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Source: (consider it) Thread: 8D - Quiet Zone: Silent retreats
Lyda*Rose

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# 4544

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Has anyone been on a silent retreat? I have a friend at church who takes one for two or three days at least once a year. She's an interesting person. She's quite outgoing and friendly -not compulsively so- yet she finds it satisfying spiritually to disconnect at a lovely monastery in Santa Barbara.

I've been thinking about trying it myself. I think I might do better with this discipline of external control than with a regular regimen of meditation. I'm afraid trying to empty my mind does to me what being told "don't think about a pink elephant" would. My mind stubbornly keeps filling. If the goal is not to talk, I think I can keep my mouth shut.

[ 19. March 2017, 14:36: Message edited by: RuthW ]

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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Golden Key
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Lyda--

Maybe I can help. I've been on silent retreats, both Christian and Buddhist. What would you like to know?

(FYI: it may take me a couple of days to get back to you.)

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--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?" (Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon")
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Welease Woderwick

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It's far too long since I did a silent retreat, I have always found them amazingly fulfilling. There is normally an emergency escape clause in that there is a person to whom you can go and talk if desperate [usually the Course Director].

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Sarasa
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I've done a few, all at Jesuit places and all based on Ignatian Spirituality. The one I liked best was a 'film retreat'. Each evening we watched a film and that gave a focus for your silent mediations the next day.

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'I guess things didn't go so well tonight, but I'm trying. Lord, I'm trying.' Charlie (Harvey Keitel) in Mean Streets.

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kingsfold

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I've done a couple of the silent Ignatian 8-day individually guided retreats. As a format, it worked really well for me, and whilst they weren't necessarily easy experiences, I received a huge amount from them.

As someone else said, are there any specific questions you've got?

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leo
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I did an 8 day IGR - itching to escape after 4.

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Ariel
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About six years ago the BBC aired "The Big Silence", where the then Abbot of Worth Abbey, Fr Christopher Jamison, invited five volunteers to spend a week at St Beuno's, which is a retreat centre in Wales. Some of you will remember this programme. The volunteers came from quite different, but mostly busy backgrounds, and most weren't even Catholic: it was fascinating to see how they coped with the setting of a silent retreat during that week. There was one point when it looked as if some might pack it in but all of them did actually stay for the whole course.

Telegraph article

"The Big Silence" attracted a lot of interest at the time. Deservedly so: following the participants' unpredictable journeys was quite a moving experience.

[ 31. October 2016, 19:39: Message edited by: Ariel ]

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Nenya
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I've never come across any meditation that tells you to "empty your mind" (and I can't have been the only one who in my past was told to beware anything that told you to empty your mind because the Devil can jump straight in [Eek!] ) but to allow thoughts to come and not give them too much attention seems to be more of the idea.

I have never been on a silent retreat, but would love to.

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Lyda*Rose

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Sorry, I got busy for a couple of days.

I guess I wanted to know how difficult you have found them. Or easy. And what kind of things have you done to fill your time during such a retreat? Prayer, I'd think. How much? Do you try for a Brother Lawrence experience and have a constant God-awareness? Reading? Drawing? Journalling? And what did you take away from it and how long did the effect last?

That's a start. [Biased]

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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Golden Key
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Lyda--

Gee, you ask such easy questions! [Razz] I'll respond in a few days.

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Blessed Gator, pray for us!
--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?" (Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon")
--"Oh, Peace Train, save this country!" (Yusuf/Cat Stevens, "Peace Train")

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Lyda*Rose

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I'm a simple gal. [Smile]

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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kingsfold

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How easy or difficult? I'm assuming you're interested in how difficult the silence itself, as a kind of external environment, was?

I’ve done a couple of 8-day individually guided retreats, so there has been a period of around 30-45 mins per day set aside to speak to your guide. Beyond that, and congregational response at the daily Mass, the rest of the time was in silence.

The first time I went, I admit to having been worried about how I’d cope with 8 days almost entirely in silence. In the event, it was no problem at all. Everyone there was either in silence themselves, or kept silent in the shared part of the house and at mealtimes, so there was if you like a greater, more corporate held silence. So not only were you holding your own silence but it was upheld by the silence of others. Does that make sense? And, as I said, I found being in and holding the silence no problem at all.

