A Taste of Silence

21-27 November 2019 at The Ashram
Shree Peetha Nilaya

Under the masterful guidance of Paramahamsa Sri Swami Vishwananda, a diverse group of 96 people came together to take part in a 7-day Silent Retreat. Those who took time out of their busy lives to enter the “cave” of Shree Peetha Nilaya were rewarded with a deep dive into the silence of their hearts and a profound shift in awareness and consciousness.

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A Spa for the Soul

Although the setting was simple, one participant called the retreat ‘a spa for the soul’. With the knowledge that silence on the outside helps you to retreat into the silence within, everyone was instructed to soundlessly engage in every activity done throughout the week. 

As the days progressed, so did the group’s attentiveness to minimising the ambient sounds of everyday activities. Participants soon realised it took great care and concentration to walk silently, especially while moving through the forest japa walks in the fallen leaves. Before long, even simple things like closing doors, eating meals, and using utensils became a silent meditation. By the end of the week, even the ticking of the hall clock sounded like thunder.

Making the Commitment

Taking part in a silent retreat with Paramahamsa Vishwananda can be an intense experience. It is one that requires a serious personal commitment and a willingness to invest sincere emotional and spiritual effort to attain the full benefit of what is being offered. 

On the first night, everyone was asked to surrender their mobile phones and computers until the last day. While some were hesitant and anxious about being so disconnected, many were grateful for the enforced ‘fast’ from technology and the distractions of the outside world. 

Setting the Stage

To prepare the body for long hours of sitting meditation, the days began with warm-up yoga exercises. One participant expressed her appreciation by saying, ‘In my busy daily life, I so seldom ever have the luxury of ignoring the clock and really resting in the pleasure of doing my Kriya practice, especially with a group of experienced yogis. It was such a special treat to be able to do both Babaji Surya Namaskar and a full Atma Kriya Yoga practice twice a day, every day.’ 

In the opening night Satsang, Guruji shared profound wisdom about silence and spoke about what happens as the mind begins to settle. He said, ‘When verbal communication ends, yogis begin to observe.’ He also let us know that ‘Silence can be scary because it takes everything inside and brings it to the surface.’ So, He encouraged everyone to simply observe the mind without judgement and let go of expectations in order to journey into the core of their hearts to find the Lord within. 

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Diving In

Most of the day was dedicated to independent silent practice. In the morning, everyone was to do a special sadhana with the Gayatri Mantra and the afternoons were set aside for self-reflection. Those with the courage to take a closer look at themselves were rewarded with a deeper awareness of the blocks preventing them from realising their divinity, as well as insightful answers as to how to overcome them. Some were even able to experience a shift in consciousness and to taste the silence within. 

On the fifth night, Guruji led the group through a powerful meditation in the dark. Afterwards, He announced that our last day was to be spent in isolated darkness. As many might expect, this assignment brought up a lot for the participants. People’s experience varied widely; while some found it too much, others didn’t want it to end. Regardless of people’s reactions, the exercises proved to be a genuine opportunity to observe how strong we are in our ability to meet and manage the unknown.  

Held Inside and Out

Throughout the week, all the residents of Shree Peetha Nilaya – Home of the Divine Mother – were in service to the retreat and yet, were also influenced by the silence. Whether they were directly attending to the retreat program or simply going about their normal seva, everyone did their best to minimise noise and outside distractions. The silence seemed to pervade everything and everyone. 

The retreat organiser said, ‘Our job was to fulfil material desires and make sure everything was taken care so that people’s minds could be at rest and they could go deeper into what Guruji was asking them to do.’ Unexpectedly, two of the helpers spoke about how ‘nourishing and refreshing it was to serve the group,’ and how ‘it was like being on holiday!’

Although Guruji was not physically around every day, He was energetically ever-present and mindful of where people were, what they were doing and helping them to go deeper into their experience. 

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Lessons Learned

The Silent Retreat gave participants the opportunity to really dive deeper into their spiritual practice and self-reflection. When some expressed their frustration at not having quieted their inner conversations during the week, Guruji smiled and encouraged everyone to just keep practicing. He told the group to continue to put in the effort and to work towards staying in the silence, even while talking and doing daily activities. 

One participant called the retreat a ‘detox for the mind’ and was grateful for the gift of time and the Master’s ever-present support. She was finally able to honestly observe the workings of her mind, leading her to a place of being clear about her choice to either buy into the mind’s attempts to control or to step back and let it all just move past her without getting caught up in the drama. 

In the wrap-up meeting, one woman shared her gratitude that Guruji’s lack of physical presence made it possible for her to realise that He is ever-present in her heart and that she didn’t need to see Him to feel His constant love and support. This priceless lesson served many well in the challenging moments of the retreat and gave everyone a strong foundation to build upon as they ventured back into the world. 

Craving Silence?

Tasting silence leads to a hunger for more. When Guruji asked, almost everyone in the room indicated they would gladly take part in another silent retreat. If you too would like to take an inner journey like this, check out the Bhakti Marga 2020 Event Calendar for upcoming events.