Three Balinese nights were spent in complete silence when two friends of mine took on a silent retreat. Having been together for over three years, Libby and Pat were looking to turn a standard holiday into a spiritual getaway, so they hit up a side of Bali that isn’t usually shown on the ‘gram.
Naturally, I organised a prompt debrief to get all the juicy details of this wild experience, and to see if their retreat was what I had imagined.
Seeking introspection, meditation and a slowing down of sorts, Libby and Pat stumbled upon Bali Silent Retreat For Prayer And Meditation online. It was the beginning of a larger leg of their holiday, offering an interesting start and new perspective over four days.
As you can imagine, things kicked off surprisingly. There was an immediate mutual understanding between the retreat goers that the introduction was going to be their last form of verbal communication for the next few days. From there, everyone was handed a gratitude journal to jot down free-thinking moments of reflection and they immediately began their new lifestyle.
First impressions of the Unesco protected rice terraces in the eco-friendly regency of Tabanan left Libby and Pat speechless. Overlooking mountains and fields in Bali, they began their self-sufficient journey on the retreat together. They soon learnt that food was a highlight, with their vegan meals all produced at the retreat itself from that very day’s harvest. Fuelling their newfound mindful eating, each meal turned from generic consumption into mindful bites, appreciating the taste and flavours of the produce. Everything around the retreat was intricately designed to be noticed in a mindful way, with attention to detail subtly in plain site, forcing a newfound appreciation on everyday ‘things’.
The mornings started with an hour and forty-five-minutes of non-guided meditation, followed by an hour of yoga. There was no end goal in site, just the challenge to be as mindful as possible in that moment. The focus was on the breath and awareness of thoughts, not seeking external gratification.
I know what you’re thinking. I was thinking the same: “Did they break at alllll and mutter just a word?”
Sleeping in separate beds in the same room, Libby once fell into the involuntary routine of saying good morning, only to realise where she was and what she shouldn’t have said. While they were together, they maintained limited intimacy as an unspoken respect for everyone there. They withheld immediate affection which caused a newfound independence, both physically and emotionally, having positive impact on their relationship.
But was it all zen vibes?
While fighting a constant restlessness from his normal active lifestyle, Pat struggled with a lack of stimulus, always aware of being disruptive to others. While Libby had a strong internal monologue, Pat found himself lost in thoughts made more of emotion. Did they need to use the office hut (a talking zone in case of emergency)? Nope! It ended up being an easier experience than they expected, fuelling their passion to do another retreat on their next trip.
This retreat was not about being quiet, but rather being silent. The distinction, I was told, was to be in touch with your senses, rather than your thoughts guiding your intention. They found a gradual shift in consciousness, swapping speaking for subtle, unspoken communication and it sounded bloody blissful.
Some final Q&As with Libby and Pat:
What is one thing to know before going on a silent retreat?
Having a basic familiarisation with meditation and yoga movements is essential to ground your awareness. Choose a free trial on an app and give it a go!
Would you recommend a silent retreat as part of a holiday or would you dedicate a whole trip to it?
Definitely the start of a trip. It leaves room for slowing down before the big trip begins, acting as a mind cleanse and a social detox. It will make you appreciate the rest of the trip way more.
Hardest moment of the retreat?
Pat: It was actually being pushed physically in yoga, not having a great base of experience.
Favourite moment of the retreat?
Libby: Showering after the morning exercise routine and hearing the wooden gong beat eight times, meaning food time!