I am just getting back from a week long silent meditation and yoga retreat.
I’ve always wanted to go on a retreat like this. For someone who is naturally talkative, and with a busy mind, the concept of doing nothing at all, including speak, for a whole week was very intriguing.
I finally had the opportunity to do it, and so earlier this year I booked myself a spot among a small group of women who would be participating in a silent meditation and yoga retreat on a 100 acre farm in a rural part of Maine. I was excited. I was thrilled actually! This was going to be an experience of a lifetime and I could hardly wait.
But as the retreat approached all the peace and solitude I was looking forward to began to turn into anxiousness about logistics. Would I miss Adam and the kids too much? Would eating in silence be painfully awkward? Would the hours of yoga and meditation each day be out of my league? What if it’s a cult and I’m about to be brainwashed?!?
I blame most of my anxiety about the trip on an article I read where the writer explained in great detail the agony of the retreat process and how miserable it was for him. On top of that, as I told people where I would be going, I was shocked to find out that the majority of people said it sounded like torture. Yes, there were the few that said they would also love to go on retreat and that it sounded lovely, but most people find the idea of being without their families, with no talking, no reading, no recreational drugs or alcohol… no fun.
I started to panic the week leading up to the retreat. They wouldn’t check my bags when I arrived, would they? I could bring canned wine, that would be easy to dispose of, maybe a cell phone decoy could be handed in at the start of the retreat and I could hide the real thing at the bottom of my suitcase? Snacks! Would they have snacks? What if I got hungry, I’d have to bring my own snacks.
I began to dream up all sorts of ways to “cheat” my way out of actually having to be silent and follow the retreat rules.
To make all the stress even worse, I was going to be the only person staying alone in a cabin without electricity and an outhouse for my bathroom, which by the way was a 10 minute walk through the woods via footpath to the house where all the meals, yoga and meditation sessions were happening (not to mention the shower!). At the time this option was offered to me, I thought I had won the lottery! The privacy, the solitude, the nature! But as it got closer and closer to go time, I was feeling like a fool for thinking this cabin was a good idea.
Surely, I had gone mad. Why do I always get myself into these things?
Deep breath… I persisted.
I tied up loose ends at work and home, said goodbye to my family and headed on the drive north to the woods of Maine and my tiny cabin of doom. I was excited, scared, but ready, for whatever it would be. I even decided to follow the rules and left the canned wine and cell phone decoy at home. :)
I can tell you that the experience was simply amazing.
I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. All the things I thought would be awkward weren’t. All the things I thought would be scary weren’t. The yoga was not too much, turns out my years of practice (albeit on and off at times) was plenty to keep up with several hours of yoga a day. The meditation was peaceful and enlightening. The hiking was superb and my cabin was the majestic little gem in the woods that I had originally imagined it would be - I began to feel like I’d won the lottery afterall.
I reflected on so many things over the week of quiet, being alone with zero responsibilities or forms of entertainment will do that to you! I realized how easy it is for us all to create stories about what may or may not happen. Stories about who we are or aren’t.
I myself created quite a story about the retreat before it began. At first it was a glorious tale of all the enlightenment I would find in those woods, my spirit animal, the meaning of life, the answers to the difficult questions, all of it. As time went on, I morphed the story into a tale of weird, cult joining women, slurping soups and crunching granola together at a shitty cafeteria style table.
Neither story turned out to be true.
That’s the thing. The stories we tell ourselves are usually just that, stories. Good, bad, or otherwise, it’s a guess. An imaginary way we hope things may be, or we fear things might become. But none of it is true.
The only true thing is actually being. Being present in the experience, in the moment, in your life, in your work, with your family, with yourself. Living. The only thing we have is right now, this very moment. And the only story that matters is the one unfolding beneath your feet as you read these words.
So as for the silent meditation and yoga retreat experience, I highly recommend it.
For me, it was one of the most nourishing, interesting and restful experiences of my life. I loved it and I will do it again. As for you...who knows? But one thing is for certain, you could create a story about what it might be like, or you could try it out and know for sure.
That goes for everything. You can waste your time creating stories about your life, or you can get busy living it.
And now I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever been on a silent retreat? If not, would you consider it? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!
Until next time… Thanks for reading!