For anyone wondering what happens at a silent meditation retreat, this is the article for you. The official name for these kinds of retreats is a Vipassana Retreat. It hopes to help you explore reality through simply observing it rather than actively engaging in it. Some people try doing mantras to engage, but a silent retreat is just that – silent. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that meditation does not require you to be religious in any way. In fact, meditation expects nothing of you. It only wants you to observe. This means that it makes sense that a silent meditation retreat is a hugely beneficial one. You have much time to observe, and no time to talk.
A Vipassana retreat is also known as a “sit” because you do just that. It encourages you to sit for a full day (you can get up to stretch and eat, but apart from that there is not much interaction. The point is to build your awareness of your internal world through focused meditation. For those who don’t know how to meditate there are also guided meditation sessions where a guide talks to you about how to observe your thoughts and sharpen your senses. They will help you to see your body and your internal world as an outsider, which helps you to react more objectively to situations. One of the best things that you learn from these kinds of retreats is how wasteful we often are with our words.
Most of the meditation takes place communaly, but it’s not the only space for you to meditate. Most places will allow you to decide where you want to meditate, as it’s a very personal exercise. You can also meditate in your room or in an open space, it’s up to you. You might need a yoga mat and you’ll definitely need some water to sip throughout the day. Some retreats also offer you a sensory deprivation tank, but many people find those claustrophobic and can’t stay in them for so many hours of the day.
Some sessions will be mandatory guided sessions in a main hall with everyone involved. There are also some centers that hold mandatory lectures a swell where they speak about meditation and provide a context for your sessions. Personally, I feel that it’s these lectures that provide a heavy context for the whole retreat and help you to feel as though you’re leaving with something even if you’re not particularly great at meditation on your own. For those who struggle to meditate, this is a great way to strengthen your meditation muscle in a non-judgemental space. For those who find it difficult to meditate on their own, this gives you a context in which to do so. After a retreat like this, you’ll find it much easier to meditate without putting too much effort or pressure on yourself to get to a specific thought process. It’s an enriching experience but it has to be said that it’s not for everyone. You have to be open to it. If you are, there is much to gain!
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