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When is a Silent Retreat Not Silent?

When is a silent retreat not silent? When I take it!

Lately I’ve been craving silence. I’m sick to death of talking about the shattering of my 17-year relationship, so I searched for a silent retreat near San Diego where I could do a little yoga and meditation and just spend time healing myself. I stumbled upon San Diego Spiritual Retreat Center just an hour away near Julian. Jennifer, the coordinator for the center, said the 2-day yoga and stillness retreat wasn’t 100% silent, but I was welcome to take that option if I chose.

When I got there, however, I discovered I was the only retreat participant. There were several people staying and working there, but in terms of being there for purposes of retreating from life, I was it.

At dinner, six of us gathered around the table. One woman, Laurel, thanked me for giving them all the gift of a silent meal. It wasn’t my intention to make everyone silent, but they went with it.  After dinner, I picked up on one young man’s French accent. Now, you already know that I love all things French, so I felt like the Universe was laughing at me: you must be silent rather than speaking French with this guy!

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I wrote a note asking where he was from, and the ensuing pantomime/French note-writing episode was just ridiculous. Then another guy tells me he’s from Turkey. I’m surrounded by international travelers and I can’t say a damn thing.

Know When to Fold Them

Still, I persevered another hour before throwing in the towel. As I worked on a vision board, someone announced that it was raining, an unusual occurence in Southern California. Jennifer ran outside, a delighted schoolgirl frolicking in the rain. I decided to join her. It was then that I decided to let go of the preconceived notion that I needed to be silent. Maybe being silent wasn’t what I needed on this trip.

Everyone laughed to hear me speak.

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The rest of the trip, I asked questions. Thomas, the French 20-year-old who was born in Holland and looked Dutch but for his French mannerisms, had hitchhiked to California from Florida. Memo was a spiritual creature from Turkey who’d spent 10 years in Hong Kong before hitting the road.  J’Tariah was a modern gypsy, spreading her healing powers across California with her 10-year-old in tow. Joseph and James were on an epic road trip from Iowa to Northern California. Laurel had lived for years on Maui running yoga retreats and was now on her own personal journey. They all were, really. Many of them didn’t know where they’d go next. I admired that.

When I was in my 20s, I was not the kind of person who could go off on an adventure, destination unknown. But as travel fills my veins, I see the appeal. While I may not be able to pack it all up and hit the road indefinitely at this point, I can do so in small increments. And I can meet inspiring people like I met at this retreat who I can learn from.

There Was Some Silence…

I did a lot of yoga while I was there, which I find healing. I took a magical hike to Volcan Mountain with Jennifer. Parts of it were silent, but I enjoyed bonding with her in such a beautiful setting. We meditated too, and that was good. So there were silent bits!

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The Lesson I Learned at My Not-So-Silent Retreat

I wasn’t too hard on myself about not being silent. What I learned is that sometimes you heal more from being part of a community. Sometimes simply soaking up people’s energy is enough to put you on the path to wholeness.

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