Silence Retreat 24-28/8/16 Gyreum Eco-lodge, Castlebaldwin, Co. Sligo
“Looking at my diary for autumn 2016 I freaked, shocked by the busyness of it. I felt I was repeating old patterns well-known to any ‘freelancers’ out there by saying yes to things in case I would in some way disappear and become irrelevant to the world I need to make my living in.
Anyway… I craved quiet time to empty and switch off my head, hence signing up for the Silence Retreat. A friend and I had been attending Tuesday evening meditation classes with Chitta in Derry-Londonderry and I have been to a few one-day events at the Potala Centre in Belfast.
People who know me laughed at the thought of me being quiet for any length of time. I talk for a living.
I signed up and chose the camping option, primarily because I’m always afraid of snoring and keeping others awake; but also because we own a lovely old VW campervan and it’s very cosy.
Having a prior commitment in Letterkenny on the first evening I arrived an hour later than I planned after getting lost. I would suggest you get yourself to the crossroads in the middle of Castlebaldwin on the N4 and find the brown sign for the Gyreum, a few more little turns after that and you’re there.
I was met by Pat from the Potala Centre, we nearly blinded each other, me in the head torch and him with the lantern! The welcome was very warm and hushed because almost everyone was in bed already. The others had the benefit of arriving to a communal meal and an introductory session where they were able to chat. I’d be in at the deep end in the morning – no chat!
The first day it was silence until lunchtime with a couple of one-hour guided sessions which everyone attended. Breakfast was silent, a note on the table to let me know there was porridge on the cooker in the kitchen (which was delicious). I smiled at strangers, they smiled back. I knew then I’d be ok.
The one-hour meditations were guided by Chitta who is just lovely, grounded, knowledgeable, gentle and good fun. There are a range of things to sit on, floor cushions, individual arm chairs, kitchen chairs and then the fixed couches around the walls. A bit like one of the three bears I tried a load of them before I found the one that was just right for me.
I adored the space, the Gyreum Eco-lodge is quite a special and unusual place. Loads of different nooks to sit, read, think or write between meditations. The location is spectacular and wonderful for walking and exploring. I connected with it in a way that I’m still trying to work out.
After lunch on the first day we could talk and that was great. I met some gorgeous people and the conversations were rich and varied. A lovely local man called Robert came and took us walking to the passage tombs at Carrowkeel which was brilliant. The fresh air and exercise – perfect. There was no pressure to go but I’m glad I did.
The second day we were quiet until supper and the remaining two and a half days were completely silent. In the evenings when the weather allowed we lit a fire outside in the garden and had our final (unguided) mediation of the day. The weather was pretty good and I walked quite a lot between sessions.
Everyone helps with tasks and it’s amazing to see a group co-operating and working collectively for the greater good. We ate together and the food was hearty and tasty. You could make yourself a cuppa at any stage.
I had a wonderful time improving my practice, the mediations were interesting and useful. It took me a day or two to really settle during the sessions but when I did I experienced a much deeper level of focus than ever before.
If you’re wondering about doing a silence retreat I would encourage you to take the risk. You would be in very safe hands with Chitta and Pat. I loved it! I’m going to build it into my life at least once a year because two weeks on and I’m still reaping the benefits. I’m clearer, making better decisions and focusing much more on what’s important instead of what’s urgent. Even having the time to walk as reignited my passion for it and I’m building it into my daily life which has all the knock on advantages.
A few days spent quietening your mind in good company while sending some peace and love out into the world – what’s not to love about that? It’s the best medicine.
Thank-you especially to Chitta and Pat and all my fellow travellers. J” – Diane.