Silence at Retreats
A retreat is a much needed break from daily responsibility and routine. It is a time to center and tend to the inner life. Other than two group meetings daily, the retreat is held in silence. Silence is a profound spiritual practice that allows us to move into our inner core and discover its inherent peace and tranquility. We learn to connect to stillness and experience the wisdom, clarity and joy that arises from its depths.
Silence is richly nurturing, yet some are initially uncomfortable with it, fearing that unwelcome memories and thoughts will arise. In retreat we discover that thoughts are just events in the mind and not reality. We learn to witness these inner events and not identify with them which transforms our life.
Together, the group creates a safe container for silence. In the stillness we discover the deep connectedness to one another and to life. We realize that we are not as separate as we think. The peaceful warmth of silence strengthens us and supports our relaxation into inner stillness.
During the sustained silence in retreat we realize that stillness is conscious and all pervading. Once the inner stillness is recognized we can return to it again and again for inner guidance and wisdom. Then we no longer have to rely on superficial or historical ideas about how to live. The intelligence that comes through silence shows us what is needed to fulfill our potential.
We all yearn to be happy. Spiritual traditions teach us that real happiness comes from within. In silence we discover happiness. When we tap into the wellspring of happiness, we naturally begin to let go of what is not needed and find the support to do the things that express the wisdom and love we have found within.
Silence is a powerful practice. All that is real arises from stillness. From the unmanifested comes compassion, joy, wisdom, creativity and peace so that they can be manifested in our lives.
Silence is also a safe container for more focused forms of practice that help us to become conscious of that which no longer serves life's unfolding.
There are only two things we can become aware of, that which is true in our life and what is false. Habits, old stories, memories, and anticipations are false in that they stem from thoughts about the past or the future. Events in the mind, they seem real because they live in the body/mind and are experienced as repeated patterns, motivations and uncomfortable emotions. They recur because we are unaware of them. Once we become conscious, they lose their life energy and their grip on us.
In retreat we engage practices to help us become conscious of old stories, ideas and habits that recycle over and over. Nothing is forced or pressured. We simply invite that which is ready to come into awareness to do so. We can see and feel what comes into consciousness, because we are being held in the embrace of present moment awareness. Remaining here and now, we can see into what is false without being retraumatized.
Through journal writing and directed conversations, we inquire into old stories and ideas. We also inquire into what is real and wants to be lived now. Inner guidance is encouraged as it too has opportunity to express itself in words.
Through guided body movement we release trapped energy that unconsciously has perpetuated old stories and emotional energies. We also make space for movement to express love, wisdom and other forms of the sacred. This enables us to feel the presence of our own inherent goodness in our bodies.
By listening to beautiful, evocative music our souls are touched. Depth responds to depth and our essence arises and is felt throughout the body/mind as it responds to the beauty of sacred music.
Mindfulness practices take us into the direct experience of the present moment in two ways. The first way is by becoming aware of our inner body. Doing so connects us to our inner selves so that we are not lost in thinking. We become embodied, in-the-body.
The easiest way to become aware of our inner body is by paying attention to the movement of breath. When our attention is focused on the flow of breath moving in and out, thoughts subside. Our mind becomes engrossed with breathing and becomes quiet. We orient to the inner world.
We practice taking our awareness inside the body in other ways; by noticing physical sensations within the body, the beating of the heart and the feeling of energy moving through the body, whatever feels most soothing. We learn to take refuge in the comfort of being at home in the body.
The second way of coming into present moment awareness is by focusing on what we perceive through the sensory capacities of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. Paying attention to sensory perception connects us to the immediate world around us. Rather than feeling disconnected from our experience, we feel interconnected to life as it arises in the here and now.
During retreat we practice mindfulness and awareness using sound, taste, body sensation, walking meditation, and movement awareness.
Like breathing, sensory perception is familiar and easy to overlook. Thoughts demand our attention. However, when we are lost in thoughts we disconnect from our experience of the outer life. By paying full attention to our subjective experience of the outer world we realize that we are deeply connected to it. In reconnecting we feel alive and know that we belong, just because we are.