Talking is sort of my thing. Being Irish and Italian, it is said that I like a loud fight! Since I was six years old, I have been in sales, fundraising for Catholic school, of course. I have been a professional speaker for 15 years, and I co-host a bi-weekly YouTube show with my friend, Fr. Mark Wiesner. Thinking is done out loud by talking things out to another person versus my inner thoughts, and I even talk in my sleep. So WHY would I even consider a silent retreat??
The past year has been challenging, personally and professionally. It has been for many of us. Fr. Mark, also a talker, tells me every year how much he enjoys his annual silent retreat. Yes, up until now, I have always thought he was a crazy person. I have a dear talker friend, Amber, and she told me that she had done several silent retreats and her experience was “life changing.”
I turn 50 this year, so it seemed like a good time to have a life-changing event.
I selected a “mentored” retreat at the Ananda Meditation Retreat location near Nevada City. My spiritual director had an orientation a few days before I arrived and helped me understand what to expect. We set up a plan to meet each morning. He was there to help guide me on having a plan for each day I was there. That was really helpful!
Books, a Rosary, downloaded meditation music, comfortable layers, and some breakfast items were packed. As someone that travels often, this was the longest it took to pack for a weekend! My car looked like I was going away for a month. Every time I thought about the retreat, I cried a little bit. It seemed that I really needed this! My uncertainty about the weekend was outweighed by the need to hear God.
This is not intended to be a play-by-play of the three nights and days I spent on retreat. Everyone will have their own journey. Mine was to stop the noise and find some healing. The question I have been asked the most is, “how long did it take the noises to stop”? For me, it took a little over 36 hours. Then I was able to truly listen!
My spiritual director taught me some basic meditation and yoga moves to help me learn how to enjoy the quiet. In one day, I was already up to 30 minutes of quiet meditation. I shocked myself! My days were filled with yoga, meditation, naps (gotta love a good nap!), hikes, wandering the beautiful grounds, and sitting on my deck admiring the beautiful scenery.
One story I will tell you is about the Mother Pond. My friend had recommended I sit at.
I was walking towards the pond the morning after the second night, and the voices had stopped in my head. As I walked toward the pond, I saw the beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary at the edge of the pond. There was a beam of sunlight through the clouds shining on the Adirondack chair. It made me laugh! It was God telling me VERY clearly to go sit in that chair.
While sitting in the chair, I cried. Then I heard a mother’s voice tell me to leave my pain there, to literally leave my pain at the foot of the Virgin Mary. I wrote out my pain over the last 20 years, tearing up the pieces, mixing them up with tea leaves and water, and then pouring them at the foot of the statue. It was amazing!! I literally feel lighter, loved, and healed in a way I have never felt.
Here are my top ten tips for a “Talker” to enjoy a silent retreat:
- Time to take care of yourself
- Many talkers are leaders. We spend a lot of time taking care of the needs of others. Give yourself the gift of time alone. It is healing and important.
- Turn off or put your phone on Do Not Disturb (the retreat has an emergency number).
- Don’t answer phone calls, texts, or emails. It can wait!
- Spiritual advisor to prep you and make tea
- I loved meeting my spiritual advisor every morning.
- Make tea and sit out on the deck to discuss questions and develop a plan for the day.
- Drive for at least three hours
- The mental prep time before and after the retreat in your car is invaluable. I listened to an inspirational book on Audible to keep quiet. It gave me a focus and encouraged quiet time.
- This also helps with “re-entry” back to the speaking world.
- Give yourself some grace
- If you have never done a silent retreat or meditated before (like me), it is time to give yourself some grace.
- You are learning a new skill, and it is expected that you will suck at it! Learn, listen, and enjoy the process!
- Often the first 24-36 hours of the retreat are spent resting. With all that you do in your life, turning it off is like a relief.
- Take naps, go to bed early, sleep in and let yourself rest!
- You will never read as many books as you pack in your bag. The book I read the most was “Love Poems from God,” that incorporates sacred voices from both East and West.
- Take time to read quietly.
- Your intuition/your gut will be on OVERDRIVE and on alert. Listen to what you hear, see, and feel.
- Some of the great lessons on my retreat were short messages I heard myself say or feel.
- Keep a journal
- Write them in your journal as the feelings, thoughts, messages, and lightbulb moments hit you. Sometimes these thoughts are fleeting and easy to forget.
- Keep the journal with you and have it to remind yourself after your retreat. The messages will keep coming even after your return home!
- When the spirit moves you… do it!
- Do it! Sometimes the Holy Spirit shows up as intuition, your gut, a feeling, or just something you KNOW without any facts to support it. Do it anyway.
- Let the spirit guide you and move you. It may not make sense logically. Do it anyway! We are children of God, and we are expected to live life fully!
- Give yourself some grace as you re-enter the world of talking and life.
- Plan a nice and healthy dinner upon your return.
- Find a place in your home for daily meditation and yoga.
- Make a plan to continue to find that centering place in your home and life.
- Take one half-day per month for silence. I plan on going to the beach on the first Saturday of the month alone.
- Continue the gift of self-care in small and large gestures just for you.
I hope you, too, can enjoy a silent retreat. I plan on doing a four-day, three-night retreat once per year. You may need or want to do it more often. The greatest gifts of my retreat are the weight lifted of the pain I was carrying, ability to focus on what is in front of me now, and a true sense of self care in the simplest of things.
If you have questions or want to chat about it, let me know! I am more present, focused, and energized than ever. Let’s talk soon!