Before signing up for a Silent Retreat, please read this description of what a typical retreat is like. These guidelines are adapted from IMS in Barre MA.
What is retreat life like?
At Retreat Centers, most courses follow a typical daily schedule that starts at 5-6:30 am and ends at 9-10:00 pm. The day is spent in silent practice with alternate periods of sitting and walking meditation. Three meals are served – breakfast, lunch and a light dinner. Comprehensive meditation instruction and talks about the teachings are offered daily. In addition, group or individual meetings with the teachers about meditation practice take place at regular intervals.
A short work-as-practice period is set aside each day, usually lasting 45 minutes–1 hour. This gives retreatants an opportunity for mindfulness during everyday activities, from chopping vegetables or washing dishes to vacuuming or cleaning bathrooms. This voluntary service period is essential to the smooth operation of the center.
The retreat environment, with its simple yet nourishing lifestyle has been developed over several decades and is designed to support and enhance your meditation practice.
Why are retreats in silence?
Once your course begins, you will be asked to honor what is known as ‘noble silence’ – a quieting of the body and voice that helps cultivate a calm and peaceful retreat environment. This powerful tool greatly enhances the deepening of concentration and awareness. Noble silence also fosters a sense of safety and spiritual refuge, even in a course filled with manyparticipants.
Since walls may be thin at the center and everyone lives together in close community, your willingness to embrace the silence and simplicity helps everyone – it not only acts as a support for your own practice but is also a direct way of supporting your fellow retreatants.
We request that you not engage in other forms of communication while on retreat. Please turn off your cell phones for the duration of your stay and leave behind your laptops, iPods, iPads and other communication devices so that you can commit to your retreat wholeheartedly and reap the benefits of that commitment. Noble silence includes not reading, writing, keeping a journal, receiving mail, or otherwise keeping busy and distracted. By leaving at home the many activities and communications that worldly life entails, you offer yourself the gift of stillness.
Before the Retreat begins, you will be given a phone number that you can give to a family member or close friends to use in case of emergency, since you will not be using your own cell phone.
Silence is broken at the end of Retreat Center courses, in time to allow you to talk and share your experience with other participants.
Is a retreat appropriate for me at this time?
An intensive silent retreat can be a positive and life transforming experience. At the same time, meditation practice can be strenuous and requires some stability of physical and psychological health.
If you have recently experienced considerable trauma, significant depression or anxiety, or are currently experiencing strong PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), a silent retreat may not be appropriate for you at this time in your life. A therapist can help you assess the wisest course duration for you, or if it’s best to wait a while before signing up. Daily life practice may be more beneficial meanwhile.
Why is simplicity supportive of meditation practice?
Over the decades, meditation teachers have given careful consideration to creating the conditions most conducive to deepening the qualities of tranquility, kindness and understanding. Silence and simplicity stand as two core pillars of our retreat culture and provide the framework for stepping back from the busyness and complexity of our lives and moving into a quieter way of being and living.
In this spirit, we request that you please:
– Turn off your cell phones for the duration of your stay.
– Leave behind your laptops, iPods, iPads and other communication devices.
– Accept the simple accommodations and meals that are offered.
– Keep your silence with friends and family members that are on retreat with you.