Last Thursday afternoon, my friend, Carin and I set off to the Coramandel for three nights. This was not a typical “girly” weekend. No this was one where we were to be in silence for three full days and two nights.
Earlier on this year, I had put Silent Retreat onto my Happy 100 List, (100 things I wanted to do this year that would bring more joy into my life).
It is something that I have always been quite intrigued by I guess but never quite had the courage to go along to until now.
Somehow it felt easier to go with a friend even though we would not speak much to each other. Just that whole company thing really was awesome and to have that companionship in the car.
The first impression of the retreat centre was that of peace and tranquility. It was kind of in the middle of nowhere really but with forests and sea on either side of it. Pretty beautiful really and got an immediate sense of relaxation. We were met by this lovely Japanese lady who I can only describe as the female equivalent of Mr Myagee ( From Karate Kid). Very composed.
The first night, 15 of us ladies met in the kitchen area and were provided with a lovely vegetarian meal. We were allowed to talk at this time, the silence started in the morning. It was lovely to meet new people, the extrovert in me loves meeting new souls and getting to know them. So all seemed very good and well and we had an introductory circle in the evening where we all got to share why we were there. I guess I hadn’t really thought about this until I got there, but my reason was to take some time out for myself, plug out of the world of social media, and to “contemplate” different areas of my life. Time to reflect and think about where everything is headed really and to have some “time out from life”.
The next morning, 5.30am was the beginning of our silence. It started with a 1.5 hour yoga session. Felt good. I do love yoga so this was good. Then breakfast. This was when it really hit me. I went into the kitchen area and was hit by this thunderous silence. No one was speaking, and eye contact was not recommended. So suddenly the feeling of isolation really kicked in. I had this overwhelming feeling of sadness. I was trying to figure out why I felt so sad. It was the part of me who LOVES people. The part of me that wants to connect, to love and feel loved. That was gone. So as we chewed down our nutritious breakfast of fresh fruit and granola, mindfully and quietly, I knew this was actually going to be pretty challenging.
Everything we have learned about good manners and being kind and polite, well it just felt like it went right out of the window. I felt so bad I could not say “thank you” to those who had created my food. ☹
First meditation session…… 8.30am to 11.30am!! You have to be KIDDING me!! This is Mrs Ants in her pants!! How could I possibly sit still for this length of time???? The lovely Japanese lady who ran the meditation sessions seemed to know her stuff and put us at ease pretty quickly. Surrounding myself with bolsters, cushions, blankets.. This was a recipe for the biggest NANA NAP of ALL times!! First 45 minutes went by way quicker than I had imagined it could. All I could see was black, with my eyes closed, focusing on our breathing and chanting… OM in our heads…. “Inner peace come to me…” My mind was going overtime and I started to realize it actually is possible to have the 60,000 thoughts they say we have per day. I think in this first hour, I had at least half of them. SHhhhh mind, you meant to be meditating!
It was quite a vision when I sneaked a little peak from behind my blanket. 15 women all sitting around the room, crossed legged, eyes closed and not saying too much!!
I was amazed my bum stayed still throughout.
So we did a little walking meditation for ten minutes in between sessions. Perfect time to take oneself off for a little toilet break. Then back into another 45 minute session. Then another. The last one was where I started to cry!! I had no idea but I just felt overcome with sadnesss.
3 hours later, time for another Yoga Nidra session. This is where you lie down and the teacher basically gets you into a state of utter relaxation. I could feel a nap coming on, but NO, I didn’t !! What was happening to me? This was NOT like me at all. Lunch time, and again the overwhelming feeling of sadness hit me. I think it was that I just couldn’t speak to anyone. But somewhere inside the introvert in me was starting to enjoy the lack of small talk. The time to be quiet and accepted and not to have to make small talk. That in itself can be quite tiring sometimes.
