In a world where distractions and technology dominate our lives, the concept of silence seems to be quite elusive and absent. The stream of ongoing busyness can keep us away from ourselves, and consequently from finding inner peace and tranquillity.
Just as we need physical training and nourishing food to develop healthy bodies, we also need regular mental training and nourishing thoughts to develop healthy minds. But in a society that encourages distractions through hedonistic pursuits, we have mostly lost our natural ability to feel a connection with our authentic selves. This can lead to mental unrest.
Silent retreats are designed to invite us to reconnect with ourselves by embracing silence and embarking on an introspective journey. These retreats give attendees a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of everyday living as it’s an opportunity to fully immerse in a uniquely quiet and supportive environment.
Origins of Silent Meditation Retreats
The roots of silent meditation retreats can be traced back to an ancient Indian meditation technique dating back over 2,500 years. The technique is known as Vipassana, which loosely translate to ‘insights’, and was founded by Gotama the Buddha.
Vipassana focuses on the interconnection between mind and body and is way of self-transformation through self-observation.
While Vipassana is engrained in Buddhism, it strongly emphasises its non-sectarian methodology. Meaning the practice is entirely universal and for people from all walks of life. So everyone of any ethnicity, religion, age group, and gender can benefit from this technique.
All that one needs is curiosity for inner exploration and a commitment to the Code of Discipline:
Vipassana promotes full introversion by encouraging a practice called Noble Silence. This is the silencing of your body, speech, and mind. To achieve this, it’s prohibited to make eye contact, gesture, read, write, exercise, listen to music or use technology.
This has become the foundation of silent meditation retreats today.
Silent Meditation Retreats today
Silent meditation retreats today can vary in how they are organised. While they’re all deeply rooted in the Vipassana technique, some have adapted to be less intensive or prolonged. The length of a silent retreat can range anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and, in some cases, even a few months.
Typically, daily activities involve silent or guided meditation practice, mindful eating, mild movement such as walking or stretching, the practice of loving-kindness and sometimes group discussions with the meditation teachers and other attendees.
When it comes to the guiding principles, some retreats will ask participants to strictly adhere to Noble Silence, where you’re to refrain from any form of communication, writing or reading. While other retreats will encourage activities such as journaling and mindful conversations with each other and meditation teachers.
6 Life-Changing Benefits
So now that we know the foundations of silent meditation retreats, it’s only natural to want to know the benefits. To address this, we’ve compiled the 6 life-changing benefits that you’ll gain from participating in a silent retreat.
With all the daily distractions in life, our attention is often pulled away from ourselves. This has made it challenging to acknowledge and observe all the sensations and feelings that arise in our bodies and minds. Silent meditation teaches you to become aware and objective in recognising any thoughts, feelings, and sensations that surface. That way you can reflect on, rather than suppress, them.
One guiding principle of silent meditation is acceptance of the present moment. This means to practice accepting things as they are, rather than wanting things to be different. Often, when we’re trying so hard to change reality to suit our ideals and desires, we create perpetual suffering.
Think about all the times you’ve felt frustrated when stuck in traffic. Even though you know all you can do is wait it out, you still react impatiently, and this creates a negative experience. Silent meditation teaches us to find peace by accepting, not resisting, the present moment exactly as it is.
A silent meditation retreat gives us the opportunities to be away from our daily responsibilities and to delve deep in mindfulness. The perspectives gained from this allows us to be more focus and present when we return to our daily lives. This helps us resolve problems more efficiently, which reduces stress and anxiety.
What’s more impressive is that science has proven silent meditation can physically alter our brain structures for the better. Regular meditation can thicken the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, the regions of the brain associated with emotional regulation. This means, committed practitioners have a healthier relationship with their emotions.
When we take the time to explore and examine our internal world, we strengthen our relationship to ourselves. When we understand ourselves better – what brings us joy, what pushes us away – we can hold ourselves in loving-kindness.
In having a clearer and calmer mind, this loving-kindness also extends beyond ourselves and to others. We tend to respond calmly rather than react thoughtlessly to situations outside our control. And when we respond, it’s with empathy, kindness, and compassion including when we’re expressing our own needs.
The distractions of life serve to distance us from the discomfort of distressing thoughts and feelings. So when we remove all distractions completely, suddenly we’re confronted by the entire range of our emotions. By quietly sitting with our internal world, we learn to accept and manage any discomfort.
In responding mindfully, emotions no longer have the ability to overpower us. We’re able to acknowledge, accept and befriend our feelings. It’s widely accepted that our emotions tend to affect our behaviour. So when we regain control over our emotions, we build resilience and in turn can live a more fulfilling life.
Prolonged silent meditation and mindfulness enhances self-confidence, emotional regulation, and mindful behaviours. This gives us the opportunity to focus on our own emotions, feelings and needs to achieve our personal development goals. This can have positive, long-lasting effects on our mindsets and approaches to life.
So there you have the 6 life-changing benefits that you’ll gain from attending a silent meditation retreat. Given all the uncertainty in the world we’ve been facing, it’s understandable why many people are choosing to turn towards the ancient logic of exploring their inner world to find peace. It’s as Rumi said:
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
If you’d like to practice Vipassana in its pure form, the 10 Day Vipassana Meditation Retreat is offered year-round and at zero cost to ensure everyone has the opportunity to benefit from this ancient technique.
However, if you’re interested in a silent meditation retreat, but don’t want to commit to too much time straight up, there are many options for shorter retreats. The most popular ones include Metta Meditation Weekend in Margaret River, 3 Day Silent Mediation on the Sunshine Coast, and 5 Day Silent Retreat in Margaret River.
Or if the idea of an entire retreat in silence sounds too intensive, you can start with retreats that incorporate silent meditation with other activities such as Tantra Yoga and Meditation on Stradbroke