One of the things I hadn’t expected was that the group silence made you in some ways a lot more aware of the possible needs of the people about you. Just in little ways, like someone looking at you to check whether you needed the salt, or wanted a drink or something similar. If speech had been an option, you would just have asked, but because it wasn’t, it seemed to me that we were all much more solicitous of each other’s needs. And comedy moments in silence are quite something! On one occasion, someone was cutting up their lamb chop which was a little tough, and the bone shot off the plate onto the other side of the table. Cue 6 people trying very hard not to catch each other’s eye or snigger out loud!

For myself, I will look at other people and smile, or walk through a door held open and acknowledge it in silence, so interaction per se isn't absent. And sometimes that's important - I did one of these retreats earlier this year, and it was the first time one of my co-retreatants had been on a silent retreat. One of the things she said (once we were allowed to speak again) was "thank you for smiling at me."


As with all of these things, YMM of course, V. Silence is for some - it is for me - but not for others. Silence itself may be easy(ier) or more difficult. What goes on in the silence (or not) and what you do with your time (or not) is another post!

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I came to Jesus and I found in him my star, my sun.
And in that light of life I'll walk 'til travelling days are done


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Schroedinger's cat

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FWIW, I hate silent retreats. After a matter of hours, I am getting twitchy.

So it is perfectly reasonable to hate them. It doesn't mean that you are not a fully mature rounded and deeply spiritual individual. Not that I am necessarily an example of that, but there are those who are.

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kingsfold

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quote:
posted by Schroedinger's cat:
FWIW, I hate silent retreats. After a matter of hours, I am getting twitchy.

Can you say a bit more about what it is that makes you twitchy? Silence isn't for everyone, and it would be good to hear as much why it isn't as why it might be.
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Welease Woderwick

Sister Incubus Nightmare
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Jengie posted this on another thread and I have moved it for her:

quote:
How addictive is silence in such a retreat?

Sounds an odd question so some background. I will when over stressed often stop speaking for several hours. It always takes a determined act of will to speak when I am in the state (and so come out of it). My worry is that I would struggle to start talking again once I was so immersed in silence. Therefore I have tended to steer clear of fully silent retreats.

Jengie



--------------------
I give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.
Fancy a break in South India?
Accessible Homestay Guesthouse in Central Kerala, contact me for details

What part of Matt. 7:1 don't you understand?

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Welease Woderwick

Sister Incubus Nightmare
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For me it is highly addictive and nobody ever seemed too happy at that final tea to come out of the silence.

But I think it probably varies massively.

--------------------
I give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.
Fancy a break in South India?
Accessible Homestay Guesthouse in Central Kerala, contact me for details

What part of Matt. 7:1 don't you understand?

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Schroedinger's cat

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quote:
Originally posted by kingsfold:
quote:
posted by Schroedinger's cat:
FWIW, I hate silent retreats. After a matter of hours, I am getting twitchy.

Can you say a bit more about what it is that makes you twitchy? Silence isn't for everyone, and it would be good to hear as much why it isn't as why it might be.
To clarify, as a Quaker, a time of silence itself it not a problem. It is the length of time that starts to be an issue for me. I need to talk to people, or at least engage with others, rather more.

I suppose this is because I have something of the extrovert in me - without others and engagement with others, I am left with my own head, which is not a good place to be. When there is something to consider and mediate on, I can do some on my own, but I need to talk with others too, in order to continue engaging beyond a certain point.

I find this long-term, imposed, silence to be oppressive. However, there is an introvert part of me too. I could probably cope with a silent retreat if I could just go to my room and be by myself - probably listening to the radio or being on social media. But that is rather against the point, and after a few days of that, I would probably be bored.

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Blog
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Lord may all my hard times be healing times
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Nenya
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To me being on retreat, silent or not, means a break from TV, radio and social media - or at least limiting it strictly to, say, half an hour a day. I did five days away at a retreat centre the summer after my mum died and found it restorative and refreshing. I did take books and my journal, and dipped in and out of some of the creative courses going on at the same time, and ate some meals at a table on my own and others at the staff table where I was always welcome. There was a brief service in the chapel twice a day, which I went to.

A friend of mine did a silent retreat, completely alone in a small self catering cottage miles from anywhere. As far as I'm aware she took no phone or computer and no books, but music without words and a craft (not sure what, something like sewing or knitting, I believe). She didn't say much about it when she came back. I guess sometimes there are no words to describe things adequately.

