A Silent Retreat is a opportunity to decompress and experience calm, peace and being centered. It is usually 1-5 days where one is quiet and disconnected from technology (cell, computer, pads, etc.)
Our lives are so full of activities, noise, busy-ness and stress. It is hard to take time for ourselves with the demands of our families, business/career and friends. A Silent Retreat is giving yourself the gift of disconnecting from your daily life and focusing on you. It is a time to reflect and relax. In the quiet and contemplation you have the opportunity to regain balance, perspective and nourish your soul.
William Penn said, “True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.”
What would a day of being silent and reconnecting to your inner self mean to you?
Attendees of silent retreats have experienced clarity, peace, feeling centered, and reconnection with their higher selves/soul/source.
“At the end of the silent retreat it was calm…it was quiet inside me probably for the first time in 30 years.” – S.W,
“It was a wonderful day of time for myself to “just be”. It replenished my soul and put me in the right frame of mind for the upcoming year.” – K. R.
“I feel great! Rested (physically & mentally).” – S.H.wonderful day of time for myself to “just be”. It replenished my soul and put me in the right frame of mind for the upcoming year.” – K.R.
“Huge reconnection with my inner voice.” – S.S.
Activities of silent retreats vary and may include the following:
- guided meditations
- breathing exercises
- walks & mindfulness
- time for personal reflection
- labyrinth walking
Consider this Mahatma Ghandi quote, “In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path
in a clearer light and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.”
What would some clarity bring to your life?
If a silent retreat would benefit you…and you are in Maryland consider the one at Soul Source. www.spiritualityforeveryday.com/retreats
I think we often use gratitude and appreciation interchangeably in our conversations…I appreciate your gift or Thank you for your gift. Thank you for being you or I appreciate you. I’d like to propose that they are subtly different. Gratitude is about being thankful for something while appreciation is more about valuing and seeing the worth in something.
Let’s do an experiment. Say I am grateful for today. It makes you feel good but do you even have to like it to say it. Now..say I appreciate today. Doesn’t feel it feel more encompassing and like you are valuing it and really seeing how great it is?
Gratitude and appreciation are both wonderful spiritual practices. Many teachers suggest a regular practice of writing and acknowledging what we are grateful for in journals or lists. Focusing on what we like and appreciate in our lives helps us to be more positive and not think about those aspects or areas of our lives that are not going well. (Remember the law of attraction brings more of what we are focused on so we want to stay focused on what we want in our lives…not what we don’t want.)
Let’s consider the comparison I used in the first paragraph…Thank you for being you or I appreciate you. Doesn’t I appreciate you feel more connecting and valuing the worth of the person. When I say that to someone I feel like I am really seeing who they are and acknowledging them more than when I say Thank you for being you.
There is an exercise that Abraham channeled by Esther Hicks promotes called Positive Aspects. The goal is to identify as many positive features and characteristics you can about a person or situation. This process enables you to really appreciate someone as you acknowledge all the great things about them. If you are having difficulty with someone…do this exercise and be amazed as how it can change your view.
Whenever we are appreciative we are filled with a sense of well-being and swept up by the feeling of joy. – M.J. Ryan
Erik Walker Wikstrom in Simply Pray says “If you long to connect with the Sacred, if you desire to live a life that is more in touch with the Holy, stop listening for something and start simply listening…build your theology around the experience, rather than the other way around.”
What Erik is telling us is by having more silence in our lives we can be more in touch with the Holy and be connected with the Sacred. Only by giving ourselves some quiet time and listening can we find this connection and have clarity. It is by connecting to the quiet, peaceful place inside us that we can hear ourselves. This is where divinity lives and from where our success, abundance, joy and happiness springs.
Mahatma Gandhi says “In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.”
The Quakers also believe that silence is key part of being spiritual. They have a long tradition of silence with their services being a group of people sitting in silence for an hour. You may talk only if you have something to say that is not frivolous. The modern Quaker writer Arthur O. Roberts succinctly outlines the characteristics of silence. Roberts shows silence not as formal worship but as private reflection that nurtures the individual in the recognition of solitude. In his Devotions on Silence, Roberts writes that silence:
- fosters awe before the Almighty;
- indicates submission to God;
- provides a posture for worship;
- provides freedom from noise and distraction;
- condition for tranquility;
- sets the stage for prayer;
- signifies respect for others;
- renews wonder at the world;
- provides holy space;
- prepares for effective social witness.
The Quakers encourage the use of silence both in their “meetings” as well as private practice.
I invite you to experiment with including some quiet and silence in your life. Let me know your experience.
Barbara Mencer of Business Breakthroughs says “Silence creates space … space to breathe, relax, and get centered amid all the chatter and rushing about … space for ideas to germinate … space for those who are quiet to speak … space for listeners to truly grasp what they’re hearing and appreciate it fully … space to receive knowledge and consider other points of view. Silence is the emptiness where less becomes more.”
