I’ve never attended one of those ten-day silent retreats, but I’ve always wanted to lead one.
I’d call myself “His Holiness Silent Ric” and my motto would be “You’ll never hear him say a stupid thing.”
I like the idea of leading a silent retreat because preparing for it (as opposed to preparing for one of my all-weekend yoga workshop classes that I occasionally lead), would be a cinch. For a silent retreat, I’d have no notes to prepare, no ideas to organize, no delivery to work on, no making alternative plans in case I’m teaching at a level above or below the participants’, no weeks of preparation. Just show up… and get paid to be silent. His Holiness Silent Ric likes this set-up.
In practical terms, though, I doubt I could lead a silent retreat with a straight face. And that’s because I could never figure out why people pay to go on silent retreats, when they can be silent by themselves.
Seriously, if you’re considering paying to be silent, why not save the cash and the traveling time and join the silent retreat coming right to your neighborhood – your house, even?
Follow His Holiness Silent Ric in his preparations for his silent retreat:
- I like to do it early in the morning on a weekend day. Sunday is especially good.
- I take off my watch, I turn off my cell phone, and I head out.
- I stick my hands in my pockets and walk with no direction and absolutely no destination. This street calls to me? Well, then, that’s where I’m going.
- I walk slow. Go-nowhere slow. Just killing-time slow. That way, devoid of purpose, bereft of a goal, and unbound by the structure of a direction or a location (I don’t even look at the street signs), my mind can break free and slow down along with my slow pace.
- When I don’t feel like walking anymore, or when my mind starts to become too active again, I walk back home. I’m always surprised that what felt like 4 or 5 hours was actually 2.
Is this so simple that it’s too complex to take on?
I find it ironic that our whole culture’s emphasis is in becoming rich so as to enter a life of leisure… yet so few of us are willing to make leisure a priority now. I’m not talking leisure in terms of watching a movie or going to a ball game; I’m talking leisure in terms of not filling it up with anything. Walking, Seeing. Experiencing. Being. The most amazing coincidences come up whenever I’m in this mode of being – synchronicities of running into people or ideas just popping up out of the blue. Hands in your pockets, going nowhere, walking leisurely, it’s possible to capture that feeling of “I’m on vacation” that feels as renewing and soul nourishing as… well, as a silent retreat.
So, whether you’re looking for an occasional vacation (how’s once or twice a week for you?) or a silent retreat that lasts you all year, try it: give yourself a few hours and go out – not someplace, not with a direction, but with a beginner’s mindset, seeing, enjoying the experience of being alive, having a body to walk, ears to pick up on nuances, a pair of eyes to really see (not just glance), and a nose to awaken that sense of happiness along the way.
Just don’t listen to Silent Ric when he’s out of Silent Ric mode. You wouldn’t believe the kind of nonsense that comes out of his mouth.