What to expect from a silent meditation retreat


During a silent meditation retreat, we’ll find that our mind begins to slow down, to calm down, to become more clear and we begin to discover the natural state of the mind.

And this isn’t related to any particular special experience. It’s simply discovering what the mind can be like when it is freed from the kind of compulsive and continuous stimulation that we give our minds. 

Digital fasting

We are much more formed and conditioned and addicted to the continuous stimulation that we receive and open ourselves for or go in search of as entertainment. During a silent meditation retreat, we should take full advantage of the silence with a digital fasting, giving up all use of digital communication. 

At first, that might be difficult for some people. It will be purifying and detoxifying. 

The silence of the mind

The most important element of an intensive retreat is silence. And there are two levels of silence. 

One is the silence of the mind and the first thing we discover in meditation: our minds are noisy, uncontrolled, uncontrollable, and full of constant 24/7 activity. Judgment, anticipation, memory, remembering all of the things that our mind does, fantasizing, dreading.

When we first discover that, we may want to close the door again and run away. Or we realize that we have to clear a path through this. 

When we begin to meditate we’re just clearing a little path through the junk of our minds. And that little path brings us into a mental quiet. The mind begins to settle down, becomes more clear and more manageable but quiet is not quite the same as silence.

Of course in mental quiet, our thoughts may still be there but they are less obtrusive, less intrusive and less noisy. 

The silence of the heart

That little path of silence that the mantra takes us on, first of all, through mental noise, will eventually lead us into the heart. It is in the heart that we find true silence beyond thoughts, beyond imagination. 

We discover the real meaning of silence. And then we discover also that silence is more eloquent and more persuasive than talking or thinking.  

Silent meditation retreat: There comes the Ego

During a silent meditation retreat, you will be in silence. You’ll have a short talk in the morning, a one to one with your companion or mentor during the week –  that’s a very important part of the balancing and the integration of what experience will will come to you. But otherwise you will be in silence. The talk in a sense is the least important part of the retreat. 

As you discover this arrival at the natural state of the mind, you will also begin to see the necessary distinction between the mind and the heart. You will also begin to glimpse the fact that the mind and the ego are very intertwined. In fact, you might even say they are the same thing. They’re not bad in themselves, but they can very easily and quickly become over agitated, dysfunctional and simply too active. Meditation day by day begins to reduce that activity. And that false reality of the mind ego. 

With silence comes real permanent change

Silence is what enables permanent change. Just quietening the mind is important: mindfulness exercises, for example, can be very helpful in preparing calming the mind as a preparation for meditation. Spiritual traditions including the Christian tradition contain many such practices of preparation, but these quieten the mind. Whereas silence enables permanent change. 

When we think of what this permanent change might be we may imagine it. We may remember what we’ve read about it, but there is no substitute for experience itself. 

And that is what an intensive silent meditation retreat is also inviting us to do. To enter more fully and simply into a direct experience that we have been entering in our practice of meditation for some time already. 


Silence: the door to compassion

Are we being selfish in what we are doing by not thinking of other people? By not thinking of the environment? by not thinking of the political crises and injustices in the world around us?

The short answer to that is that we are being responsible. If we really do this work, this inner work, then we are allowing a change in metanoia to take place in us. A change that is going to make us better agents of compassion and of justice in the world that we live in and more aware of what we might be able to contribute in one way or another. 

What is an intensive silent meditation retreat?

The word intensive doesn’t mean something like intensive care crisis. And it’s not a marathon that we have to go through by sheer individual willpower. Intensive is a word that is related to the word attentive and it’s connected to a root word that means to stretch. So we could say that when we’re paying attention, we’re stretching our minds, our attention outside of ourselves, beyond ourselves. And when we are being intensive, we are being stretched interiorly in, in with an interior kind of attention. 


An Intensive Silent Meditation Retreat is for you if:

Bonnevaux autumn 2022

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