Travel Tuesday: Silent Meditation Retreat

Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.
― Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

It’s so fun to make a list of the places in the world you’d like to go. It’s interesting to ask yourself why you picked the places on your list. I have recently been considering the possibilities and with last week’s post about The Elephant Nature Park, I began this series: Travel Tuesdays. I would love to hear about your favorite places to travel too!

This week, I’m writing about silent meditation retreats. During some online daydreaming, I came across a list on The Huffington Post called, Silent Retreats: 10 Fantastic Retreat Centers in the U.S. For Peace and Quiet. Massachusetts and California rule the list, but there are other highly-ranked  locations in Oregon, North Carolina, and Hawaii.

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I wondered, what would be the benefits and challenges of a silent meditation retreat versus a regular meditation retreat? I can imagine the liberation of releasing the need to verbalize everything or to employ social niceties with everyone you encounter. I think for me it would be relatively easy to be silent…with the exception of the fact that I’m a chronic hummer and self-talker! I can imagine hearing new sounds you’d never noticed before. Like the quote above describes, I can imagine perceiving subtle energies in different kinds of silences. It all sounds lovely.

 "Listening to the Wind in Pines," by Ma Lin

“Listening to the Wind in Pines,” by Ma Lin

And what about the challenges? I know that sometimes when I’ve had a solitary day I feel a little stir-crazy in my own head (hence the self-talk). We are perpetually wanting to say what we think, how we feel. We want to ask questions and inquire. Being called to transcend those impulses would be quite the test. A worthy one I think! I also think there is a good chance that many hidden inner parts, seeking the ear that has suddenly become available, would present themselves and all of their needs. As long as there were skillful guides to help navigate these challenges, I would love to give this kind of retreat a try.

Have you ever been on a silent retreat? If so, where and for how long? And what did you think? Would you recommend a silent retreat to a fellow seeker?

For now, a silent retreat is officially on my list of “Get Me There!” places.

More next week. Enjoy your wanderlust and be beautiful.

~~~S Wave~~~

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Tuesday Travel: Elephant Nature Park

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

Sometimes I forget that traveling is something people actually do. It seems so easy to get trapped in daily, weekly, monthly, yearly responsibilities that the idea of traveling somewhere for any reason other than responsibility seems absurd. But I’ve got a newly awakened travel itch going on right now. Maybe it’s springtime in the air, who knows.

For instance, there is a beautiful place I would love to visit someday. It is in the northern Thai province of Chiang Mai and it is called Elephant Nature Park. If any of you have seen, “How I Became An Elephant,” then you know about the Park and its impressive founder, Lek.

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The other day, as I was reading about the Park’s many volunteer opportunities, I noticed how many aspects of Connection are being fostered there. The Park not only provides a sanctuary for injured and disabled elephants (and now dogs as well) but they also prioritize helping the very people who caused the elephants’ traumas in the first place. The owners and trainers–called mahouts–“break” baby elephants in a very violent way in order to be able to use the elephants for raising money for the rest of their lives through practices like street performing, begging, and logging. None of these things are very happy or healthy for the elephants of course.

However, the founders of the Park are very unique in that while they want to save these elephants, they also recognize the centuries-long ties that the mahouts and the grander culture have formed with the elephants. In order to honor these ties and the financial need of the mahouts while also bringing reformation to elephant exploitation, the Park is working with the people of Thailand to educate and train mahouts about alternative, humane, conservation-driven ways of earning a living and retaining their elephants. It isn’t perfect, but it is a beautiful example of EcoConnection, InterConnection, and Animal Connection at work. Throw in the volunteers from all over the world who are transformed by the opportunity to give back and gain perspective through their time at the Park and we can add InnerConnection as well.

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This all made me wonder: How else can Connection in all its facets be explored through travel? I intend to find out, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, do you know how much 12000 Thai Bhat is in U.S. dollars? $376.02. That is how much it costs to volunteer at the Park for one week. Makes travel for connection’s sake not seem so absurd, huh?

With love,

~~~S Wave~~~