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:

Monday, August 06, 2012

Mini Book Clubs: Subject Matter Expert Speed Dating?!

I recently experienced an efficient and productive encounter at the request of a good colleague, Madelyn Blair of Pelerei. On a periodic basis she summons 3 colleagues to a half hour-ish book club where we each take 5 minutes to discuss the key takeaways of a book we've recently read and then the group spends 5 minutes asking a few questions and engaging in a mini discussion about the book discussed. The books are typically related to a topic relevant to the group like say storytelling, knowledge management or creativity. 

At first I thought this format wouldn't be useful due to its brevity but I have to say I found it refreshing in its brevity. We got on the teleconference, got to it with little rambling, pontificating or editorializing (which can be the drawback of longer book club formats), made our points, asked our questions, received our benefit and bid ourselves adieu until next time. It was also a great way to meet new interesteds in disciplinary areas of interest and without consuming too much time. It struck me as a form of speed dating with subject matter experts. ☺

This mini book club approach is quite interesting and I look forward to doing this regularly and encourage you to explore the same for yourselves.