Silent retreats are on the rise with people escaping daily life to meditate, practice yoga and sit in stillness for hours on end. For some it’s unthinkable, for others it’s bliss.
Ever tried to hush that chatty mind of yours? Silent meditation is like a ninja for your thoughts, ready to reduce stress and gift you a clearer headspace which is why these quiet havens are making a big noise among those looking to seriously rest and recharge.
Healing holidays provide great benefits for your mental and physical well-being. They’re a time to relax, de-stress, unwind and re-connect with nature.
If you’re wondering what it’s like to escape the endless chatter of daily life and dive headfirst into the peaceful oasis well, wonder no more, because we’ve got the inside scoop on some of the world’s top silent retreats.
Vipassana Meditation Center, Ras Al-Khaimah
Vipassana is an ancient Indian method of mindful meditation with sessions lasting up to ten hours a day, usually for ten days straight, and allows you to observe yourself and your thoughts in complete silence. There’s no writing or reading to express your thoughts, instead you cleanse your mind by meditating for hours on end in absolute stillness, even music isn’t permitted.
While exercise does wonders for mental health, it’s forbidden during the retreat, only walking is allowed. Mobile phones are handed in at the start of the ten days and returned at the end, so don’t expect to be plastering your getaway on social media.
The first three-days begin at 4am with silent meditation to get your brain attuned to the unique experience. Next is a few days focusing on sensations felt around your body to increase concentration and make you notice frequent feelings that you’re too busy to realise.
Two days are then spent focusing on your insides so you can be more conscious of what’s happening within. The ten days concludes with a shift in consciousness and perception that will have you feeling gratitude for the smaller things – a hot shower, food and even air.
Be warned though, Vipassana is not for the faint-hearted. Many struggle to make it past the first few days of the retreat, as sitting in stillness is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one. Your body will ache, you’ll feel fidgety and you’ll question what you’re doing with yourself. But as your mind and body settle it’ll all start to make sense.
Bali Silent Retreat, Indonesia
Those looking for a silent retreat that won’t be so tough on the body should head to the Bali Silent Retreat. Here is a sustainably responsible, off the grid, introvert’s paradise that connects you with nature in blissful silence.
As you’d expect, devices are not allowed, nor is caffeine, meat, dairy or any products with chemicals. The retreat allows you to create your own schedule, and asks you to follow just two rules: don’t talk and don’t use electronics. If you wish to meditate you can do so at the Water Meditation site surrounded by the blissful sounds of Holy water running down from the temple. You can enjoy the massage rooms, stargazing beds, along with the vegetable garden and rice terraces.
Guests here dine heartily on fresh organic food, with three vegetarian buffets available all day, and no end of herbal teas. The retreat’s mission is to expand awareness for people everywhere, in a spiritual space in keeping with its ‘green-to-the extreme’ values. So if you want to level up your consciousness without having to talk to anyone else, this is the place for you.
Vedic Yoga Academy, Nepal
Those looking for a more slightly structured retreat will find peace and serenity in this Nepalese getaway, that’ll take you on a quiet journey using different yoga techniques. The retreat celebrates the power of the senses using silence as the catalyst for awakening.
The centre is located on top of a mountain overlooking the stunning Phewa Lake, making it easy to relax from the moment you step through the door. Unlike the Bali Silent retreat, the Academy has rooms with Wi-Fi so you can use electronics if you can’t go a few days without looking at a screen. However you are most likely going to be fixed on the idyllic surroundings. Meals are strictly meat-free and made up of local organic produce.
Each day begins with lemon and ginger to awaken and detoxify the body before a near three-hour deep mediation. You’ll then learn how to celebrate in silence and later complete five hours of daily meditation and yoga. Then you’ll get a personal spiritual guidance meditation session, just in time to watch the sunset. Five days of that and you’ll be feeling so good you’ll be shouting from the rooftops – not literally of course.
Gaia House, UK
This retreat is dedicated to sustained meditation, in complete silence. The calm and simplified environment is designed to limit distractions and help you focus on your solitude. When engaged in ‘work hours’ all guests are expected to remain in silence, and must not communicate, neither verbally nor non-verbally. That includes writing and physical touch.
For those who don’t like to be bothered by others, it’s paradise. Group retreats here stick to a pre-planned schedule of formal meditation, which see around 1,500 people a year attend. Those looking for a truly immersive experience can book a month-long retreat – although there is usually a waiting list – with typical days beginning at 6:30am and finishing at 9:30pm. Most of this time is spent sitting in the hall or walking the grounds, in utter silence of course.
The diet is plant-based with the option of a ‘simple diet’ that consists of gluten-free wholegrain, steamed vegetables, eggs and tofu. Two meals a day is deemed enough at Gaia House. Following a hearty breakfast and lunch, dinner is simply soup and bread so, make sure you get properly fuelled throughout the day.