I wouldn't like to be miles from anywhere as I'm a bit house-nervous, and I do like meals to be cooked for me when I'm away so that I get a break from thinking about food. I could do the silent thing and the break from media. I don't think I could do without books.

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Ariel
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I did a one-day one in my flat one Lent a few years ago: Sacred Space had helpfully provided a pdf with some readings and questions on their website that you could download, print out and use which would take you through a day, so I unplugged the phone, turned off the pc and got on with it.

It was actually remarkably productive, though I really needed the breaks in between to stop focusing deeply on the text and visualizing the scenes etc, and just to go and do something simple like make a cup of tea.

Spurred on by that I did another Sacred Space one the following year and got hardly anything from it, but part of that was readings I couldn't work with or get into easily.

I find that periodically I need to take an afternoon off and go and sit in a quiet church for a bit and just "listen". It's a kind of process of grounding/centring or earthing, basically.

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Sarasa
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When I go on retreats I tend to take tricky bits of knitting as I find that focuses the mind and avail myself of the Centre's art room to do some calligraphy or other art work. My favourite retreat was a Calligraphy and Prayer one where it took the whole weekend to write one sentance I was happy with (George Fox's 'Walk cheerfully over the world answering that of God in everyone'). I felt I had really focused on the text while doing it. However the retreat that probably was of most help spiritually was a Jesuit one when I was feeling very detatched to religion. I'm not sure it made me feel any more attached but it gave me an understanding that my feelings probaby didn't matter. the place had a wonderful wildflower meadow which I enjoyed walking in. It was by a very busy road, and the contrast between the peace inside and the noise outside was striking. As I'm deaf I could turn the outside noise off at will which was also something to ponder.

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Fineline
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I have gone on silent retreats, and sometimes I set aside time at home to have a silent retreat. I find it is about more than absence of sound - silence is not just an absence, and not purely about sound. I can go on the internet and chat silently through typing, but that is not silence to me. When I read and journal alone in a silent retreat, that is more silent than interacting with people online, but still not pure silence for me. Words are not silence. There is a point where you get past words, and to me that is silence. And it is not simply an absence - it's a fullness, a presence, of something that is hard to reach when words get in the way. I went on an Ignatian retreat and brought books and journals with me, but found myself spending a lot of time drawing or sculpting.
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kingsfold

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quote:
posted by Fineline:
There is a point where you get past words, and to me that is silence. And it is not simply an absence - it's a fullness, a presence, of something that is hard to reach when words get in the way.

Thank you for this. You have been able to articulate some of what I feel but have been unable to put into words.

--------------------
I came to Jesus and I found in him my star, my sun.
And in that light of life I'll walk 'til travelling days are done


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Miffy

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I've made a good many retreats, from a few day's length up to 30 days, latterly very much based in Ignatian spirituality. Reading some of your reflections on the qualities of silence is helping me formulate my own thoughts on the part this plays in my time apart. Like you, Fineline- silence goes beyond absence of noise. Certainly not 'emptying' my mind. I'd say it's more a de-cluttering; a focussing- a putting myself into a place of receptivity. Funnily enough, though I slip easily into outward silence, inward stillness isn't so easily come by for me. Even in the silence I can tie myself in knots, trying to control my times of prayer or following every passing thought in a way that's guaranteed to give me spiritual indigestion!

It helps me to do a complete IT fast: no i pad, laptop, phone for texts on arrival only to let the family know I've arrived safely. I tend to avoid reading, too. I might pack some easy reading, (Took the Number One Ladies' Detective Agency with me one year!) or some favourite reflections or poetry. I've found a good rule of thumb is 'Does this practice help or hinder?' Follow up some verses that have 'spoken' to me, yes; find myself compulsively trawling my way through the entire retreat house library catalogue- no!

I usually spend time each day with paints, pastels, clay and the like, and whatever the weather, just have to get out and about into the Great Outdoors at least twice a day. Ask me what on earth I 'do' outside of meals, services and meeting with a retreat guide and I'd be hard put to tell you, other than it works for me.

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kingsfold

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quote:
posted by Miffy:
I've found a good rule of thumb is 'Does this practice help or hinder?'

That works for me too. I tend to be a book/phone/IT free zone on retreat, because I find that they distract me from being/trying to be receptive.

I need to get out and walk. Somehow, the process of walking seems to bring mind, body & spirit together for me, and leaves me feeling a level of inner peace and wholeness. And that in turn helps me to be receptive and work with whatever else is going on.

