Having recently become a fan and an email subscriber of Danielle LaPorte, I discovered today that she regularly posts a "burning question" on her blog and invites readers to write their response. Although not the usual photography challenge, I found a photo from my archives and a quote that fit well with it, so I'm in.
This week's burning question is: What's your relationship to silence?
Soon, very soon, I will be going on what will be my sixth retreat into silence and solitude. My first retreat was taken in October, 2010 and my positive experience promted me to commit to going back to the retreat space I'd chosen quarterly through the coming year. I honored that committment and the last time I went on retreat marked the completion of that one year journey into silence and solitude.
Today's photo was taken in August of 2011 - my fourth trip to the "mountain."
The reactions I get from folks when I discuss my retreats are interesting. After expressing concern, most will say they think its a great idea and wish they could do something like that.
Why don't you? I ask.
The reasons given range from blaming other people (kids, job, husband) to fear of being alone or fear of going nuts in the silence. No, TV? No Music? No Internet?
Nope. Nothing but the sound of the wind in the trees, the occasional nut falling on the tin roof or mouse scratching inside the wall.
Whatever their reasons, and there were plenty of them, they would still sigh wistfully at the thought and say they really wish they could.
I even had a few say they would do it if they could tag along with me. Ummmm...what part of solitude are we confused about here?
I wish they would try it. I wish everyone would give this a chance because I can tell you that taking this time for myself has been the single most transformative and rewarding endeavor of my life. It was a bit of a stretch to do the retreats quarterly, but I have committed to continue these retreats twice a year as long as I'm able, and working in smaller periods of solitude when I can.
For years, I had thought about doing something like this and I was full of "yes, buts..." myself. What was different this time? Was there a tipping point, a crisis or series of crises, a straw that broke the camel's back, or just a desperate desire to stop the world for just a moment? Please?
All of the above.
For that story, you'll have to read my memoir. :) In fact, I intend to gather up all my journals and materials from this year of silence and solitude and kick off my memoir writing on upcoming retreat.
Suffice it to say that I have experienced all of what Thoreau mentions during my time alone - refuge against all the outside forces that would bend me to their will, soothing balm for the spirit-owies resulting from my mistakes or follies, and a welcome place to rest in times of joy and great disappointment.
There were quite a few times when it was just a blessed relief to table dealing with a specific issue until the next retreat when I had time to breath, think, and be with it before making a decision. I have also found that since I've been taking time for solitude that I am turning on the TV or the stereo less often. I crave the quiet.
Another question that I get is, "what do you do while you are there?"
Basically, I keep it really simple. I don't make plans except for what food I'm going to take. The hermitage where I stay has a small kitchen where I can prepare simple meals. I pack whatever books I have that I haven't managed to read or want to re-read. Sometimes the experience is intensely spiritual, and others its more about goal setting and planning. Sometimes I would get a book recommendation serendipitously prior to my scheduled retreat and I would buy and it and save it for that time.
I walk. I journal. I sit quietly. I read. I sleep. I eat. I take photographs.
I have favorite sitting places and walking places, and I make my way around to them at various points throughout the day depending on the light and the weather.
Otherwise, I do not plan how I will spend my time or set any specific agenda. Sometimes I write more and read less, others I read more and write less. Sometimes I take lots of pictures, and other times I take only a few.
There are only two rules - silence and solitude. My times of retreat is like a big reset button when my life's computer program is one click away from giving me the blue screen of death. Sometimes, you just gotta reboot.