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What to Expect on a Silent Retreat?

by Elaine Clara Mah

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Many of us can be silent for an hour a day, sometimes two. Some can go a whole day in silence. But how many of us can do several days in a row of absolute silence, muting our words and slowing down our pace?

It’s difficult to imagine a world of utter silence. So much of our culture encourages us to “speak up” – to express our views, emotions, and feelings through words. Society has embedded in us the concept of communication, and that to discover others and ourselves, we must communicate and interact.

Perhaps, in communicating too much, we have reached a point of saturation. Now, more and more people are retreating from their voices, finding comfort in silence. Instead of looking outwards, they are now looking inwards in hopes of discovering themselves. As a result, a growing number of people are exploring silent retreats.

Note: BookYogaRetreats offers a flexible cancellation policy. Should you not be able to travel as scheduled, we’d be happy to help you alter your booking with the same organizer or with a different organizer.

What are the benefits of silence?

Benefits of silence

Silent retreats are aimed at getting the spiritual and self-reflective benefits of silence. For this reason, practitioners are asked to take a vow of silence for the entire duration of the retreat. But what are the benefits of silence?

As you may know, silence is a great way to relax and soothe the mind. When practiced for a long period of time it can offer many benefits, like helping us to process emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

It also enables us to gain clarity and effectively respond, rather than quickly react to various situations. No to mention the huge impact it has in rejuvenating our brain cells, encouraging creativity, and better decision making.

A silent holiday is a unique experience that can help to develop a deeper connection with our inner selves. It’s a safe place to embrace solitude and silence, quiet our minds and gain clarity, and discover spiritual freedom.

As you can imagine, a retreat like this involves a lot of meditation. And there are many types of meditation you can learn during a silent retreat, but perhaps the most common out there is Vipassana.

What is Vipassana meditation?

Vipassana Meditation

Image credit: Hariharalaya Retreat Center

Vipassana meditation, or insight meditation, is the practice of self-observation with the aim of self-transformation.

Vipassana means to see things as they really are. It’s an ancient form of meditation said to have existed before the time of Buddha and then rediscovered by Buddha himself.

Equanimity. Non-reaction. Discipline. These are the kind of words used to describe Vipassana.

In a nutshell, Vipassana meditation requires the meditator to sit in silence for hours on end, day after day, just being a spectator to his or her own self.

You observe the hum of your breath with each inhalation and exhalation. You are an outsider looking into your thoughts as your mind evokes memories from your past, experiences from the present, and perhaps hopes for the future. You acknowledge the dull pain that nags at you as your hands and legs gradually numb from being in one place for too long.

The goal of Vipassana meditation is to train your mind to stop reacting to the ups and downs of life. You first focus non-reaction inwards. Then, you start to bring that non-reaction outwards. As you were an observer of your mind, you now become an observer of your surroundings.

READ MORE: Healing holidays for a holistic reset

What to expect on a silent retreat?

silent retreats

Following the lineage of Buddha, modern-day Vipassana retreats take their roots from S.N. Goenka, who began teaching the technique in 1969.

Traditionally, Vipassana retreats used to take up to seven weeks. However, nowadays retreats are much shorter, with 10 days being the most common, and there are even many silent retreats that last between three to seven days.

During a silence-focused holiday, you can expect to spend most of the days in complete silence. Don’t worry if you have no experience in doing so, as you’ll get the guidance of professionals that will help you to learn to be comfortable in solitude.

Keep in mind that anywhere you go in the world, the Vipassana structure is the same – meditation from 4 am to 9 pm, with breaks in between (at least 10 hours of meditation each day). That said, as the type of meditation varies, the schedule for a silent retreat is also different for each program.

For some courses you may also be partaking in other activities such as sunrise yoga sessions, mantra chanting, contemplative hiking, HarpMood sessions, walks in nature, dancing, healing therapies like Reiki, Sound bowl and Mandala art, and so on.

The retreats are normally complemented by nutritious meals so you can feel relaxed, healthy and concentrate better on this journey of inner discovery. Remember that these sustained periods of silence are meant to encourage you to to fully connect with and explore within yourself.

*Cover image credit: Dijan

Not ready to travel? Join an online course and get all the benefits of meditation from the comfort and safety of your home.

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