I also find I write a lot as it's very often the act of trying to get down my feelings, thoughts and etc in words that clarifies them for me. Or I may knit.

However, the suggestion that I might like to go play in an art room has me running for cover, and has been known to induce something akin to panic.

[ 14. November 2016, 19:10: Message edited by: kingsfold ]

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Jengie jon

Semper Reformanda
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quote:
Originally posted by Welease Woderwick:
Jengie posted this on another thread and I have moved it for her:

quote:
How addictive is silence in such a retreat?

Sounds an odd question so some background. I will when over stressed often stop speaking for several hours. It always takes a determined act of will to speak when I am in the state (and so come out of it). My worry is that I would struggle to start talking again once I was so immersed in silence. Therefore I have tended to steer clear of fully silent retreats.

Jengie


After the last four days, I think I will keep steering clear of fully silent retreats in the near future. After the first silent prayer session (basically silence from bedtime until 8:30) I found it difficult to come out. After the second silence (the next night), I lost my voice which stayed dubious for the remainder of the time. It looks as if a fully silent retreat would leave me unable to speak.

Jengie

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Jengie jon

Semper Reformanda
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For those who are concerned, I do not have problems with sitting in silence, praying silently either alone or in groups. Indeed I am very much comfortable in such situations. It is the transition out that I find difficult.

Jengie

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"To violate a persons ability to distinguish fact from fantasy is the epistemological equivalent of rape." Noretta Koertge

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Ariel
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That's isolation for you. I find that after time on my own I get out of the habit of speaking to people.

I then find (let's say on a return to the office) that I become very aware of noise: the clatter of keyboards, the hum of machinery, doors opening and closing, phones ringing, the sound of footsteps, as well as voices. Even if nobody's speaking it's actually quite noisy.

Then there's the internal chatter, your own silent voice, which you may also find you try to still, and cease your thoughts for a bit. Gradually, however, normal life reasserts itself, and draws you back into participating by its mere presence, and you go back to tuning out the background noises as you did before.

I see it as the equivalent of retreating into the desert, as the desert fathers used to do. That's always been an environment that throws you back on yourself, and the resources you brought with you into it.

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Jengie jon

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Not really, being with people had started twenty minutes before the silence was broken. We gathered in silence for silent morning prayer.

Jengie

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"To violate a persons ability to distinguish fact from fantasy is the epistemological equivalent of rape." Noretta Koertge

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Chorister

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I went on one last week and it was the best thing I have done all year. I really should make it a regular part of every year. Peace and quiet is something that will wrap itself around you and soothe your soul, if you let it.

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Retired, sitting back and watching others for a change.

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Yorick

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I spent a silent week with the brothers at the Cistercian monastery on Caldey Island a couple of years ago (and posted a report of my experience on these boards somewhere). Even as an indelible atheist I found the experience profoundly moving, and I continue now to be influenced, nay, altered by it, in a remarkably positive way. It is no exaggeration to say that those nine days are amongst the most special of my godless life, which I admit to finding somewhat odd and probably a teeny bit hypocritical. I commend the process to anyone who may be of thoughtful disposition.

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این نیز بگذرد

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Miffy

Ship's elephant
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Very quiet round here. Is this board due to be pulled, or have we all retreated into the desert?

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"I don't feel like smiling." "You're English dear; fake it!" (Colin Firth "Easy Virtue")
Growing Greenpatches

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Pigwidgeon

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# 10192

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I thought it was supposed to be quiet...

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Don't keep calm. Go change the world.

Posts: 9532 | From: Hogwarts | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged
Gamaliel
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# 812

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I've not noticed this thread until now.

Hence my silence on it.

It's an idea that appeals to me. I will read the back-story from the posts so far.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

Posts: 15499 | From: Cheshire, UK | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Lucia

Looking for light
# 15201

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I have 24 hours of silent retreat booked for next week at an Anglican convent that I have visited a number of times before. I am very much looking forward to this! I haven't been on a silent retreat since 2015. Usually I try to go on one each year. Plenty to contemplate and process after a year of huge change in life and the prospect of a new phase about to start. I'll be there from lunchtime to lunchtime the next day. I find I particularly like to spend an overnight on retreat so that I can spend the evening and wake up the next day in the silence.

