Silence, complete silence. Am I ready, really ready? That is the thought expressed by participants when I am facilitating Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Programs, just before our All-Day Silent Retreat.
It is not only the concern about coming into silence, in recent years. The added challenge is whether one is willing to be without devices (laptop, smartphone, tablet).
Well, for those of us in training to be a teacher/facilitator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, a certain number of retreats is mandated, as well as a certain number of days (5-10 days). So ready or not, here you go! By the time one becomes certified to teach, silent retreats become a choice, yes, a choice.
When I attended my first retreats, I perceived retreat as a means to deepen my practice, to be with my self away from the distractions of life, a respite. However, this is what came up….
- The challenges of navigating travel and associated costs to the west or east coast USA
- Thoughts upon arrival at the first retreat: “Oh my gosh, you are kidding me? I thought we were just required not to speak, now you are encouraging me not to write, read, or listen? I brought a journal to write in, and books to read, and planned to listen to meditations…..”
- Riding the wave of the pleasant and unpleasant nature of being away from the comforts of home (water pressure, kitchen windows, my bed/pillow, NPR/WBEZ, couch, car, podcasts, familiar foods, snacks)
- Vegetarian food, may that be an option versus the entire menu?
- Perception: ongoing stories arising about those you share community with, in silence, the nature of the mind!
- The thought: “Oh no, what if I come undone?”
I have recently come to realize, after participating in many silent retreats, that attending a silent retreat is a means to lean into discomfort, ride the waves of calm, challenge and too much, and with kindness, call upon tools to support me as I ride those waves hour to hour, day to day. Tools include the myriad of formal and informal mindfulness practices that I know, appreciate, and continue to practice.
Retreat is also an opportunity to be in the nourishing nature of silence, in community (so powerful, I feel), such a beautiful thing!!
Being on retreat affords me the opportunity to be curious about myself, revisit the dormant aspects of myself that I have allowed, consciously or unconsciously, to be placed on the perimeter of my awareness secondary to the busyness or idleness of life.
Being on retreat also affords me the opportunity to deepen my understanding of myself as a teacher, to gain even more insight into what I am asking of those I am teaching, and to savor the gift of shared humanity from noticing what is here now, and practicing.