For some reason, when I tell people I’m going away to spend some time in silence, it often freaks them out. I think it’s partly because most people believe I could speak under water with a mouth full of marbles, but mostly it’s because people simply can’t imagine what it would be like to go days without speaking. And once the shock has worn off, the questions start: "What do you do with yourself if you can't talk? How do you ask for things? What if there’s an emergency? Do you forget what your own voice sounds like? Don’t you get bored? I could never do that!!” But really, it's not that hard. You just shut your mouth. And think. And you might find when you stop talking, it gives you the chance to listen and hear what your inner voice has to say.
I honestly believe spending time in silence is one of the most peaceful things you can do. Haven’t you ever just wanted to completely check out from the world, ditch your phone, give the news a rest and not even have to make conversation? These days we are just so…contactable. You know that everyone else knows that you have your phone on you at all times, which means that you’ve seen their text/imessage/email/FB/What's App message as soon as they’ve sent it. And because they know you’ve seen it, then they expect you to reply. It can be a lot of pressure! And even when you put that marvelous little creation, the Out of Office Auto reply on your email, you know that everyone else knows that you’re still likely to have a gadget on you and are getting those emails. Well, when you go to Bali Silent Retreat there is none of that. No phones. No internet. No speaking. But what there is, is peace, relaxation, reading, thinking. And there’s nothing freaky about that.
The retreat centre is about an hour from Ubud (depending on traffic!) and there isn’t a lot nearby. The property is full of green; the rice fields, the gardens, and the jungle beyond. There’s a two story main building where all the meals are served (at set times when the gong sounds) and an upstairs area where guests eat, hang out, read and contemplate.
When you first arrive, you’re greeted by a staff member who gives you an orientation session, a locker and your dinnerware (you wash it yourself). If you have any questions, this is the time to ask them. But if you forget how things work, there are signs around to remind you.
The accommodation is basic but clean. You can choose from single or dorm room accommodation. The single rooms contain a bed and a mosquito net and have their own bathroom, although they are open on all sides, so they’re not exactly sound proof, and whatever insects are flying around outside are also likely to end up inside. The main downside to the rooms being open is that it doesn’t exactly help you get a good night’s sleep. Clearly the frogs and insects have not been given the memo on silence! Even ear plugs didn’t really help, so bring some heavy duty ones if you can find them.
The times when I’m in silence are the most peaceful of my life. There’s no small talk, no arguments, no saying the wrong thing. There’s just you and your thoughts. You don’t even have to make eye contact with the other guests if you don’t want to. But if you do feel the need for human interaction, you can find it through small gestures and smiles.
The silence allows you to truly do nothing. Just sit. And think. About everything in your life and where it’s going and whether you’re truly happy. There are so many things we do on autopilot because we don’t have the chance to think about the consequences. We’re always making decisions under pressure because we don’t have the time or space to really think them through. Bali Silent Retreat gives you that time and space.
There’s a lovely yoga shala on site that is open on all sides. The morning classes are gentle, and are a beautiful way to wake up the body. The classes are open to all levels and there’s plenty of instruction for beginners. The classes are mostly Hatha, depending on the visiting teacher.
The afternoon guided meditation sessions are a great introduction if you haven’t meditated before. I find guided meditation a lot more peaceful, as it gives my mind something to focus on, instead of just expecting it to stay still (yeah, right).
Near the yoga shala is the labyrinth, which offers a place for a walking meditation. The labyrinth is a little like Ikea, there’s only one way in and one way out! The idea is to set an intention before you walk in, walk slowly while being aware of the breath and concentrate on every step you take. It’s an exercise in presence. It’s also an opportunity to meditate on a particular issue, and it’s said that if you walk in with a problem, you walk out with an answer.
The retreat has a decent library, with many books on spirituality, gardening and yoga, but of course you can bring your own books and read whatever you like.
Once a week, the chef does a talk about food- related topics such as sustainable farming and eating. It’s really interesting to listen to his philosophies on food and he invites people to share their thoughts, so if you’ve been hanging out to talk, then this is your chance!
OK, let’s get this out the way. There’s no meat. Of any kind. But what there is, is the most amazing vegetarian food I have ever had. Anywhere. The chef is amazingly talented and is all about cooking sustainably, growing as much as possible on the property and sourcing everything else locally. This means that you only eat things that are in season. And delicious. Seriously, if you’re one of those people who thinks the world is going to end if you don’t get a steak, this food is good enough to turn you vegetarian.
Overall, Bali Silent Retreat is a great opportunity to take a break from the stress of modern day life. There's no set timetable, so you can do as much or as little as you like. There's also no set dates, so you can come and go as you please. But you might want to put a couple of extra days aside, because once you stop talking, you might not be in a hurry to start again.
For more info see: www.balisilentretreat.com