Several years ago, I embarked on a transition which would become know as my life experience. I retired from a long corporate career and left behind not only work I knew for over 24 years but a work family, friends and lifestyle. The decision to take the early retirement was easy as I had been considering it for quite a while. I knew that this was a major turning point in my life and I recall wanting to do things differently. Around the same time a good friend invited me to join her on a silent retreat.
I thought, how bizarre, a silent retreat? Why would I want to do such a thing, pay money and invest one week of my life in something called a silent retreat? I didn’t know any of those answers but the one thing I did know was that I wanted to create a definite line between what was and what will be. This seemed so off the wall that it was the perfect way to create that distinction.
Five days after retiring I landed in sunny, stunning Jackson Hole, Wyoming and met the 13 others with whom I would be sharing a home with in silence for the week. The rules of the retreat were simple, we could only speak while seated in a circle in our sacred group meeting room for a few hours each day. The topics during those hours were whatever surfaced at that time. Trust was a keyword during this experience.
For the week we lived, cooked and dined together in silence. It was beautiful. There was no pressure, no stress, no wonder and most of all no questions to ask. What was present was peace and connection at a very deep soul level.
Interestingly it was not until the final night, during our farewell dinner, that we could break the silence in the home (outside of our sacred room). It was that evening we learned what each person did professionally and where they were from. The result was anti-climactic at best. We had become so close at the soul level that all of the other “stuff” was not even remotely important.
What was important that was that for each of us healing began in a way that we did not know. Some of us didn’t know why we were there but we soon found out. During the stay I became ill with fever. Our facilitator advised me that I was releasing all of the toxins of my corporate life. I firmly believe this and once I passed through that phase the bizarre retreat took on an entirely different meaning for me; one of purification and wholeness; welcoming a new beginning.
It was a powerful week in the dramatic Teton Mountains of Jackson Hole, Wyoming with people who I would never see again. The clarity, peace and completeness received were far more than I ever envisioned when I signed up.
Fast forward and I am having a similar silent retreat. This time not because I signed up for one, but because I lost my voice. Not being able to speak has made it incredibly easy to be silent. During a large snowstorm it was very easy to spend a long weekend inside by a crackling fire, drinking warm beverages. Slowing down and reflecting in silence.
I am marveling at what a phenomenal three days this has been in my home, relaxing, focused, reflecting and taking care of little projects that I have put off for many months and years. The snow demanded that we all stay inside since the conditions were too severe to venture outside and roads needed to be kept clear for snow removal and emergency vehicles. I welcomed this and embraced my homestay as a chance to simply be.
The power of silence can be found right at home or at a structured retreat. I have found both extremely beneficial and encourage you to practice silence as often as you can. Embrace the peace, release the need to speak and simply be. Name it as a daylong silent retreat or join a retreat. However you choose to embrace silence I am confident you will enjoy the peaceful results.
Scott Masciarelli, PCC, BCC is a leadership coach and trainer and multilingual avid world traveler. He partners with executives and expatriates to support both their personal and professional leadership growth. Scott’s clients achieve success on their terms.