Sunday, August 12, 2012

Silent Retreats: Taking a vacation to your Self


Imagine committing yourself to 3 days, or even 1 for that matter, where you exist in silence. 

You do not speak. (You might even hang a sign around your neck like I do noting you are "observing silence".) 

You do not check the media

You restrict your sensory input to things natural and developmental at the spiritual, psychological, emotional, physical, self-relational and non-commercial levels of life. 

You restrict your activities to sitting, meditating, walking (preferably in nature), contemplating, exercise and reading or listening of a spiritually self-developmental nature. 

This is my own version of a silent retreat and I do them at a retreat center or at home.

On a whim I did a 2.5 day silent retreat at Pendle Hill, the Quaker Retreat Center in Swarthmore, PA, USA last year and to great benefit. I am doing another this year as part of my late summer vacation. 

Contemplating these retreats are painful (for my ego) owing to the privation of my regular ego-sustaining activities related to work, social relations, the media, etc.. That said, my soul loves them as its normally neglected “Small Voice” gets to be center stage for a while. I call these retreats "vacations to my Self" because they induce, after about a day of ego craving (akin to going cold turkey), a certain monastic state where I feel myself going “internal”, “dropping down”, re-attuning (some would say re-atoning, or re-at-One-ing, get it!) and reconnecting with my self and my Self. In this space, I experience healing (from the cuts and bruises of being in the world), connection (to the Essential Wisdom that it takes to be better when I reenter the world) and rest (that I so need and have neglected on a daily basis when I was in the world).

All during this time, the ego fights to assert itself telling me that the world may end if I come away from the news, email, the internet, conversations with family, friends and colleagues, etc.. I am amazed at the degree I believe this and I admit, as I am human, that I do let those most important to me know I am reachable once a day via SMS and I do check once for about 5 minutes in the evenings. And yes, I set a timer to assure its only 5 minutes. :-) 
One must remember that the Sabbath is for me, not me for the Sabbath. That allowed, those who know me know that I should have dropped dead from being away from my internet connection and SMS the 23 hours and 55 minutes between those checks but alas I survive, even thrive, after a day or so. I can tell you that one of the great benefits of such a retreat is reconnecting to the premise that while the world may want me, it does not need me. This humbling premise is good for health and perspective.

I intend to continue to engage these retreats multiple times a year and for greater lengths of time over time. I recommend them and would love to chat about your own intention and experience in this area if you care to share. You know where to reach me at

PS - Here is my delicious book mark list on this topic if you want to read more:


REM Runner said...

"while the world wants me, it does not need me." wow, that's a powerful line. Thank you, Craig, for sharing this great concept for a self-retreat.

bodhi heart said...

Of all the vacation places, a silent retreat going to your Self is something really special. After taking many retreats in faraway places like India, I now devote my life to making affordable silent retreats available to others.
Spirit Falls,, and Spirit Skies,, are two small retreats I created in the mountain forests east of Sedona, AZ. A friend has just opened a silent retreat outside Colorado Springs,
Affordable is different for everyone, but these retreats are from $300-$500/week, and seasonally, from $550-$950/month.
Please help spread the word.