The idea that silence is emptiness where less becomes more is very powerful. Thomas Carlyle said, “Silence is as deep as eternity; speech, shallow as time.” Consider the idea that silence is all about potential and expectancy and that is it infinite and unending is interesting. Speech being shallow as time means to me that it is fleeting, constantly changing and not to be counted upon.
Silence creates space…let’s consider this a few minutes the space it creates. First, is that silence gives us a quiet space to relax and feel peace amid the rushing and busy–ness of the world. Tony Cuckson says that silence provides rest, “This is your time for relaxation. This is your time for simply letting go and letting be. Learn to rest regularly in the silence of your body.” Silence can be restful and relaxing.
David Rankin, a UU minister tells us “to go deep down into the silence”…what this means to me is to really experience silence and you must find your deep down. Finding your deep down can take practice. But I think it is very important to take the time to practice and is a valuable goal. I have hosted several day long silent retreats and the attendees loved it. At the end of the day they felt that their soul was nourished…and they felt quiet and calmed. Even though I wasn’t able to be quiet and in silence the whole day…I was able to be quiet for a lot it and it was amazing how quiet and peaceful I felt for the whole week after the retreat. (Check out retreats page for upcoming silent retreats).
Silence also gives space to better listening and communication. Did you know that listening lowers blood pressure and speaking raises it? In addition, moments of silence in the conversation gives you time to really hear what the person is saying, time to appreciate and respect what is said and the opportunity for the person to be fully heard. In our Chalice Groups we try to pause after each person speaks to honor what was said and fully comprehend it. As we talked about earlier a pregnant pause gives the speaker a chance to fully express themselves. Tony Cuckson suggests that Silence allows listening where he says you “find more love and compassion enter their dealings with others. This allows listening and real communication. Silence moves us toward real communion. “
I believe the value of silence is getting in touch with the real you and your spiritual center. In Tony Cuckson says believes Silence creates trust where he is says, “Listening silently to the promptings of your heart you begin got know your own voice.” (see Silence Part III for more on this).
Do you have silence in your life?
A moment of Silence can be powerful. Sit in silence for a few minutes. What do you notice? Do you feel more peaceful? Do you feel a connection with something bigger than you? Do you relax and calm? Or Does it make you uncomfortable? Many people are uncomfortable with silence. It is why it can be a powerful sales closing or interviewing technique. People want to fill the silence so they will talk about what is on their mind.
By providing pregnant pauses the sales person or interviewer can learn what’s important to someone, why they are considering a product or a job. By letting the person dominate the conversation they will learn how they think and get more insights into that person. In using this technique the sales person or interviewer will get more information than the person was intending…because they will want to fill the silence.
Let’s talk about the phrase…the Pregnant Pause…What is a Pregant Pause? It is just a moment of silence. Consider the idea of pregnant…meaning full of potential, new life and expectancy. This says a moment of silence can provide something new…it has expectations and potential. Barbara Mencer of Business Breakthroughs says…” It (silence) creates an opening …like a blank canvas…an opening for something new, something fresh, something spontaneous and
unplanned to occur. “ Pretty powerful.
Let’s consider the idea of the Silent treatment. How many of you have experienced it or have given it to someone when you were angry or upset? It can be a powerful strategy…everybody hates being deliberately ignored and treated like they don’t exist.
The Amish have the concept of shunning which is ignoring and not communicating with someone until they leave the community. The person is so ignored that they leave.
Silence is used by speakers to draw attention, emphasize a point or let the audience fully digest a point. Silence in a speech is also useful for translators. The next time you are listening to a speech watch how the speaker uses the pauses and moments of silence in making his points and pacing the speech.
In Part II we will explore silence more.
Do you live in reality or in unlimited possibility? I think we all would like to think we live in unlimited possibility…but ask yourself how often you tell yourself you can’t do something or you can’t afford it? Have you recently said “no” to a new idea or experience? How often do you say I will do that (dream, goal, desire) when I lose weight, retire, have more money or be healthier, get a new job, etc…etc? If you do any of this you are living in reality…not possibility.
Robert Fritz, “If you limit your choices only to what seem possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want and all that is left is compromise.”
So, how do we live in possibility instead of compromise? How do eliminate our boundaries? I propose that the first step is to do is to decide that the idea of living in unlimited possibility is possible. It is truly intriguing to contemplate what life would be like if we lived in unlimited possibility. Unlimited possibility means we can let ourselves dream and have what we truly want. It would be a life of abundance, prosperity, success, love, joy and happiness. The key is to connect to the Infinite Mind where there is unlimited possibility and inspiration and let it flow through us.
