Shhh... What I Learned From My Silent Retreat

Turning off your phone and shutting out all noise is harder than it sounds...

Vows of Silence are nothing new, in fact, they have been a practice within many religions and as a means of peaceful protest for a long time. Indeed, Gandhi himself would take on one day of silence per week.

We live in a world full of noise and chatter- and what a beautiful thing that can be- but sometimes this excess noise can seriously cloud our thoughts and judgement. 

While vows of silence within the Christian religion are not generally taken on as common practice, there are specific times within religious orders where speaking is not permitted unless strictly necessary. This led me to wonder if silence was truly golden and whether shutting out the chaos of everyday life would improve my mental clarity.

I found myself considering if a few days of total silence would bring some truths to the forefront that I had been searching for, as I was at a crossroads in terms of what I wanted to focus my attention on within my ministry. 

As part of this silent retreat, we had to turn off our phones. With so much of my life being documented on social media, a break from the online world was long overdue. However, old habits die hard. I continually felt the urge to check my phone; it was almost as if I was going into social media withdrawal! 

However, the time to relax and think with no distractions was truly invaluable. I didn’t realise how few opportunities I truly have the chance to do this in the real world. I went for a couple of walks in the park opposite, which was a great opportunity to talk to God and practice mindfulness within nature. Again, this is something that I scarcely have a chance to do as a very busy reverend vet! 

One thing that really was a jarring part of the experience, was eating with just the sound of the cutlery. Something that I’m sure we can all agree is not something we would usually do at mealtimes. However, it was strangely liberating to not feel the pressure to make idle conversation and to focus on mindfully eating your meal.

It really did feel very noisy driving back to the real world, but my head was clearer and some decisions had been made regarding aspects of my ministry to focus on going forward.

The best benefit of all… I had missed sleeping with my three cats on the bed, so I’ve been sleeping like a log since my return! 

Posted on October 20th 2021

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