‘Being on a Residential Silent Retreat ~ Frequent Questions About Being in Silence
Based on our experience running many Silent Retreats, these are some of the most common questions that people have beforehand.
Will I be bored?
Yes, there may be times when you meet the feelings of boredom, especially at the beginning when you are weaning yourself off your usual diet of stimulation and information. However, these times are very welcome, as behind the energy of boredom lies a gateway into something much richer and more satisfying. During our silent retreats we offer a range of optional activities that will help you navigate these times, such as the art room, labyrinth walking or gentle exercise sessions.
As your brain rhythm begins to slow down and you enter into the energy of the silent retreat more deeply, feelings of boredom drop away and your perception of time changes. Everything looks more beautiful and alive and all of your senses become sharper and there seems so much more to notice than before. The patterns on a leaf, or the curve of the staircase, or the shaft of sunlight on the stairwell and the aroma of a rose or your cup of tea move into the foreground of your awareness. It is not so possible to be bored when you begin to see and sense the world from this deeper place.
Sometimes boredom is a cover up for exhaustion and deep tiredness. It is very common when you first arrive on your silent retreat, to find that you begin to become aware of how tired you actually are. You may have been so busy keeping going that when you finally stop, the depth of your tiredness becomes apparent. This is a good thing. Being on a silent retreat means that you do not need to spend any energy on talking to or caring for others. Everything slows down, very few decisions need to be made, and you can allow the tiredness to draw you deeper into relaxation and stillness. Sleep, meditate or simply gaze out of the window, knowing that someone else is doing the cooking and there is nothing you have to do except relax.
Can I read on the Silent Retreat?
Generally we suggest that you do not read any other people’s thoughts during the retreat so that your mind is clear for you to receive your own words of guidance. The only exception we suggest to this are the words of Eckhart Tolle. His books are written from such a deep place of stillness that they are not entertaining to the mind and therefore do not distract you from your own stream of consciousness. We will have some copies of Eckhart Tolle’s books available to read at your leisure, otherwise to get the full benefit of this retreat I highly recommend that you avoid other reading material.
How does being in silence work in practice and what if I need to speak with you?
All usual forms of speaking communication such as conversation and chatting with others is suspended during your time in silence. However, a few words such as please or thank you to the kitchen staff or a simple request to the facilitators, kept to the absolute minimum will not disturb your experience of being on silent retreat. You can also make eye contact and use other forms of communication such as smiling or acknowledging another with a nod as you meet each other during the day. Or if you prefer you can go completely within and avoid all forms of non- verbal communication. It will be clear by your body language and demeanour what your preferences are, and will be respected.
You can also write a message to us at any time by leaving us a note in a box in the main reception area. We regularly check the box, and this can be used for anything, from questions or realisations about your experience, practical needs such as an extra pillow or a blown light bulb in your room, or anything else that you need to let us know about.
We will also let you know where we can be found during the night, should you require any emergency assistance.
Each full day on the silent retreat, we will be offering optional self-enquiry circles and these take place within the energy of ‘satsang’. Satsang is a Sanskrit word which translates as ‘in the company of truth’. Our self-enquiry circles create a sacred space for self-awareness sharing or emotional support, within a deeply meditative space. The speaking that happens here arises from a place that is deeper than conscious thought. It does not disturb the mind, and after attending a self-enquiry circle you are likely to find that your capacity to access the stillness has deepened.
You may be aware of the facilitators needing to communicate with each other on occasions too, and these communications take place within the energy of Satsang (‘Satsang’ is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘in the company of truth’).
Do I have to attend all the sessions on the Silent Retreat?
The only sessions that we ask everyone to attend are the morning and evening group meditations. Everything else is optional. If for any reason you feel you cannot attend one of these, then we ask that you let one of the facilitators know in advance, otherwise we will come and look for you. The reason that we ask that everyone attends these is that although we are attending the retreat as individuals, we are going through the process of being in silence together.
Each morning and evening meditation is designed to take us all as a group deeper into the silence, as well as imparting important guidance to support you during the retreat. You may be amazed how connected you feel to each other as well as being in your own space. This is why our retreats are so well received and nourishing on every level.
There will also be a Conscious Resting session, which we will all experience at the same time, every afternoon after lunch in your own room or in the house or garden. Conscious resting is simply using the power of intention to connect with the universal energy field, the source of the energy that created you. As you surrender into deep rest and relaxation, you may fall asleep or simply doze as you open to receive any healing or guidance or practical advice that your infinite intelligence or soul wants to reveal to you. There is something very beautiful and profound that happens when we do this together on our silent retreats and is a very popular part of your retreat experience.
