“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” – Baba Ram Dass
How long do you think you could go without talking? One day, maybe two? How about a week or even a month?
How long you could be silent for would probably depend on your circumstances; the people around you, your level of commitment, and your environment. These are the elements that silent retreats aim to provide.
A silent retreat is an environment where the participant is forced to become non-verbal, communicating with others through body expression. Instead of finding adventure and spirituality from external sources, the participant is forced to turn inwards for their answers.
This practice, of course, is not for the faint of heart. Yet despite common personal difficulty during the beginning of many retreats, participants learn to relax into themselves over time; letting their minds run wild with the newfound freedom.
During and after silent retreats, participants note that they feel enhanced relaxation, mental awareness, improved memory, and personal insight. Without the pressure of speech, they can concentrate on their thoughts, their desires, and their motivations. They learn just how important non-verbal communication is in everyday life.
Along with mental benefits, going silent also holds many physical benefits as well. These benefits of going silent include lowered blood pressure, improved insomnia, and decreased stress hormone levels in the blood.
Here are five silent retreats around the world that will help you find your inner zen:
Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California
” On ancient ground, opening new horizons. Pioneering deep chance in self & society” – Esalen
Set between the ocean and the mountains, the 27 acres that is Esalen Institute hosts over 600 workshops and events dedicated to personal growth every year. In the 55 years since their inception, Esalen Institute has played host to over 750, 000 workshop attendees looking for a deeper self discovery.
Their prices range from $405 for a weekend retreat with a sleeping bag as accommodation, to $6750 for a week-long retreat with a comfortable house in which to stay. Aside from their retreats, they also boast hot spring facilities and an excellent massage centre.
According to their website, “Esalen is more than a retreat center or an educational institute. Anchored by the inspiring beauty of Big Sur and an unparalleled intellectual history, Esalen is a world-wide network of seekers who look beyond dogma to explore deeper spiritual possibilities; forge new understandings of self and society; and pioneer new paths for change.”
Discover more of what Esalen has to offer here: http://www.esalen.org/
Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, New York
Omega describes their mission as being, “Through innovative educational experiences that awaken the best in the human spirit, Omega provides hope and healing for individuals and society.”
The institute offers upwards of 350 retreats and workshops every year. While they do indeed offer silent options, they have organized their workshops into six different genres: body, mind, and spirit; health and healing; relationships and family; creative expression; leadership and work; and sustainable living.
Their workshops are suitable in person or online, and cater to anyone from solo person to larger corporate events.
There is truly something for everyone at Omega.
For more information on Omega Institute, visit: https://eomega.org/
Vipassana Retreats, Worldwide
Vipassana, which means “to see things as they really are”, is an ancient technique of meditation in India. This technique is taught through retreats as 10-day courses wherein participants learn the basics of the meditation method as well as how to integrate the use of Vipassana into their lives.
What makes these courses interesting is that they are completely free. Expenses are met through people who have taken the course previously and wish to donate so that others can benefit as well.
For more information, including how to find a retreat near you, check out the Vipassana Retreat website here: https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index
Plum Village, France
Since 1982, Plum Village (near Bordeaux in southwest France) has been operating as a Buddhist Monastery, currently with over 200 resident monks and nuns. It was founded by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), after he realized his dream of creating a community where people can learn to live in harmony with one another and the earth.
Plum operates as a sort of commune, wherein retreat participants are invited to make dinner, wash dishes, and aid to the general upkeep of the facilities.
Plum’s goal is to integrate mindfulness into every day life for the participants, as they explain on their website, “At Plum Village we weave mindfulness into all our daily activities, training ourselves to be mindful throughout the day: while eating, walking, working, or enjoying a cup of tea together. Plum Village is a home away from home, and a beautiful, nourishing, simple environment in which to cultivate the mind of awakening.”
Pricing varies from 125 Euro to 550 Euro, depending on length of stay and preferred accommodation.
For more information on Plum Village, visit: https://plumvillage.org/
Bali Silent Retreat, Bali, Indonesia
“Grounded in ‘green-to-the-extreme’ eco-principles”
The Bali Silent Retreat is a zero-footprint (no garbage in, no garbage out) spiritual retreat that boasts its freedom from any religion or dogma in its practices. The entire retreat is a silent one with designated “chat” areas.
At the retreat, you can book yourself into one of many different accommodation options, or you can purchase a day pass. Accommodation options start at $35USD/night for a dorm, whereas the Day Pass (including all meals and programs) is $35USD.
A great experience for anyone interested in an eco-friendly option.
For more information on the Bali Silent Retreat, visit: https://www.balisilentretreat.com/