Silent Retreat by Mary Pearson
I have recently returned home from a six-day silent retreat. The centre I stayed in is near Rhyl in North Wales.
Wales was still keeping to many of the Covid restrictions that have been removed in England. Therefore, we practised social distancing and wore our masks in some indoor settings. I travelled on the train and wore a mask all the way. Life is returning to some sort of normal, but we still have to be careful as Covid hasn’t gone away.
Making a retreat in silence isn’t for everyone. When people asked where I’m going away to and what I’ll be doing it is so interesting to listen to their reaction to the idea of not speaking for six whole days. Most people immediately say, ‘I couldn’t do that’. Being silent is challenging and something that most of us aren’t used to. We live in a world of noise and constant stimulation from TV, radio, social media, YouTube, technology, and so on. Walking down a street anywhere you see people chatting on their phones or engrossed in following a thread on Facebook or Instagram. Sometimes it seems people are frightened of silence.
While on the retreat I thought about what we mean by silence. Is it simply not speaking to other people?
The dictionary definition: absence of sound, abstention from sounding, speech, mention or communication.
So, is silence simply not speaking to other people or is there more to it than that? When we being silent are we still talking to ourselves? I was sitting at lunch one day and everyone was eating their food in silence. However, I did notice that I was observing my fellow diners and, it has to be said, making judgements of them. I did however realise what I was doing and made a definite attempt from then on to focus on my food and not on my companions! It is so easily done, making judgements and then are we really being silent or are we having an internal conversation?
Silence can be much more and can be profoundly beneficial to us. To be silent and meditate can take us to a place of deep stillness that is very nourishing. As Francis Bacon says: ‘Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.’
‘Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise’ by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Through silence, Thich Nhat Hanh reveals, we are free to hear, to see - and just be.
With kindest regards,