I usually spend the time in a mixture of prayer, reading - both bible and other, silent contemplation and meditation, attending the daily office in the chapel and walks around the grounds. And usually writing copious amounts in my journal. I find that writing is how I process things, often the act of writing helps me work out what I am actually thinking and feeling, and also often how I hear God speaking to me. The luxury of unbroken quiet and time to think is hugely refreshing and the act of being removed from my usual surroundings with all their constant demands and distractions often seems to lead me to see things in a new way. In the past I have found retreats to be times of revelation and understanding of deep issues in my life and steps towards their healing.

Having said all this, I am most definitely an introvert and I am curious to know how extroverts experience silent retreat. An extrovert friend of mine said that she thought it would drive her crazy with her own spiraling thoughts! Have any extroverts here been on silent retreat and how did they find it?

Posts: 1066 | From: Nigh golden stone and spires | Registered: Oct 2009  |  IP: Logged
Pangolin Guerre
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# 18686

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In partial response to the OP, and picking up on a few themes raised along the way....

Some many years ago, on the recommendation of a friend, I did a Buddhist retreat - Vipassana. It was a real meditative "boot camp". We took a vow of non-communication for 12(?) days: no reading, no writing materials, no journals, no electronic devices, obviously no conversation, no acknowledging one another in the corridor unless necessary (same at table). There were about 60 of us at the retreat, in double rooms (very strange to have a roommate with whom you can't communicate), so this required a great deal of discipline. My only conversation was the scheduled interview with one of the advisers. He asked how things were going, I said fine, and that was it. The morning that we were released from our vow (contrary to Welease Wodewick's observation), the dining room was cacaphonous to the point that I found it painful. I went back to my room, and, mercifully, my roommate was there. We started chatting, and he turned out to be a fascinating guy. I wish that we had had more opportunity to chat.

As to Schroedinger's Cat saying that he got twitchy, I think that this is a case of one size does not fit all. One fellow I spoke with before our vow said that this was his third attempt, that he couldn't make it through. Around Day 4, I sensed movement near me in the meditation hall - it was that guy, getting up, walking out. I never saw him again.

For me, a talkative omnivore who drinks wine daily and at that time drinking about a litre of coffee a day, and in constant media contact, the toughest deprivation for me was not silence, a vegetarian diet (the food was awful, but not because it was vegetarian), not the lack of alcohol or caffeine, but having no morning paper and crossword. Rather surprised me.

The experience had the rather unexpected result that it taught me that I am not built to be a Buddhist. That might sound negative, or a failure, but anything that clarifies an issue for us is worthwhile. In broad strokes, the experience and the video taped lectures in the evenings convinced me that unlike the Vipassana approach of equanimity to all experience, I will willingly purchase my joys at the price of pain. I will accept it all. I am, in my bones, in Nietzsche's phase, a "yes-sayer", yes to what life will throw at me. Joy at the cost of tears? Bring it on.

That's not to say that I haven't integrated silence into my life, but that's easier for me than most other people, because I live alone, so no one in my immediate environment is making demands on me. However, that silence isn't in the form of meditation as such, though perhaps silence alone in a church outside of hours might qualify.

As an experience, I would encourage anyone to try it. The results may be surprising, as they were for me.

Posts: 670 | From: 30 arpents de neige | Registered: Nov 2016  |  IP: Logged
Japes

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# 5358

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I also have a retreat booked at an Anglican convent I've known well, but haven't visited for a number of years. It's for just over three days, but for me, that's a short period of time in retreat. I prefer a full week as it can take me time to settle. However, this is also a test out to see if this is still a good place for me to go to.

I'll be silent from the Tuesday evening until the Saturday morning. I'll have writing materials, a Bible, and will probably join in offices as I feel inspired to do so, but not if I don't!

I will also have my walking boots, local maps and have every intention of going for long walks to think, weather permitting.

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Blog may or may not be of any interest.

Posts: 1991 | From: Somewhere in the middle | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Miffy

Ship's elephant
# 1438

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I'm like you, Japes. I need a good week to unwind, however for various reasons, it looks as if this may not be possible. I am booked in for a weekend's 'theme' retreat much later in the year though. I may be able to fit in a few days away before then, so am just now putting out feelers to find somewhere quiet. I don't, as a rule, do big, group conference type retreats.

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"I don't feel like smiling." "You're English dear; fake it!" (Colin Firth "Easy Virtue")
Growing Greenpatches

Posts: 4730 | From: The Kitchen | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged


 
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