading, time in nature, anything that nurtures you and allows you time to just be and stop doing and taking care of things/others. Everyone needs alone and self-care time as often as possible. A silent retreat also has the alone time and focus on being vs doing, but it’s much more removed from daily life.
My retreat looked like this:
What I didn’t do…
~No phone (I told everyone ahead of time and kept it turned off for 24 hours) or computer
~No talking, even to my dog, or myself
~No activities or hobbies…reading, puzzles, word games, movies,…nope, nothing. Not even a dog walk (which I apologized for later), because I knew it would shift my focus if I saw another person
What I did…
~Ate silently while looking at the trees outside my window and visualized the food I ate nourishing my body
~Meditated, several times
~Guided imagery, several times
~ Yoga session
~Journaled, about what came up during reflection and meditations
~Pet my dog and shared long gazes with her, without talking
~Sat and reflected, a lot
I expected this to be very challenging, but…and I’m sure being a regular meditator helped, I was very surprised at how quickly the time passed. And it’s AMAZING what comes up when we remove ALL distractions and have an intention of going within. Before I even sat for my first meditation, while eating breakfast stuff just came pouring out and I had to start writing it all down so I wouldn’t forget. And the rest of the day continued to flow like this…thoughts, reflections, memories, self-statements, realizations. They just kept coming.
What came up? New ways of looking at things, present and past. Realizations of things I’ve been stuck on and rehashing…not letting go of. The significance of past life events that I hadn’t realized were that important, or had even forgotten about. Feelings I haven’t been in touch with. Self-talk I wasn’t fully conscious of.
I discovered that merely by focusing on some of the stuck issues, the feelings, the unhelpful thoughts, without distraction and giving them my full attention without resisting, they dissipated. For some things this was significant, for others, profound. I could feel my body letting go of what didn’t serve me, becoming lighter. With some of the ‘aha!’s it actually seemed silly that these issues were even, well…issues.
By the time I finished dinner I’d been realizing and releasing a lot. I decided to review my journal and focus on a certain idea/feeling that had come up and see if I could go deeper. I had a very profound recall of something my mother had told me that had happened when I was an infant. I hadn’t thought about that in probably decades, but it suddenly put many things into perspective. I was able to see not only where several big life-view beliefs I’ve been unconsciously listening to had originated, but that they weren’t true! My infant self believed them, due to my development and experience at the time, but they weren’t accurate at all, and I’d been holding them as truths. Well, that changes things.
As a result of this undistracted time, I felt that I’d experienced resolution on some long-standing issues and gained clarity about some deeper stuff I had never addressed directly. By bedtime, I felt considerably lighter, freer and happier. And in the morning, instead of being eager to resume regular life, I found myself hesitant, and I had to ease into the day slowly.
Most organized silent retreats tend to be held at least over a whole weekend, often for 7 or 10 days or longer. I can definitely see the value of this; I know that if I’d had the next day to detach as well, I could have released a lot more. I do think, though, that not having anyone around at all…silent or not, allowed me to process in that one day more than I would have in a more public setting. It was also nice to not have a schedule whatsoever, other than…eat when I’m hungry, go to bed when I’m ready to sleep. Just that was liberating.
I know that for some it’s very uncomfortable to be by themselves, and a whole day of it could be very challenging. But, since there are no parameters or schedule, no specific expectations other than to remove all distractions, it’s a gentle way of being alone and self-focused. In some cases, the anxiety over anticipating being alone and not ‘busy’ will likely be harder than the actual experience.
For those at home with families right now, this type of retreat would likely not be possible. It would require booking a hotel room for a couple of nights, so you’d have the entire day and into bedtime without interruption. This is obviously more expensive than doing it for free at home, but compared with paying a retreat center for an organized program, it would save a lot. And you’re worth it, yes?
So many things take our attention these days, and we’re bombarded by the media, fake news, disturbing events across the country…it can be quite overwhelming. Most find it difficult to set aside any time for self-care, let alone actually looking at and changing those pesky negative personal beliefs. If you can find a way to gift yourself an entire day (or two) to not only unplug, but remove ALL distractions and just be with yourself, it could go far in helping you to resume being the person you wish to be. I wish for you the opportunity to experience your own personal silent retreat very soon.
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