3 Days in Silence - What I Learned

Recently I went on a mindfulness retreat in Costa Rica with Tara Brach, Jonathan Foust, and Jake Tarr. It was a moving experience with 3 key themes that persisted throughout the retreat.

First, the set-up. My intention for the 3 days of social silence was best captured by the poem Tara Brach read at the beginning, Clearing by Martha Postlethwaite: I wanted to create a clearing in the dense forest of my life and be patient enough to wait and see what might happen. 

We stayed at the Santarena Hotel in Las Cantalinas, a perfectly nice but not overly fancy property tucked on the north side of Potrero Bay. Sessions ran from morning until evening with plenty of time to recharge and the team provided a series of vegan meals I found unexpectedly delicious. I journaled some, listened carefully to the lectures, diligently practiced the inquiries, debriefed the exercises with fellow students, and awkwardly ate in silence with them. I took a hike one day, long naps two days, and much to my delight was successful in restraining from email as I had promised to myself and my team.

Throughout the retreat, 3 themes continued to resurface for me. I’ve brought them back to my day-to-day life in Washington, DC for additional attention which is always much more difficult to do than when on retreat!

1. Walk at half speed, notice twice as much

I really like this one because it speaks to managing my impatience with the counterbalance of my curiosity. I know I’m at my best when I’m moving a little bit slower, and yet that is not my natural style. I’ve never thought about bringing in curiosity and using it to slow me down to investigate what is around me. 

2. Recognize, allow, investigate, and nurture (RAIN)

This is Tara Brachs’ “go to” and I encourage you to investigate it more here. It is a technique to reduce the stress and anxiety caused by events and people that trigger us.  

3. Say yes to something you resist

The idea here is to say, “yes, this belongs,” to something that is coming up that you don’t want. We push away what we don’t want which often makes it stronger. Instead, invite it in, say yes to it, and acknowledge that whatever is bothering you “belongs”. This is certainly easier to write about than to actually do, but I find the challenge worthy of work. What you resist, persists as I was quickly reminded of when I opened my inbox!

Most of all this retreat reminded me how important it is for my energy to take a solo, contemplative trip each year. 

Where have you been lately that really recharged your soul? I’d love to know, perhaps I’ll find myself there in 2024.