We spent all of last week at a silent meditation retreat. It is a powerful experience. Retreat is wonderful in general but maintaining silence with everyone else around you also silent, removing access to media and the internet, turning off smart phones, and removing reading materials greatly amplifies the experience.
In this context it is impossible to escape from oneself. Under normal conditions we can avoid troubling thoughts and memories by distracting ourselves with media or conversation. In a silent retreat that is impossible. Thus one has to confront one’s inner self without opportunity for escape. Be forewarned, this can be a wrenching experience. We’ve seen many people spontaneously break out in tears at any moment. Most deal with it effectively and confronting and experiencing the emotions helps heal the wounds. But, some are overwhelmed and need assistance or need to leave the retreat.
The container of silence in retreat is a powerful context for spiritual development. It not only allows for deep meditative experiences that build over the course of the retreat, but it also allows for time for contemplation. Just sitting or walking while reflecting on our environment, immediate experience, or the insights occurring in meditation is as important as the meditation itself. It is common in retreat for people to have awakening experiences and it is here during the contemplative time that they frequently occur.
We highly recommend retreat, especially silent retreat, for those who wish for personal or spiritual development. But, be prepared. It is often not the pleasant relaxing time off that many envision. It can be emotional dynamite that needs to be approached with caution.
We’d love to hear of other experiences on retreat.