When life gets too much, you might long for a get-away. Not one where you return more tired, but one where you spend quality time with your soul and dissolve away your worries and stress—an escape from the noise and chaos of daily living. If returning home feeling recharged, rejuvenated, and clear-headed is something that sounds ideal to you, then it is time to book yourself a silent retreat. Here, we’ll explain why and how to prepare for a silent retreat.
What is a Silent Retreat?
Many people panic at the thought of a silent retreat, but it could be exactly what your mind and body need in today’s challenging world. A silent retreat allows you to go inward and process thoughts in a calm, constructive way—going deeper into an understanding of who you are beyond ALL your identities, including the body, mind, intellect, and ego. Apart from guided group meditations, you may also spend time outside watching the sun rise and set, connecting to nature, and being immersed in tranquility. There are yoga and other forms of physical activity to prepare you for the meditations to calm the rajas or restlessness.
Find out more about what happens on a silent retreat here.
How to Prepare for a Silent Retreat
Whether you’re attending a silent retreat for the first time or are a retreat veteran, it always helps to prepare yourself mentally and physically to get the best out of the experience. Here are a few things to keep in mind before embarking on what may be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
- The checklist! Here’s everything you need to work through before the retreat:
- Make sure you do not have appointments, meetings, or any other engagements that can come up during the program.
- Let everyone know of your plans well in advance—prepare everyone for you being incommunicado.
- Make sure you are physically and mentally fit to take the retreat. If you are on medication or physically struggling, speak to your doctor before committing to the retreat. And, be sure to have all medications with you.
- Check with the retreat organizers about things you might need to bring along—a personal yoga mat (if you do not wish to use one that has been used before), a water bottle, comfortable clothing, a journal, etc.
- If meditation practices have acted as traumatic triggers for you in the past, work with your meditation instructors to find the right alternatives.
- Pack light. You will likely receive a list of things you need to bring from the organizers. Ideally, travel light so you can focus on the retreat instead of worrying about your stuff. Ideally, bring
- a meditation cushion/chair
- a notepad/journal and something to write with
- malas/rosaries, or anything else you may be using to enhance your spiritual practice.
- Weather-appropriate, comfortable clothing for inside and out.
- Research your retreat. This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed or unprepared when you arrive at the retreat center. Familiarize yourself with your travel route, the retreat hours, activities you will be involved in, meal time, rules and regulations, the type of room you will stay in, what amenities are available, etc.
- Pick wisely. This may seem like a small decision, but it is an important one. Make sure you have comfortable clothes—long and/or loose t-shirts, pajamas, track pants, etc., as you will spend a lot of time practicing meditations and doing stretches or yogasanas. (If you plan to have any Ayurvedic treatments, you may want to bring along a bathing suit or something that you can get oils on.) Wear light colors and cotton fabrics, so your clothes can breathe just as well as you. The idea is that when you are meditating, itchy or sweaty clothes are one problem your instructors may not be equipped to solve for you.
- Mentally prepare to stay off devices. You may be required to keep your devices away or switch them off during the retreat. If you are new to this, you may find it uncomfortable at first, but wait until you experience not having to answer pings and emails constantly, freedom from the news cycle, and the freedom from craning your neck over the phone all day. The retreat can be your best excuse to tell your co-workers, relatives, and friends that you are unavailable for a few days. Do let your family know about your schedule and device situation and provide them with an alternative way to get in touch with you for emergency purposes.
- Be willing to participate. As you go through the retreat, you may find yourself entering the unknown—especially if you are attending a silent or meditation retreat for the first time. From sitting through the different types of meditations to participating in activities that help you leave behind patterns that do not support your personal or spiritual growth, these can all seem unfamiliar and perhaps unsettling at first. But you can only get the most out of these retreats by fully participating in every process and activity. These programs are designed by master teachers who have been guiding them for a long time. They have seen the program deliver profound experiences again and again. So begin with trust and you will be surprised at what you find. But also, keep your expectations at home and then go for a retreat. You may end up getting more than what you had in mind.