We had an amazing retreat last week up in the Berkshires. The weather was typical Massachusetts early spring weather- soggy and chilly. We still had a lot of time outside for walks and some palm tree vinyasas in the morning, and a walk in the afternoon. We had three sittings for meditation, three movement sessions and of course three meals for three-ish days, all in functional silence. It is very difficult to explain what happens in a group when they agree to live together for a time in silence- not surprisingly, it is difficult to use words to describe the experience. One participant shared a poem by Naruda with the group which we agreed summed up our experience. You can click the link below to read it.
You will see a picture of our phone tray below. Our phones sat there for 2 1/2 days, huddled together, unused and unnoticed, and for some, uncharged. (A few phones are missing from the picture because we needed them to take the picture). You will also see a very full compost bucket, another source of joy that came out of the retreat. We cooked three plant-based meals together each day and the compost that ended up in one person's garden was an unexpected source of satisfaction. And the teamwork in the kitchen, in silence again, ended up being a beautiful dance of knives, towels, juicers, pots and pans, and crisp fresh produce.
This was a time of timelessness where our minds and bodies recalibrated to a deeper place of rhythm- far more profound and perhaps accurate than the clocks, watches and phones that usually run our days. We all took souvenirs home, some were in form (rocks, stones, leaves) but most were not. The times we connected deeply with ourselves, the times in meditation that our minds bumped up against quiet, the times that we felt we were one organism moving together rather than 9 separate people performing a task, these are the things that we took home to remember our time together.
There was a lot of maneuvering for most to be able to attend and make their lives work for this time away. The good news is we can always replicate parts of the retreat at home. For instance, in the Miracle of Mindfulness (this month's book club book this Thursday night) Thicht Nacht Hahn suggests that we all find a day to be in mindfulness per week, which means you will be mostly in silence. My teacher has been encouraging the same for some time, and if a full day is not possible, the suggestion is to at least find 4 hours per week where we put down the devices and mind-stimulants and see what is below that fuzz. Practicing this for a while I will say it takes at least a day to detox! But 4 hours is a good start.
Interested in trying? I would be interested in hearing how it goes! It is challenging, and one suggestion is to find a buddy who will be doing the same. Not necessarily on the same day, but someone that you will check in with and let them know you attempted your mini-retreat. Reach out to a friend and see if they are interested in supporting you. Another suggestion is to sign up for Spiritual Mentoring and then your check in is with me. We can also speak of the experience and work to integrate whatever comes up.
Even if you can't find a full 4 hours, try some amount of withdrawal- whether you put down devices and TV 2-3 hours before bed, or you forego checking your phone until a certain time in the morning. Start slow if needed. If nothing else, you can come to a yoga class and know you will be in a mini-retreat for at least 1 1/2 hours!