Among the great passions I discovered a few years ago is a regular meditation practice. Normally I will sit for up to an hour in the mornings, attending meditation retreats at regular intervals. Last month, together with a few friends, we organised our first self-guided silent meditation retreat in my house in the South of France. Spending six days in complete silence, including no physical or eye-contact seems for many people a daunting prospect. Yet for us the week was a really fundamental and enjoyable experience.
My friends and I (Bettina, Sonia, Martin and Stefan) have assembled a few guidelines, tips and accessories which we would like to share in order to encourage more people to start their own, self-organized silent meditation retreats. Here you find our Silent Meditation Starter Kit Google Doc.
But first, let us explain why we are such fans of spending anything between three to sixteen days in silence. A silent retreat:
- let’s you become intimate with yourself and get to know yourself better.
- let’s you become much more conscious of your own emotional landscape and thought processes. While your busy, fragmented „monkey mind“ dominates the meditation sessions during the first few days, after day four or five, the mind usually calms down, creating periods of beautiful deep stillness and calm.
- surfaces negative feelings which we normally supress, such as fears and anxieties, but also anger or shame. It works like a furnace: you are confronted with the emotions, observe them and thereby turn them into an object. This way you are less consumed or „possessed“ by an emotion and more able to look at it from the outside. Access to previously unconscious and supressed emotions increases the coherence in you, can make you a more relaxed person. You can align your physical, emotional and intellectual capacities.
- let’s you grow and clear your „inner space“, less identification with certain ideas, worries and thoughts, which enables you to be more relaxed and see topics from a more holistic, wider perspective.
- let’s you experience quite spectacular energetic phenomena, such as deep states of calm. You may also witness exciting energy rushes through the body, which can be similar to drug-induced experiences.
- opens up your intuition. You will very likely experience sudden bursts of creativity and interesting new ideas, which are surprising to yourself.
- makes you see topics in your life in a greater perspective. Sometimes answers to questions which you have failed to answer intellectually, suddenly appear in front of your inner eye. Let’s you develop a better understanding of the direction and meaning of your own life.
- increases your awareness of subtle pheonomena such as group dynamics. There can be an intuitive „knowing“ about a situation, for example in the family or at work.
- let’s you experience higher, transrational and transpersonal states of consciousness.
- let’s you connect with a larger, more essential version of yourself, what people might call your soul or bigger mind.
For those of you who would like to experiment with silent meditation retreats themselves, we have assembled a google doc, which sets out in detail how to prepare for and carry out such a retreat. Here we share with you our daily routine — from meditation practices to the preparation of meals. We also give advice on possible challenges and crisis, as well as include a checklist for things to bring along to make the retreat more enjoyable. Check out the Silent Meditation Starter Kit Google Doc.
We intent to enrich the Starter Kit in the near future with additional materials, such as audio guided meditations, recipies and reports from practitioners.
P.S. Please be aware, that silent meditation retreats are not for everyone. Apart from one novice, we all had previous experiences with extended silent retreats in a safe setting (such as Vipassana or with our meditation teacher Thomas Hübl). If you are uncertain whether this practice is suitable for you, do contact a meditation teacher or experienced meditator and ask for advice.