An Idea for a Silent Retreat

Lately I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed between work, grad school, various volunteering commitments and trying to maintain healthy relationships with friends. Add to that the news cycle of the last year, and it’s easy to see why I’ve been feeling a little run-down. 

I’ve also, because of this fast-paced life I’m in the midst of, spent precious little time really appreciating much in the way of music or movies recently. So, I’m going to design a silent retreat, with media.

The “Retreat” Bit

The retreat part ought to be obvious; my energy is flagging, and I’d like a week or so to step away, slow down, and really recharge. 

The “Silent” Bit

The silent part may be less easy to figure out, but let me try. Working in customer service (and I’m here considering consulting to be a subset thereof) means you’re talking to people. A lot. And working online means reading emails, articles, ads, proposals, RFPs, feedback, reports, charts, and spreadsheets. A lot. So sometimes, I just get overwhelmed from all the words coming at me, day after day; and, in something akin to the overload expressed in “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” by the Police. QED: 


Even words spoken earnestly or with great affection are difficult to receive as such when one’s verbal processing centers are running on fumes. So, thinking about hanging out with friends is always appealing, but sometimes, so is needing neither to speak, nor to listen. Sometimes, it is enough merely to think, and to sit, and to walk, and to read…to retreat into one’s own heart and mind, though within the presence of others. This, to me, is the essence of a silent retreat: to be in collective, restorative solitude. 

The “With Media” Bit

Here’s the thing, though: I also really want to watch some great cinema, and maybe listen to a really good album. There’s something about the movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford that makes it uniquely appealing in this state. I love the idea of watching that movie several times over the course of a few days, and just being able to sit and look out a window, or go for a slow walk, afterwards. The cinematography, the acting and the slow burn of that film just…wow. 

I’d also like to listen to some music. Maybe catch up on some of Andrew Bird’s recent albums; maybe some Mark Knopfler. Something quiet, acoustic; something purely observational, that doesn’t ask the world to be anyway other than it is. After all, I often think that that’s partly what one might expect from a retreat, aside from rest and calm: observation. We retreat to see the shape our lives have taken, and only gently begin to ask if that’s the shape we’d wanted. It’s only after the retreat that the work of adjusting ourselves to get back on track begins. 

So what about you? If you could plan a week away to get recharged, what would it look like? What would you do? Who would you include?

What Do You Think?