Silent Meditation Retreats

They’re ‘Namaste’ on Proverbial Steroids.

Most people are familiar with meditation. It’s a time to sit quietly while trying to clear ever-popping thoughts from the mind. People can meditate for as little as a few moments to several hours. However, some people take that idea one, much bigger step further:  silent meditation retreats.

Silent meditation retreats are exactly what they sound like:  a ‘vacation’ spent meditating. And this vacation? It comes with rules. Unlike the average retreat, there is no talking and, often, the following precepts are followed:  no killing of any sentient being (that’s any and all bugs!), no stealing, no sexual activity, and no misuse of intoxicants. Silent meditation retreats can last anywhere from one day to several months. These silent retreats are held all over the world, but can also be found right here in Indiana.

Gone are the days when meditation was thought to be an odd ritual practiced only by Buddhists. It has gained much more acceptance these days and is practiced by people from all religions. In fact, ABC News is calling silent meditation retreats the next “travel trend.”

Local resident Nancy Tomkins has been attending these retreats for a decade and estimates she has attended ten of them, nearly all in Indiana. The longest retreat Tomkins attended was eight days.

She became interested in meditation about ten years ago because, “I was searching for some kind of spirituality in my life,” she said. Tomkins discovered meditation and Buddhism, which seemed to “fit for me, for what I was thinking, for what I was feeling,” she said. From her interest in spirituality, she quickly moved to attending silent meditation retreats. “I started doing some reading and, at that time, there wasn’t anyone local, but I found a retreat at The Oakwood Retreat Center near Muncie which was sponsored by Tri-State Dharma,” she said.

Tomkins reports a typical retreat consists of waking early (5 or 6 a.m.), breakfast, meditating, lunch, meditation, a light dinner, a teaching, more meditation, and then onto bed. Meals are often vegan or vegetarian. If the retreat is more than one day, then the identical schedule is followed for the remaining days. Other retreats offer outdoor activities or spa treatments, but those come with a price tag to match those luxuries.

“(The retreats) are a wonderful experience,” Tomkins said. “There is a comfort and energy when you are in a group with like-minded people. You feel a peacefulness, a calm.”

Although the silence component is “what seems to fascinate people,” said Tomkins, “but it’s the easiest part. The hardest part is the physical component—the sitting, the walking. It can be hard on your body to maintain the same position hour after hour, day after day. It’s hard even for those who are in great shape.” It is natural to think that the walking would provide some kind of physical relief, however, the walking is not a full stride walk which would enable a stretch, but instead a short pace back and forth. After all, the participant is still meditating, and cannot break that flow.

Tomkins reports if someone would like more information, a good place to start is Insight Fort Wayne, which offers weekly meditation sessions.

Is this a solution to the ever-increasing pace of our plugged-in lives? Could it be a way to guard ourselves against 24/7 availability we now have? Perhaps. As Tomkins says, “The focus is just to clear your mind and become ready to accept that your mind can settle.”

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