Duck Tape. That’s what we thought may be the only thing to keep this mouth of mine shut for our silent retreat, but luckily I didn’t need to walk around for days with it on and I ended up learning to be quiet on my own.
I had thought about going to a silent retreat when a friend went in Thailand and when she said it was an “interesting and challenging experience” I knew I wanted to see if I could test myself and really try to go outside of my comfort zone by being in complete silence for several days. Thinking more about it I realized that even though I have done a lot of traveling alone and spent time on my own, I probably hadn’t gone more than half a day without talking to someone. My old roommate used to joke that it was painfully obvious at the end of a work day if I was in the office by myself because I would come home talking like the “Micro Machine Guy.”
I decided to baby step into this, as some people spend weeks at a retreat location or Ashram, I opted for a five day long weekend so I could dip my feet in and test the waters of complete silence. The thought also crossed my mind that I would go insane by the second day, be politely asked to leave and then not get any of my money back so I figured a four or five day quiet ‘adventure’ would be just enough time to challenge my usually talkative self while avoiding getting kicked out.
“The art of nothing”: Bali Silent Retreat
Since about a million people had asked me if my Southeast Asia trip was my own personal “Eat, Pray, Love” experience (ugh, if you can’t tell I’m over this reference), I decided pay homage to them by picking my meditation weekend in Bali, one of the stops on Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey. Ubud is not only the cultural heart of the island but it has long been the mecca for yoga and holistic retreats so I knew I could find something around there. Ubud is an amazing place, I can see why it has so much appeal and why lots of soul seekers come and never leave. You will find many a ‘Cougar’ decked in Lululemon yoga gear, sipping on a green drink, prowling the busy streets in town, stalking her next prey.
I found Bali Silent Retreat and it seemed like a great starter retreat; structured but not militant, serene but not boring. Their slogan totally hooked me, as “The are of nothing” sounded like a place where you can really just shut off the outside world and relax. Since I’m working on the road there is not a day that goes by that I’m not on my computer either writing, researching, billing or planning so I was thrilled with the idea of spending several days without electricity, surrounded by beautiful scenery where no one can tell you what to do because they CAN’T TALK. It was brilliant.
Sound of Silence:
The first day I was so excited at the idea of trying something new and taking some time for myself, the prospect of being quiet seemed like the five days were going to fly by. We were given a tour to start and it was simply amazing. Stone paths weaved throughout gardens and green space leading to either small private bungalows or the dorm style housing at the end of the property. The location is eco-sustainable so we had minimal solar powered lighting, outdoor showers and simple but comfortable living quarters and common spaces. They had a jungle walk, a labyrinth for meditation walks and trails for treks through the rice fields to get you out and exploring.
After our tour we settled in and reviewed our schedule for the next several days which was basically as follows:
Morning Yoga and Meditation
Time for yourself to write, read, nap, go for a walk, eat a snack or do NOTHING
Afternoon Yoga and Meditation
Free time until bed
That was it for the next few days and it was work but it was heaven. I got up early with the sun and went out and took photos, then had our morning sessions, delicious food throughout the day and time to read and journal before bed. It was the most relaxed I’d felt in forever. Meditation for me was a difficult part of the weekend. I’ve never sat and meditated for more than a couple of minutes before coming here and the first day it was hard not to think about how my left leg was falling asleep or about the loose hair from my ponytail tickling my back but after a few days it was easier to see the benefits. The silence got to be a real challenge for me at the end of the second day. You start to realize the day is long without talking or having any distractions. I read several books and was journaling until my hands were cramping up. The need to check your Facebook Newsfeed or read through emails starts to creep up again but you are without wifi so you suppress your technological urges and by nightfall I was laying in bed without anything to do but go to sleep. I turn on my phone to check the time and it was just after 7pm.
“This must be how the Amish feel once dinner is over,” I thought as I lay in my bed staring at the minuscule holes in my the milk-white mosquito netting that gently lay over my bed.
My friend who had come with me rolled over in our dorm that night and whispered quietly to me through our nets “This is bull shit,” and in the darkness I tried to hold in a laugh. It was nice to know we were both feeling the same way. The next morning we decided to venture off the property for a walk through the rice fields so we could talk for just a bit. I found our short conversation even after just a few days of being quiet had more meaning and its thoughtfulness gave me the energy I needed to finish out the rest of the time there trying to stay focused and mindful.
Food, glorious food
One thing that kept me from using my mouth for speaking was using it for eating instead and thankfully the food there was amazing. I have to say I was skeptical when I read that it would be all vegetarian and vegan dishes but the variety, freshness and taste was out of this world and was worth keeping my big trap shut for. If homemade baked bread every morning doesn’t convince you to take a vow of silence then I’m not sure what will. It was fun leaving little post-it ‘love notes’ for the chef since we couldn’t tell him verbally what a phenomenal job he was doing.
I am so grateful to be able to have spent quality time in such a peaceful place while getting to learn more about meditation, practice my yoga skills and do a little self-reflection in the process. It’s a magical space that is restorative and rejuvenating. The staff was so pleasant and accommodating, they made my first silent retreat a bearable and dare I say, an enjoyable one.
Thank you so much Bali Silent Retreat, I look forward to my next visit!!