How Spending a Week Silent Changed My Life

What a long week it was, and at the same time, it was over in a flash.

This is how I chose to do my silent retreat:

  • I lived alone (at a beach house, so nice!)
  • 40 minutes meditation 3 times per day
  • Walking in nature once per day
  • Two books to provide direction for my inward journey
  • Journalling several times per day
  • No internet, TV, music, computer or phone
  • No vigorous movement
  • No car travel
  • No communication with anyone
  • No games, novels, podcasts, etc

What did a day look like?

Wake up, meditate, eat breakfast, just sit with my thoughts, journal, read, have lunch, meditate, go for a walk — the beach was beautiful, and I saw a stunning sunset on Day 2 — cook dinner, eat, read, journal, sit with my thoughts, meditate, and go to bed.

As I was alone, and had no retreat guide to give me direction (as is usual on most silent retreats), I chose the two books: The Prophet; The Essential Steiner as my guides. They were fantastic! I’ve read The Prophet multiple times, and was again inspired by it’s wisdom. The Essential Steiner is absolutely incredible, I learnt so much which was mind blowing. Possibly the best book I have ever read — which is saying a LOT!

My emotions were mostly neutral. This was not what I had expected. Sometimes I remembered something to do when the retreat was over, or someone to contact. These went into my journal. I pondered on what I was reading, and reflected on my life. I thought about the future, long term goals and what I’d like to accomplish this year. At times I was bored, and my thoughts wandered into daydreams.

I would summarise my daily experience thus: It felt incredibly bland 90% of the time, and 10% of the time I had awesome flashes of inspiration and realisations about life. I will share these in the next post!

I had two hissy fits: One on Day 2, the other on Day 3. Both consisted of me silently banging my fist into my thigh in frustration, thinking ‘I just want to talk with someone or do something!’ And then I just got over it. Neither lasted longer than a couple of minutes. There’s something about being silent which makes being annoyed and frustrated very hard to sustain.

(So next time I’m getting annoyed, I can just make myself be annoyed silently, and I know I’ll be chuckling at myself very soon).

In general my meditation time was boring. I believe I worked out why this was so by the end, and I’ll share more about it in a later post. I committed to meditate for 40 minutes three times every day. This may sound like very little to some, it felt like a lot to me. It took quite a lot of motivation, but I did it! Yay!

In my meditation I focused on my quality of presence, and on my insecurities. I wanted to allow anything bubbling under the surface to come up. Nothing much did. Instead, I realised just how flimsy insecurities are. I was almost disappointed. I had expected something important to come up, to ball my eyes out and journal furiously and work through it. Instead, I found myself feeling mostly okay. This made me feel really good about where I am at ☺

On Day 5, I felt so excited at the thought of interacting with the world again: To converse with people… aah the joy!

Only when I got home and was interacting with the world again, did I notice the magic:

I chatted with Mum about how bland it had been, and that I surprised myself that I could live alone with no contact with anyone and not go crazy! Mum remarked that I seemed so much more serene as well as grounded.

And I realised that I felt amazing. So incredibly centred in my self. I’ve never felt such inner peace, trust, and strength before. I feel completely settled, incredibly content in my own skin. And so content with my life just the way it is. In the past I would wish I was one step (or ten) ahead of where I was. That ‘rushing’ I had, has melted away. I feel completely here. And it feels wonderful.

In the two days since my retreat I’ve been effortlessly productive. I hardly feel like I’ve worked, and yet I’ve got so much done.

In conclusion, though my 5 days felt bland a lot of the time, huge shifts were taking place within me. An appreciation of each moment, a melting of the ‘rushing’, a complete acceptance of where my life is today, excitement for the work I get to do, and the knowledge that I can be alone, for many days, and not go crazy.

What an amazing experience — so worth it!

If you’re thinking of doing your own silent retreat: Do it!!