A silent meditation retreat is an event where people meditate in silence, as part of spiritual or personal practice, over a period of days, weeks, or even months. Retreats may be associated with specific religions such as Buddhism or Christianity or maybe non-sectarian in nature.
An organization may open retreats to people with all experience levels and many different backgrounds, or it may limit attendance to people who share experience levels and religious beliefs. Many retreat centers around the world offer group silent meditation retreats as well as the opportunity to create private retreats.
On a silent meditation retreat, people can meditate alone or in groups. In good weather, they may work outside, while indoor areas may be preferred in bad weather or for greater concentration. Facilitators can work with attendees, who can sit quietly or meditate on the move. Movements can include the use of yoga and other traditions, as well as simple activities like walking meditation, where participants follow a path while meditating.
Participants in such retreats do not speak or communicate with each other. Varying degrees of silence can be imposed, ranging from complete silence during the retreat to more relaxed rules where people can interact at meals or events. Some meditation retreats come with a full service, including staff members to change bedding, prepare meals, and provide other assistance. In others, part of the silent meditation retreat may include cooking, cleaning, and maintenance activities at the retreat center.
Retreat centers charge variable rates for their events. Some may offer scholarships or work-study opportunities for low-income participants. Some centers also organize other events such as massages and yoga classes, weddings, etc. They may maintain a variable schedule throughout the year, isolating quiet meditation areas to prevent interference from other visitors and guests.
People can use a silent meditation retreat for spiritual or personal growth in a variety of ways. Some people find meditation helpful for spiritual practice, stress relief, managing mental illness, or a simple break from their normal surroundings. Retreats may also offer support services, such as counseling for people who want to use meditation as part of a drug treatment program or anger management plan. Novice meditators may find it helpful to attend a short course before the formal retreat begins so they can become familiar with different meditation techniques and learn more about silent meditation retreat etiquette.