There are countless yoga vacations on the market right now that offer a variety of activities such as surfing, dancing, hiking, wine drinking and socializing. While these vacations can be fun, silent retreat offers something different. I would be lying to you if I said that silent retreat is “fun”, but I have found through personal experience is that silent retreat can be incredibly transformational.

What does being silent mean? 

Depending on the retreat, being silent means that you do not speak to others, nor communicate in non-verbal ways through eye contact of body language. Usually, there are periods set aside for formal teaching instructions, in which the facilitator will guide you through practices. All cell phones, computers and tablets are turned off, long periods of reading and writing are discouraged. It is just you, nature, and your practice. 

This sounds awful. Why would I do this?  

On Silent retreat, we are given FULL permission to take off all of the hats we wear in our daily life and step out of the various roles we play in our career or family. We are given the space to rest the language centers of our brain and let the energy drop down from the head into the body. Turning off our computers, cellphones, and tablets can be incredibly restorative for our entire nervous system.

Within this restful space, we have the opportunity to honestly look at our neurosis! The intention behind this is not to be judgmental, but to see clearly what thoughts, words, and actions we can let go of in order to bring about a more lasting sense of wellbeing. Awareness in itself is curative. Just seeing how our thoughts run our life is the first step in making an inner shift.

Secodnly, when we are on silent retreat we take an aerial view of our life and given the chance to reflect on where our energy is going. We have time to listen deeply into our heart on what matters most. Does my life align with what I value? Am I living a life I am proud of? People report after returning from a retreat that they feel inspired to shift a major or minor aspect of thier life. It could be as small as taking the time to have a bubble bath once a week, or as large as a carreer change.

To Relate: 

In my first ever silent retreat, one of my teachers said: “silent retreat is about relationships”. When I heard this, it was confusing to me. How can being alone in silence improve our relationships? 

The fact is, we are always in relationship– and perhaps the most important relationship we are in, is the relationship to ourselves. It is through time spent in silence that I have learned how to be my own best friend. I have established an inner resiliency and reliance that I wouldn’t trade for any yoga vacation. I have also learned how to relate more intimately with each moment regardless of how boring or painful it is. I understand through my retreat practice that my wellbeing depends less upon circumstances, but more upon how I relate to them.

We get so busy chasing pleasant experiences that silent retreat can seem counterintuitive. While vacation memories fade, I argue that time spent on silent retreat can offer a lasting shift in how we live this precious human life.

Below is one of my Favourite Poems by Pabelo Neruda, called Keeping Quiet:

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.