I read an article by Rev Dr Bob Luckin who suggests that thoughts (like music) have a mood, rhythm, theme and feel. These form an energetic tone which creates a pattern which goes out into the universe. He suggests, “These patterns attract anything and everything in the universe that match them. Thoughts create a unique melody that goes out into the universe, and when the universe hears this melody, it hums this energetic melody into form.”
This is a wonderful analogy for how the law of attraction works with our thoughts. The law of attraction concept of how thoughts are energy and vibration and like attracts like vibration has always made sense but this creates a picture and a strategy. I love the idea that my thoughts are creating a melody which is going to manifest in my life. Is my melody happy and joyful or is it sad and depressing? Whatever the mood, tempo and pattern of my thoughts is going to determine what I am experiencing.
So, the corollary is if we are experiencing something we don’t like we need to look at what melody (vibration) we are sending out. Then we need to change our thinking so the melody is what we would love to hear.
We are often told that we should take personal responsibility for our lives. What does this mean? Frank Thomas says “personal responsibility is defined as a person’s “response-ability,” that is, the ability of a person to maturely respond to the various challenges and circumstances of life.” I think it is more. The first obvious meaning is to admit our mistakes and be willing to accept the consequences.
the second aspect is taking ownership for who we are and what happens in our lives. It means being responsible for the results of our efforts, our responses and relationships. Being responsible for our results is pretty straightforward. You have a presentation to a client and it goes well or doesn’t. If you didn’t prepare as well as you could then you have to own that you could have done better. What if you did everything right and it didn’t go well…you still need to own the results. This is the hard part of personal responsibility.
The next aspect personal responsibility is owning our reactions and responses. Rather than get upset and blame the client or our coworkers personal responsibility is looking at the situation from additional perspectives to see what can be learned. Taking the perspective that there are many viewpoints that can be explored. Perhaps the client was having a bad day because his wife is leaving him, or he just lost a huge deal, had an argument with an important client, the school just called and his child is misbehaving. The effort is in assessing what you have control over and then choosing to learn from the experience.
Harry Palmer, author of the Avatar Path: The Way We Came says, “When my goal is to remedy some situation: unhappiness, loneliness, failure, exhaustion, or despair; the place to start is with MY manageable actions that are contributing, or have contributed, to that situation.”
What is a spiritual practice? First, a spiritual practice is about bringing spirituality into your daily life. Scott Alexander (UU minister in Vero Beach, CA) edited a book called Everyday Spirituality. In the book various people shared how they bring their spirituality into their daily lives. Scott himself considers his daily run a spiritual practice. He defines “Spiritual practice is any regular, intentional activity that serves to significantly deepen the quality and content of your relationship with the miracle of life.” During his run he can often achieve a state of mindful and meditative peace and calm which can true of any exercise and yoga.
The variety of spiritual practices is amazing. One person defined a spiritual maintenance schedule which included daily 10-30 minute meditation, a weekly day of rest and reflection(Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy), a monthly meditation or men’s or women’s group, and a yearly retreat.
One of the women used quilting, another creating and honoring an altar, then there was sacred reading, prayer, sitting zen, martial arts, tithing (giving 10% of your income to causes & spiritual inspiration), fasting, knitting, gardening, saying grace at mealtime with the whole family and cooking. My personal favorites are yoga, walking my dog every morning, reading something spiritually inspirational and deep breathing. I also attend a monthly women’s meditation group and do a visualization weekly.
My conclusion that what you do is not important. What is important is the intention and making the effort. The purpose of a spiritual practice is to enable us to feel connected to the stillness inside of us where your connection to the mystery of life and your higher self resides. So, anything that helps you make the connection and experience “who you are”. There is no one right practice. There are many choices and I encourage you to experiment until you find one that works for you.
Why would you want to connect to spirit? What would the value of being aligned with spirit? First I think it is about being centered. When we are connected with spirit we feel centered and balanced. Feeling balanced gives us perspective. We can appreciate the bigger picture. We know that there are forces beyond the every day of what we can see, hear, touch or taste. Being aware of the bigger picture helps us to appreciate others for who they are and be more tolerant. It also helps us overlook the more irritating and mundane aspects of our lives.
Second, when we are connected we feel good. We are fully present, feeling positive, in the flow. This means we are less easy upset and handle problems more easily. It enables us to approach life with a positive attitude and respond with more ease and grace.
Third, being connected with spirit helps live with more integrity and honesty. This spiritual connection enables our conscience and intuition to be more available. It is harder to cheat, condone bad conduct when your conscience is present. And isn’t it hard to listen to gossip or unethical behavior when you are feeling good and appreciative?
In a conversation recently someone shared that when they connect with spirit and create an intention for the day in the morning their day goes better. This is where a spiritual practice that connects you with spirit helps. Don’t you want your day to flow with ease and grace?