To participate in a Silent Retreat
Deciding to participate in a silent retreat – especially when not knowing the place or the other participants in advance – demands a certain degree of courage and trust. You might be tempted to ask a friend to accompany you so you dont feel all alone. Then when packing your suitcase you might have attention on which clothes to bring, as we all want to look good and make the right impression. There might also be a kind of preparation on how to introduce yourself to the others. Once arrived – as the stay will last more than a few hours – we are tempted to repeat patterns we once developed.
The purpose of a Silent Retreat is to put these patterns aside.
You do not need to make an impression – you do not need to be seen or heard.
This can be scary – but also very freeing. To give oneself the allowance to “just be” gives enormously room and space to … Just Be. Then there will be no feeling of aloneness. That´s why our meditation room is called “The Liberty Room”…
An intense experience of the moment
As we agree on being together without having to do or prove anything, the energy we usually use to communicate with others now can be used in another way. A certain flavour of intensity is building up that brings awareness to the simpliest experiences: smells, light, warmth or coldness, your own body sensations and the surroundings.
The structure of the Silent Retreat
As much as refraining from talking can open up to experiencing daily life in another way, a fixed structure for the retreat will free energy that normally would be used for considerations on what could be done differently. ”Would I rather do this or that to be more in harmony with my wish right now, would I rather sit still a bit longer or would I rather being moved a bit more…
All these considerations about “I, Me & Myself” are put aside by accepting a certain structure.
On the other hand it seems as important not to exaggerate the call for a discipline which then again could take over and dominate in a new way.
That is why our meditation sessions are composed of short sequences of 20 minutes. It does not crave much to sit still for 20 minutes – longer might be uncomfortable. It is also not too demanding to do the walking-meditation for 20 minutes. The idea is to have sequences which will provide a relief, a lovely sense of change, without having to strain yourself.
Sitting still and Being in Silence
It is our wish to create a situation where ”nothing has to be done” – which leads to ”sitting silently”.
It is not the ”sitting silently” in itself that is the goal. The purpose is falling into a state that makes you “not to feel like moving!”.
It is the same about ”not saying anything”. Also this is not the goal in itself. Theoretically there can be talking in a Silent Retreat. Though it is up to each participant to see why something has to be spoken: an information that might be practically or necessary? If so nothing would be in the way of doing that. It also is not needed to whisper or feel inappropriate if you say something.
It is actually quite easy to fall into that silent space. Most of our daily talk is coming from a wish of sharing our opinions, attitudes, thoughts or feelings. These are exactly the subjects we are taking a break from on the Silent Retreat: ”Today I do not have to have any opinion on anything”.
Walking-Meditation is a practice of buddhist monks. A path of approx. 10 m where you slowly walk back and forth. Experiencing every step intensely: the heal touching the ground, the sole of the foot being massaged by the surface, the toes pushing the foot backward… and then the next step, and the next, and the next.. with the ongoing focus on the breath.
It is recommended to keep the same path all through the retreat.
Camino-Walk is practiced on the longer walks. Again you connect to the rhythm and the continuity of the movement. Also here we are “being walked”. In the beginning it again can be helpful to be aware of the grounding and the breath.
We are not encouraging nor teaching a special way of meditating. You can use your own preferred techniques or just be. Our teacher Michael Barnett says that he himself never meditates – and yes, he often finds himself in the meditative space, not as a result of a meditation – but more from welcoming life as it is right now… which then might lead to slowing down and falling into the calmness.
The Pulse of Life
The dynamics of a Silent Retreat can be compared with the ongoing movement of a pendulum: breathe in and breathe out, focus and let go, participating as an individual in a group.
We all contribute with our presence though the experience of the retreat is individual.
Thus we can´t really promise what the result of a Silent Retreat will be. We can describe its form and structure, we can explain the intention of letting go of personal preferences, we can guide the participants through the process – but at the end the outcome will be an individual experience.