A one-day silent retreat on Bowen Island
If anyone has worked in the restaurant industry or perhaps been a manager in the restaurant industry, you know the volume and intensity that comes with the Christmas season. For me, usually, the day after Christmas, I slightly want to slide into hibernation like a bear and take a whole week (or months) to myself where I don’t have to talk to a soul, to rejuvenate, decompress, and have time to be still and do nothing. However, this was the time of year we would be planning the last-minute NYE party details and having yet another week of craziness with New Year's Eve & New Year's day.
So, when I saw a “One-day Silent Retreat” advertisement on Instagram, I thought this was exactly what I needed. The first weekend into the new year, on a Sunday, on Bowen Island, where I don’t have to talk to anyone for 5 hours, GLORIOUS! I didn’t know what a silent retreat was; the only time I had heard of it was years ago when an employee requested five days off to go to a silent retreat. I instantly judged how weird this idea seemed, like maybe a bizarre cult or some situation where strange things happened. Nonetheless, this one-day retreat was held at a beautiful yoga retreat on Bowen island called Nector Yoga, and I figured it was all-around low risk.
This was not a traditional silent mindfulness retreat, but some aspects stood out. We had to refrain from talking to anyone or using our phones during mealtime. The food was provided, and we sat and ate it in silence with no distractions for a 45-minute window. This was nuts for me because most meals I ate were rushing to try to shove food in my mouth while also working and not prolonged for 45 minutes. We were instructed to take a few mindful breaths before we sat down to eat. The meal was a vegetarian chili with local sourdough bread and butter. Every part of this meal, between grabbing the food and sitting down, was like a ritual with intention: no rushing, no distractions, no talking, just you, silence, and the food. I ate slowly as I didn’t know what I could do with the rest of the time between finishing eating and our next session.
The taste of the chili and bread was the best I have ever had. So simple, yet so amazing. It made me think back to the number of times I had eaten chili at work and how different this experience was. I thought maybe I had never actually “tasted” the chili before. This was the first time I had ever paid attention to my food like this or the process of slowly eating. I appreciated the food, the taste, and how I felt afterward. I thought this was interesting.
The next was a walking meditation. We had to mindfully walk from the retreat down to the ocean, maybe about 10 minutes. This is the first time I have ever paid attention to walking. The struggle was real; I was used to walking fast. I worked in an environment where I needed to walk fast and, most of the time, aimlessly. Each step had to be intentional, and we paid attention to the movements of stepping down and lifting the foot. There was no agenda to where you needed to be. You were just walking. I noticed so much on that walk, and it made me think of all the stuff I miss just focusing on getting to the destination and skipping the journey.
We also participated in restorative yoga practice. My first reaction was to question the benefit of lying down and doing “nothing” and what this would do. Again, funny how we are always in need of wanting to know exactly what something will do for us and how we can measure the results. This may have been my first introduction to the idea that “doing nothing” is “doing something.”
This type of retreat was not a traditional mindfulness retreat but had many aspects of mindfulness to it. This was my first introduction to bringing mindfulness to day-to-day activities (known as informal practice) and the first time I had an uh-huh moment on the value of paying attention in the present moment. This curiosity stayed with me for quite some time.
If you are interested in an amazing Yoga retreat, I highly recommend checking out Netor Yoga on Bowen Island.