What are the optional activities?
We will be offering a variety of different experiences, all designed to help you go deeper into the silence. Being on a silent retreat is an ideal time to connect to your innate creativity so there will be an art room for you to visit at any time day or night. Here you will able to paint, draw or colour mandalas.
Outside at Nanpanton Hall there is a permanent stone labyrybnth embedded in the lawn. The labyrinth is an ancient tool for private reflection, used throughout the centuries for walking the spiritual path. The labyrinth is a metaphor for life. The winding path that you follow, with its many twists and turns, will always eventually lead you to the centre, back to Source. And then as you return, guided by the path, you may receive insights or a deeper understanding to questions that you have been asking. Walking the labyrinth has been a popular feature of our silent retreats, and can be especially magical when walked in the early morning or after dark when it is sometimes lit by candle light.
There are also acres of beautiful countryside to explore surrounding Nanpanton Hall. Jan will also be offering nature breathing sessions, these are guided meditative walks with time to consciously breathe with the smells, sounds and energies of the natural world.
Finally, we will be offering daily self-enquiry circles. These are confidential sacred spaces for anyone who wishes to share in the energy of ‘satsang’ (see above) or who feel they would benefit from some therapeutic or emotional support. All our facilitators have many years’ expereince working with groups, and they bring all their skills to these sessions. These sessions have always been part of our retreat offerings and provide an opportunity to dive more deeply into any issues that arise during the retreat. They can be extremely powerful and have often been life changing as well as illuminating for everyone present. It is also very supportive to undergo deep work of this nature within the nurturing and supportive environment of being on retreat.
Through our extensive experience of facilitating silent retreats, we have designed the timetable in such a way as to offer a flexible, interesting and supportive range of activities to help everyone receive the maximum benefit of being in stillness and silence on our retreats.
Why can I not use my phone or connect with technology?
In our modern fast paced society, our brains are used to operating at higher and faster frequencies, producing gamma and beta brainwaves. Going into silence lowers the brain rhythms into the more relaxed and meditative alpha, delta and theta states. Technology and conversation stimulate the brain, and this is not only stressful for the mind and the body but disconnects you from the source of your higher power. It takes a while for the mind to unwind and slow down, and the longer you spend in silence, the deeper you go. This is why it is very important to honour the process, both for yourself and for the other retreatants, and not break the silence through phone calls or talking. Even opening your phone to check for messages takes you out of the sacred space you have created for yourself. And though we are in silence as individuals, we will also be part of a collective energy field and this is why being on a silent retreat with others is so powerful.
This is why we suggest you give your friends and family our 24 contact number so that they know that they can contact you in an emergency while you are on the silent retreat.
What do I do if the silence brings up old memories or uncomfortable feelings?
As distractions drop away, and you begin to have time and space to reflect, it is possible that old memories or buried feelings stored in your unconscious may arise to the surface for clearing. This is good news and something to be welcomed. We will be giving you guidance on how to handle these as well as offering the self-enquiry circles for extra support.
Also, the mind may become very busy and noisy and distracting! If you are new to being on retreat, this may come as a surprise but it is a very important part of the process. Meditation and stillness cleanses the mind, so in the early days especially you may find the mind being much busier that you would like. The key is the be kind to the mind and give it permission to think what it wants, whilst staying present to what is happening. Again, you will be guided during the retreat on how to support your mind so that it works for you and ultimately becomes the gateway to accessing the deep inner stillness that lies within.
We are here to support you through this very special time. At the beginning of the retreat each facilitator will take a small group through the main aspects of the retreat and that facilitator will continue to be an extra point of contact for the duration of the retreat. If this is your first time in being in silence, you will be in a group with others who are also on a silent retreat for the first time.
What happens at the end of the Silent Retreat?
Every retreat, however long the duration, follows the same rhythm. We start slowly and gently to begin with, before we reach the middle and deepest part of the retreat, and then we prepare to return, equally gently and slowly. During the morning of the last day, you will be guided out of the silence ready for us to meet together over lunch. We will finish our retreat with some tips and suggestions for how to nourish your experience of being in silence once you arrive home.
We also recommend that you allow yourself some time to adjust to the busy-ness of daily life once you get home, ideally by taking a day or two after the retreat to acclimatise to ‘normal’ life. The benefits will continue long after you get home, especially if you can ease your mind gently back and you continue to nourish your stillness practice with regular meditation and conscious resting.
Finally, even after you have returned home, you can always contact us and tap into a variety of different ways we offer to help you stay in the energy.
Together with the team, I look forward to welcoming you on our silent retreat. We think you are going to love it!