There was time to get to the beach in between sessions and this was my first blunder. The two dogs who lived on the retreat centre came bouldering up to me. “HELLOOOOOOOO” I said, followed by a little swear word….. WOOPS I spoke!! Oh well. It was just so instinctive.
The afternoon sessions included more Yoga and mediation. We also had chance to go into the garden to do some “weeding” at this point I couldn’t take my emotions anymore and had to take off for a good cry. Loads of tears coming from no where. But it did feel good as it can to have a really good cry.
Evening meals were delicious and I don’t know whether it was because we were not speaking, but eating that mindfully was quite a lovely experience. All the yoga and meditation really gave us a good apetite. So every mouthful was explosive with great taste! It was truly lovely. It reminded me to slow down in my every day life and not to do too many tasks at one time.
The evening session including some chanting around in a circle and then sharing of the day. I chose not to break my silence. Others did and spoke of their challenges and experiences of the day. Thankfully a few others had felt what I had which made me feel a little better.
After a really good night sleep we did the same thing again all over again. Pretty much exactly the same programme. This day however, I was feeling much more like my old self again and was enjoying feeling the positivity. I seemed to relax more into the meditations and Yoga. I started to think that this meditation thing actually works. You see I have tried on and off for years but always felt like a bit of a “failure” as I can’t seem to quiet my mind. But the lady who runs the sessions, convinced me that actually it doesn’t matter. It’s not the point. It’s about observing our thoughts but not getting too involved with them. So I could start to do this.
What came up for me was that I am glad I have done a lot of work recently on my mindset. I was grateful that I have a pretty good relationship with myself nowadays. Had I done this retreat a few years ago, it could have been a very different story.
Being quiet for 3 days is a VERY good way to find out what your relationship with yourself is actually like and that internal voice has a LOT to say. Fortunately if any of the negative stuff came up, I have good tools to tell them to leave. My sadness I discovered was a bit of suppressed grief. I couldn’t get my Grandpa out of my thoughts, we had a very close relationship and I just felt him around me. It was comforting but sad too.
By day 3 we had a 4.30am start.. Yoga at this time according to all the Yogi Masters say this is the best time to practice. Challenging time even for this early bird!!
What I did do whilst I was alone with my thoughts for three days was decide what was really important in my life. What I could let go of and what I really wanted to bring more of in. I made a little declaration to myself that my meditation practice was going to be that of a regular thing. Daily, every morning, for 15 minutes I will meditate. The benefits are enormous and it just adds to my tool kit of things to keep me feeling the best I can. Already I feel much calmer and have handled a couple of situations way better than I may have previously. I have had no feelings of overwhelm at all so far. I have “organized and decluttered my mind”. That’s what I feel like anyway.
Sunday afternoon was in a way emotional saying goodbye to these souls who we hadn’t really had a chance to connect with, but in some strange way had. We had all gone through this possibly life changing and transformative weekend together. Probably not see each other again and I have never enjoyed goodbyes.
Would I do it again? Yes I would, in a heartbeat. The time out was priceless. The decisions I made about certain aspects of my life, priceless. How often do we get this chance to contemplate our lives so much without the distraction of social media, or really everyday life. The biggest message I got was to SLOW DOWN. I really understood what it meant too. Since then I have noticed how much more mindful and present I have been in my everyday life. I also really am certain what bounderies I need in my life to create some personal space and one includes around technology. There are times of the day and night when I simply put it away. Creating more space for me and my family. My family and friends are amongst the most important thing in my life. I want to enjoy every moment I can with them. Would I do the 10 day retreat? HELL NO!!! I would most likely internally implode!!!
Would I recommend it to anyone? Yes, I would but prepare to meet yourself in a rather new way. Prepare to change your life and transform in a way which may just blow your mind. It might be one of the most personally challenging things I have done yet. I didn’t realise it at the time but as I reflect, it probably was. Challenging but incredibly rewarding. When we break out the comfort zone, magic really does happen.