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What Is a Silent Meditation Retreat?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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A silent meditation retreat is an event where people meditate in silence as part of a spiritual or personal practice for a period of days, weeks, or even months. Retreats can be associated with specific faiths like Buddhism or Christianity, or they may be non-sectarian in nature. An organization may open retreats to people with all levels of experience and many different backgrounds, or could limit attendance to people who share experience levels and religious faiths. Many retreat centers worldwide offer group silent meditation retreats as well as the opportunity to create private retreats.

At a silent meditation retreat, people can meditate alone or in groups. In fair weather, they may work outside, while indoor areas may be preferred in bad climates or for greater concentration. Facilitators can work with attendees, who may sit in silence or engage in movement meditation. Movements can include the use of yoga and other traditions as well as simple activities like walking meditation, where participants follow a path as they meditate.

Participants in such retreats do not speak or communicate with each other. Varying degrees of silence may be imposed, ranging from total silence throughout the retreat to more relaxed rules where people may interact at meals or events. Some meditation retreats come with full service, including staff members to change bedding, prepare meals, and provide other assistance. At others, part of the silent meditation retreat may include cooking, cleaning, and maintenance activities at the retreat center.

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Retreat centers charge varying fees for their events. Some may offer scholarships or work study opportunities for low income participants. Some centers also host other events such as massage and yoga classes, weddings, and so forth. They may maintain a variable schedule throughout the year, isolating silent meditation areas to prevent interference from other visitors and guests.

People may use a silent meditation retreat for spiritual or personal growth in a variety of ways. Some people find meditation helpful for spiritual practice, stress relief, management of mental illness, or a simple break from their normal environments. Retreats can also offer supportive services like counseling for people who want to use meditation as part of a drug treatment program or anger management plan. Novice meditators may find it helpful to attend a short course before the formal retreat begins so they can get familiar with different meditation techniques and learn more about the etiquette for a silent meditation retreat.

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