A silent meditation retreat can be one of the best ways to experience an extended period of peacefulness, because you set aside time and space to really enjoy meditation in a supportive environment, rather than squeezing it in here and there.
It is also a great opportunity to understand how your mind tends to sabotage your natural capacity to experience inner peace. Without this insight it is easy to keep distracting yourself away from that silence.
But sometimes people are scared of silence: won’t it make you even more aware of the noise in your mind? Won’t it bring the questions, the anger, the fear, the nastiness right up to the surface when you don’t distract yourself away from it?
Yes. Very likely!
In fact, that is the whole point. By starting with outer silence, you become keenly aware of the inner noise and how it happens. Learning how to deal with it is the next step. And then practicing is the final step.
How does that sound? Boring? Fascinating? Exciting? It can be all of that and more...or less. The amazing thing is that most people, in little moments here and there, start to experience an inner kind of peacefulness. Nothing special—in fact, just the opposite.
It’s a kind of peacefulness that can’t be described well—it is empty of anything in particular but feels fulfilling at the same time. It comes when least expected, and usually stays for less long than you want, but it arrives.
And then it leaves again. Again and again it happens, and you start to maybe wonder, what is going on? And so this becomes a great opportunity to understand what is actually blocking the peacefulness you are looking for.
Without this direct, experiential insight it is easy to keep distracting yourself away from that silence, because that is what most of us do automatically, without knowing it.
But on retreat, you can get more and more clear about how this all works. And then you can learn how to let that calmness happen and settle into it without grabbing it or trying to make it happen.
So, are silent meditation retreats completely silent? Our retreats are mostly silent except for a short introductory discussion at the beginning and a concluding discussion at the end about your experience and how to take those lessons back to your everyday life.
But for the most of the retreat, we alternate silent sitting and silent walking (or stretching/yoga).
To conclude, a silent meditation retreat might be a good idea if you already have a pretty regular meditation practice. If you don’t, take a beginner meditation class, continue practicing afterward and then, after some time, when you feel ready, consider a 1/2 day or daylong retreat.