Last Sunday, I decided to devote a day to silence creating my own ‘Silent Retreat’. I had been drawn to using silence as a tool in the past but I never got round to booking a retreat. Life always seemed to get in the way. I had many conversations with Ruth from Mindful Pathway about the conscious use of silence as part of mindfulness practice and she had written a blog post for me (click here). I felt that this was a perfect time to try a retreat with a view to recommending to my pregnant families in the future. As this is ‘Written in the Time of Covid’ (paraphrased courtesy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez), this retreat was taken at home.
Set the Date
I decided to spend a Sunday in silence as I felt that there were likely to be fewer distractions available for me. I know how easily distracted I am and this is something that causes me great frustration. One of the reasons I started a daily meditation practice was to learn how to live more mindfully in my day-to-day existence. I felt that by removing a form of communication could help with promoting a calm state. I am also not on-call at the moment and that fact helped me to decide on the day. When I am on-call I am very aware that I can be pulled away from the present moment at any time and my phone is always by my side. So last Sunday seemed like a good day for me to practice.
Talk to those around you
I am currently living at home with my husband, two children and my son’s partner. I explained to my family that I would be silent for the day and requested that they ask me questions only if needed. My children are adults now so, apart from laughing at another of mum’s hair-brained ideas, they respected the desire and the reason why.
It was nice to take the opportunity to talk about why I felt the need to spend a day without talking. The Covid times have slowed everything down in our home and I have really enjoyed this peaceful pace of life. My distracted brain really struggles with focus and so I felt that creating mental space in a period of twenty-four hours would help me to clarify what is important to me. During pregnancy, this delicious white space in your day could help you to work through your thoughts and feelings about birth and early parenthood.
Gather your Equipment
I thought about what I would need for a day of silence and I settled on a few things:
Watercolour paints and paper
Hot water bottle
Required reading for my journey – Transformed by Birth by Britta Bushnall
Advising my pregnant clients on what to take on their silent retreat, I would suggest similar things to these with the inclusion of a couple of large pieces of A3 paper, glue, magazines and pregnancy/birth/family pictures. This retreat is a perfect time to create your vision boards. A vision board for your labour and birth and one for how you would like your life to be after your baby is born. The time spent in quiet contemplation is very precious and finding images and words that resonate with your thoughts at the current time can be healing.
Just Do it!
So the day began. I wrote ‘Silence’ on my hand and arm to remind me but it wasn’t long before I got into the mindset. I’m lucky in that I have ‘Bumble’ my little therapy room in the garden, so I spent the day cosying up in my room with my blankets, cushions and hot water bottle. All very hygge! I lit my candle and I started writing my journal. The rest of the day I spent in silence, painting, reading, writing and meditating. It was simple and blissful.
My challenge came at night when I reentered the house but by that time my family had got used to my silence. I found the general noise quite challenging and I reflected on whether I would become more sensitive to noise pollution once I ventured out into our noisy world again.
My advice to you is to create a silent retreat in your home one weekend. You can do it alone or with your partner but make sure you don’t compromise your time. Be selfish. Perhaps you’d like to create a purpose such as ‘preparing for birth’ or ‘preparing for parenthood’ and collect some items that will help the day run smoothly. Or maybe you’d like the day to take a free-flowing form. If you feel that a day is too long, perhaps you could devote a morning to silence. The practice has got to fit in with your life and if a morning works for you then try a few hours.
If I can help you to create a silent retreat in your life, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been on a silent retreat or if you’ve been tempted to create one at home. Let’s talk about silence!
St Albans Doulas is a team of experienced birth workers supporting pregnant people and couples in the Herts, Beds, Bucks and Greater London area. If you are looking for evidence-based antenatal education and a mindful companion for your pregnancy and birth, get in touch to find out how we can help.