Recently I went on a Silent Retreat at St. Francis Springs Prayer Center. I had only ever been perfectly silent for 12 hours, which isn’t all that difficult. I was in the company of three other women.  Our plan was to be in complete silence for 48 hours. I didn’t know what to expect but was looking forward to the experience. On arrival we unpacked and then enjoyed dinner together before retiring early to consider the days ahead. I had no real plan but to simply open my heart and mind to whatever presented itself.  Of course, I am always hoping for some fabulous mystical experience. Then again, perhaps I am not ready for a six-winged red angel to appear before me. They say that happened to Saint Francis – but there you go, he’s a SAINT. So I just contented myself with simply being in the silence. Sometimes just being is quite enough.

The next morning after my usual ritual of yoga I walked to the lodge for breakfast.  I wore a lanyard that proclaimed, “I AM CURRENTLY IN SILENCE” so that other guests would not attempt to engage in conversation with me.  Those of us who were in Silence ate our meals in a separate dining room reserved for that purpose.  I had never dined with others in complete silence. I was aware of their presence and although we acknowledged one another with smiles or nods there was no conversation.  The experience felt at once congenial and isolated. I noticed that my tendency was to put food in my mouth, chew and begin mounding food on my utensil for the next mouthful before I had finished chewing and swallowing what was in my mouth. I realized how rote the process of eating was for me.  Even though I professed to be grateful I wondered if that could be entirely true if I didn’t even appreciate the process, the smells, the flavors, the textures?  I began to eat my meals more mindfully – taking a bite and putting down my fork or spoon while I savored the food in my mouth. I thought of where it came from, how it came to be there, and how it would nourish my body.

The first day was cold and rainy.  My umbrella and I went for a walk. I found a large labyrinth and made my way along its winding and turning course that snakes toward a center and then out again. I paused at the center and looked at the gifts other travelers had left there – rocks of all shapes and sizes, a sea shell far from its home, a locket, a key, a pacifier, a pine cone. I thought what these objects might have symbolized for the various folks who left them. I sensed a mixture of hope, joy and sorrow mingled there. I had brought nothing but my open mind. I lingered at the labyrinth’s center – surrounded by towering trees, listening to the rain tapping softly on my umbrella, feeling cold air on my face. I left with something I could not name.

I wandered on and came to a small chapel in the woods.  Its walls were mostly glass allowing the trees, rocks, leaves, and stream to be part of the inner experience.  By then the rain was pouring down and I sat inside the tranquil haven listening to the sound of rainfall and watching drops splash in the nearby stream and glisten on rocks and leaves. Delicious cold air surrounded me and fell onto the stone floor and wooden benches. I walked to the altar, lit a candle and watched it flicker and burn in the bleak air until it exhausted itself. My umbrella and I walked back to the lodge in what had become a misty rain, ready for the warmth of a good fire.

I was glad to find a roaring fire had been built in the huge stone fireplace. I made myself a cup of tea, found a book that needed reading and a cozy chair near the fire. As I sipped my tea I contemplated the constantly moving energy of the fire as it simultaneously created and destroyed.  Gradually its blustering intensity subsided to a velvet purr and I turned from my contemplation to the book that wanted reading.

Solitary walks, silent meals, contemplations before a fire, perusing the libraries, reading, and meditation filled my hours and my soul.  I ended my silence on the morning of the fourth day by singing the Gayatri mantra – just to hear the sound of my own voice all by myself before sharing it with others – and then went to breakfast with my companions. Each of us shared something of what had transpired for us over the past 48 hours although some experiences have no words. Each of us understood this instinctively.

What I found most surprising was that this rich experience continued to unfold before me on the drive home and even after returning home. Those hours in silence and contemplation have affected me in ways both deep and subtle. There are no words that can convey to another human being what I truly gained from those hours in quietude.  Perhaps that is as it should be. Appropriately silent.

Post script – in case you’re interested:  The Gayatri Mantra is a Sanskrit mantra that has been chanted for thousands of years. It was written down some time during the Vedic Period (1500-500 BCE). It is considered to be one of the oldest mantras and said to contain all the knowledge of the Universe. It is an expression of gratitude and praise to the Source of transformation, inner growth, and self-realization.

Om bhuh, bhuvah, swaha

Tat savitur varenyam

Bhargo devasya dhimahi

Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat

Translations, although similar, vary. The one that most resonates with me is this one: “May we meditate on the glory of that Being who has produced this Universe. May She enlighten our minds.”


  1. Hannah says:

    Wow … just WOW. I really want to do this.
    The sentence that really grabbed me was “ As I sipped my tea I contemplated the constantly moving energy of the fire as it simultaneously created and destroyed.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Hannah, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. St Francis Springs is a lovely place. Taking time to meditate and contemplate adds so much to life. I would encourage you to do this for yourself.


      1. Hannah says:

        Don’t worry – I have been meditating for about two and a half months now. It has really changed me!
        Doing it in a place like this would be so neat!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I understand. I have been meditating every day for several years. It absolutely changes you. Keep it up 👍


  2. I enjoyed reading of your experience with silence. I think I might enjoy a time of not speaking, but I’d want to be able to write. To be truly silent, I’d probably have to forgo writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think you are right, Anne. I am planning to attend another retreat very soon that is in total silence and no reading or writing is allowed. I’ll let you know how that goes 😊


      1. That is draconian — no reading or writing! Jump in with both feet, abstain from communication, and I thank you ahead of time for letting us know how you fared.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. LOL in fact, a few tears rolled down!!! I’m diving in headfirst. Hopefully I will survive 🤣


      3. Headfirst! Yes! That’s the spirit! I’m going to tag along with you in spirit, because I know I’ll never go on such a retreat myself.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. heimdalco says:

    What a lovely post. I’ve wondered how the retreat went & was sure you would write about it. I can’t remember ever being silent for any real length of time … never. The only thing I can equate it with is some mornings before my husband retired when I fixed my breakfast & enjoyed it in the sun room with no television, no “people noises,” just me & the cat sharing a quiet moment, having breakfast watching the lovely world outside those glass windows, squirrel & sometimes deer in the yard… enjoying the silence. That little bit of personal quiet time was precious to me. I so enjoyed reading about your extended time & how you found joy in your surroundings; sights, smells & flavors, & the planet. An awakening of the senses

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Thanks! Maybe you should write about your precious mornings. This was lovely to read, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Linda. Di you plan to incorporate silence into your life on a regular basis?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. quiall says:

    It sounds wonderful! I bet you found an incredible sense of peace and I hope you’re able to retain it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think spending time being peaceful is cumulative. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. quiall says:

        I think so too.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi. I forgot to mention something. I wonder if people who live in very rural areas (places that are mostly free of man-made noises) are calmer/less anxious than the rest of the population.

    Liked by 2 people

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