You've probably heard of silent retreats, right? They are quiet places where you stay silent the entire time. I just got back from my first one that lasted a weekend.
It was everything you would expect - serene, peaceful, and calm.
And that's why I went. I wanted to rest and recharge myself before a new semester. I was also curious if I could unplug and rest for that long. I am a "go, go, go" kind of person with endless to-do lists and priorities, even on the weekends. So this was a perfect chance to be at peace and work on my own meditation and spirituality practice.
There were several surprising benefits of going on the retreat too.
The most surprising part was meal time and the lack of "small talk." At my retreat, there were 14 of us total. Typically at a social gathering, you start to introduce yourself and find out reasons why the other people are there. Sometimes you meet someone really interesting, but usually it is a lot of exhausting "small talk." Not at silent retreat. We ate our meals in silence and I had to just speculate and wonder what the background was of all the other attendees. That was surprisingly refreshing. I didn't have to introduce myself over and over again. I didn't have to be slightly irritated with someone's comment about what I do. And there was no one to get distracted with their phone instead of talking to me. We just ate. I really liked it.
The ability to appreciate that the day was my own and only my own.
It's amazing how you don't realize what makes up the majority of your day. People email me, wanting replies. My dogs want to be fed and want attention. Students have questions. A friend needs an RSVP. I need to be home to receive a package. All of those things are little things, but they add up quickly. And so spending a weekend where no one and nothing needed me? It was such a relief. And I lead a pretty relaxing life! I can only imagine how this could help busy parents.
A lot of deeper thoughts need true quality time.
I'll liken this to completing a puzzle or untangling a ball of yarn. Fifteen minutes here or there just isn't going to cut it. I needed time to really think about what I want to accomplish this semester. It reminds me of how Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy recommend that you dedicate an entire day to creating your life plan in their book, "Living Forward." You need time for ideas to bounce around and thoughts to emerge. Give yourself the time to do it instead of being distracted all of the time.
You can always surprise yourself.
I'll admit, I was unsure if I could "not talk" for an entire weekend. I'm such a talker! But I was never going to find out if I could do it - unless I tried. So I jumped right in and tried it. I made it. And it was just another reminder that I should "never say never." When people tell me, "I could never do that," I ask, "How do you know?" Try it out - see what happens. THEN report back!
And finally, the people who need this the most are probably the most resistant to go.
Of course I had time to think about who in my life would like to go on silent retreat and who wouldn't. You really have to like yourself enough to be alone with your thoughts. And if those thoughts scare you or you like to live a life of distraction, a silent retreat would be really difficult. The people in my life who don't even realize they are distracted 99% of the time would be the ones I would most recommend it to.