A silent retreat - hanging out inside your own head

I waved good-bye to my husband and son as they were driven away down the bumpy, rocky road, through the rice fields, past the roosters and over some massive potholes. Ahhh, a silent retreat. Nothing being asked of me. No one to keep a constant eye on. Nothing but silence, yoga, meditation and some good food. There was a moment of mild panic when I realized I was without phone or internet, in the middle of a rice field in the middle of Bali, about 30 minutes from my husband and son with no way to contact them. But then I took a deep breath and asked myself to have a little faith. Faith goes a long way.

And there I was, alone in Bali. But being alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely.

My silent retreat was very silent, frustratingly silent at times. I was surrounded by all of these other people - where did they come from? Did they speak English? What brought them here? I bet they were interesting people, but I’ll never know, because that’s not the purpose of a silent retreat.

The silence is jarring at first. You almost don’t want to make eye contact with anyone because you can’t exchange a “hello” or a “where are you from” or even an “excuse me”. It just feels odd. So you start to pull away. You start to hang out inside your own head. And once you get over the initial shock, you begin to accept it. You begin to feel quite comfortable eating alone, staring off at the rice fields or reading a book or maybe even just looking at your food. They encourage you to eat slowly, to really let your senses envelop what you’re eating. I realized I’m quite poor at this. I tend to inhale the food in front of me.

And once you’ve really accepted the silence, you start to embrace it. You start to explore some of the deeper corners of your mind, some areas you maybe haven’t opened up in a while. This can be fascinating. Maybe you write, maybe you read, maybe you just sit and think. You start to notice those around you less and less as you sink deeper into this open eyed meditative state. 

The sounds from the jungle around you, the chanting from the villages at the base of the hill, these become your sound track. The schedule is so simple: yoga and meditation early in the morning, followed by breakfast, lunch, then yoga, dinner then meditation. The hours in between are filled with whatever you want to fill them with - a jungle trek, a labyrinth walk, exploring the surrounding gardens where they grow the food they serve, lounging in a hammock, staring at a wall…really whatever you want, just no talking and no technology. And you do all of this alone, completely alone. No one cares what you’re doing because no one knows you.

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And there’s no coffee. I didn’t know this before coming to the retreat. I drink a lot of coffee. I am a fan of occasional detoxes…but it’s been a few years since my last one. What better place to detox than at a silent retreat where nothing is being asked of me, my responsibilities are very minimal and I can’t complain to anyone? I felt fine for the first and most of the second day. But that second night, I was lying in my bed, surrounded by my mosquito net, listening to the bullfrogs and other random jungle sounds when my head exploded. I realized I’d been drinking way too much coffee. That night I woke up many times with a throbbing head, but what could I do? Nothing. Just deal with it. So I did. I even dragged myself out of bed at 5:45 for 45 minutes of meditation and an hour and 30 minutes of yoga. Meditation was ok - I tried to focus on my breath, and I tried not to cry or scream or punch someone in the head. Caffeine withdrawal isn’t a joke. My husband gets a big “I told you so” on this one. But yoga, yoga was a bit of a different experience. It usually feels like a big yawn for my body, but on this day it felt like someone was drilling into my head. And downward dog was the worst of it all. I hung out in child’s pose a lot. A lot. But that’s ok, that’s totally ok in yoga.

After a night of little sleep, 45 minutes of meditation and an hour and 30 minutes of yoga, I felt so much better. I felt amazing. Lesson learned: keep a good eye on that caffeine intake. I switched to tea.

It's impressive what you can learn about yourself when you take a break from the world. And I believe finding silence is important - we reconnect with ourselves, with our bodies, with our thoughts, with our desires, with our goals, with our feelings. Some of these are scary things to face. Some of these things we turn away from and never face. But I believe that stepping away from the busyness that surrounds us, closing out the constant demands and to-dos, this is when we are really able to discover what has brought us to where we are and what will move us forward in this world. It took a silent retreat in the middle of a jungle in the middle of Bali for me to disconnect from the world entirely. It was scary to do, but the world kept spinning in my absence. In order to love our best, we must be at our best. And sometimes we need to disconnect to truly reconnect.

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Bali Silent Retreat is a bit like summer camp meets Anthropologie in the small town of Penatahan, Bali. It's a glorious retreat. Every single thing you could need is provided at top notch quality. I opted out of the single room and stayed in the dorm (if I couldn't talk to people, I at least wanted to be with people), and I was still super impressed with the accommodations. The food is all grown at the retreat or in the surrounding villages. They use New Earth cooking principles in their food prep, so I was in heaven. It's an excellent retreat. It's adorable. It's peaceful. It's probably exactly where you need to be. Check it out if you're ever in Bali and in search of a bit of slow.