6 Life-Changing Things a Silent Retreat Can Teach You About Yourself
6 minute read
Silent retreats may sound like a new-age fad, and there can be an element of that, but they’re actually a longstanding tradition for Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, and in the Sufi tradition. The purpose of these religious retreats is to spend quality time with God while also diving into self-contemplation, nurturing your spirit, resting, and feeling rejuvenated.
These are benefits that everyone can enjoy, religious or not. In fact, going on a silent retreat can be one of the most beneficial things you can do. It can open your eyes to a deeper understanding of yourself and make each day more meaningful and rewarding.
Benefits of a Silent Retreat
When you feel overwhelmed and like you’re stretched the thinnest by all of the demands on you, this is the key moment to take a step away from your routine and refocus your life.
While each person is different, and what you take away from the experience will be unique, some life-changing benefits can occur.
1. Silencing the Monkey Brain
Not only does the outside world constantly fill your mind with stimulus, but you tend to do it to yourself by darting from one thought to the next and barely pausing to change directions. That’s your monkey brain. Sometimes even trying to silence the swinging of your mind causes it to spin out of control.
Spending time in forced silence without distractions pushes your mind to a new place where the frantic thoughts are stilled, and peace of mind settles in. It’s when you achieve this level of calm that you can begin to see things more clearly and with deeper understanding.
2. Better Focus on the Present
In most silent retreats, you leave all technology behind, and there is no talking, reading, writing, or even eye contact in some situations. This is essential so you can shut out the constant noise, literal and figurative, that you’re bombarded with continuously.
Once you’ve turned off all distractions, you can focus on the little things around you and turn your thoughts and attention inward. Being fully aware of the moment at hand opens the mind in different ways and sharpens your focus.
This is a benefit that many have reported as going way beyond the retreat and follows you back into your normal life. You leave with an enhanced ability to stay focused on what’s happening at the moment and less mind wandering.
When you’re caught up in your own rat race, events in your life can seem monumental or enhanced as you constantly replay them and are enmeshed in their wake. Stepping outside of that part of your life allows you to put your life in perspective.
When you realize that the world continues moving and your influence is not crucial, you give yourself permission to let go of stress and focus on the little things and the things that give you the greatest joy.
The importance of perspective cannot be stressed strongly enough. This ability to see things for what they are, not what your fears or beliefs turn them into, can help you navigate life with greater ease. It can also lead to a deeper understanding of others and what they’re going through.
4. Embracing Nothing
Doing nothing is difficult for most people. Our day to day lives are incredibly busy, and we’re used to being tuned in constantly. There are all sorts of demands on us from others and the demands we put on ourselves. A silent retreat forces you to adapt to having nothing to do and to sit with boredom.
There is a point where you move beyond the frustration of boredom and become more in tune with your emotions, your physical sense of being, the world around you, and your mind. This is a time of healing, reflection, and self-introspection. It’s another benefit that you take with you as you leave the retreat.
5. Mental Clarity
When you’ve given yourself the opportunity to rest, relax, and focus on listening to your inner self, you find insight into your own real meaning of life. Your focus becomes you and listening to what your body is telling you, not what you’re bombarded with by the world around you.
This mental grounding gives you deeper clarity when making decisions about your life and interacting with others. It also helps you to feel more confident about the choices you make because you’ve been able to see the whole picture with a sharpness previously unknown to you.
| Related: How to Reduce Anxiety With One Meditation Session |
6. Mindful Eating
This is an interesting side effect of a silent retreat. Not talking or socializing while you eat and not watching television, forces you to pay attention to your meal. It can also improve digestion by slowing you down and allowing for proper eating.
When you eat slowly and with intention, your body has time to digest the food, and the process of eating signals the brain when you’re full in a more accurate fashion, leading to less stuffing and more satisfaction.
The Bottom Line
Whether you choose to find a silent retreat for religious reasons, or your goal is purely secular, the benefits can be eye-opening and life-changing. Being forced to let go of distractions and turn your thoughts inward, frees the brain of stress and lets it return to a state of peace and self-reflection.
Many silent retreats spend a great deal of time focusing on meditation, which holds numerous benefits for you physically, mentally, and emotionally. While each person has a different experience, some of the benefits you may find after a silent retreat include being able to silence your monkey mind, focusing on the present and having a greater sense of perspective, learning to move beyond boredom, having greater mental clarity, and possibly a different approach to fueling your body.
While the experience of a silent retreat will initially be foreign for most people, it quickly becomes one of enlightenment and purpose.