Five people who have never met, come together on a cold, bright day in early January. Two of the five are local, three have travelled good distances to join us. They come dressed for cold weather and with a bag of belongings each. All are hesitant and a little anxious.
Amongst the five are a director, a yoga teacher, a headteacher, a sports therapist and ‘a soul that’s searching for something’ – a lady who has retired from work to learn about life.
We have all joined together to complete the ‘Silent Retreat’.
So, the picture….. the yurt is full of bean bags, blankets, cushions and pillows. it is warmed by a log burner giving off that beautiful warmed aroma of burning wood and there is a faint smell of warming spicy food. Cosy, warm and safe.
To begin, everyone is shown around the land and facilities.
At 10am the meditation begins. It is a breathing meditation that slows the breath and relaxes the body and introduces the stillness, they are encouraged to listen to nothing, and to find the noise in nothing. They are encouraged to listen to their own breathing and the noise of the body. After fifteen minutes, the chimes strike and the six hours of self-imposed silence begins!
Within the six hours the five are encouraged to get to know each other, to form a bond, and to become a supportive network for the day. All without speaking. The novelty of communicating without word, is at first, hurried and excitable and very enthusiastic, but everyone soon settles and eases into the day and take their time finding out how to communicate with body language, written words and gesture.
What was wonderful to watch was them serving each other with the hot soup and bread, and making tea for each other as ways of bonding and forming relationships that would generally have been founded upon word.
Each individual takes time to sleep, to read, to meditate and to stretch. Surprisingly, everyone chose to stay within the warmth of the yurt and not venture out onto the land. It was as though they needed the security whilst they experimented with silence.
There were struggles. At about 2pm, you could feel that most individuals were beginning the struggle to remain quiet. The novelty had worn off, and the real work began. Two individuals chose to sleep through this, willing themselves to drift off because it was so much easier than silence.
The others persevered, and meditated with each other. Two complete strangers held hands as if to give reassurance that this was good, and fulfilling and positive, and actually life-changing.
A while later and everyone was embracing the silence. Breath changed and deepened, active listening to silence was happening, a calmness generated throughout everyone.
At the end of the six hours, silence broke and we spoke. That allowed tears to flow, and each individual talked of the profound effect the experience had. The beauty and the difficulty of silence. The delight and the pain of not speaking. The friendships that had been forged within six hours and based upon a deep sharing of something special.
Silence is profound in its effect. It is joyful, difficult, calming, uncomfortable, but most of all it is a deep nurturing blanket that wraps itself around you and calms the mind and allows you space and time to be simply you.
So next time you have fifteen minutes, go sit in a field, in a wood, in a park, by water, and simply sit. Do not speak, do nothing apart from listen and bask in the silence.