I Went on a 7-Day Silent Meditation Retreat, and This Is What I Learned

If the words "meditation retreat" kind of scare you, you’re not alone. I was intimidated, to say the least, at the thought of sitting in silence for days on end, unplugged from the outside world, confronting myself head on. To make things possibly even more intimidating, I had barely ever meditated before, that is if we're not counting the moments of intentional breathing we practice during yoga classes.

Why would I submit myself to something as intense as a seven-day silent meditation retreat, you might ask? There were countless reasons I was curious about establishing a practice for myself, from the increased focus it gives to the promise of managing anxiety much better. And since I'm very much the type of person to approach things with an all-or-nothing attitude, I knew that an intensive retreat would help me kick-start my practice. I should probably note that I went on this retreat halfway through a two-month-long backpacking trip in Southeast Asia, so I was already on somewhat of a personal "journey" and wanted the meditation retreat to make the whole experience 100% unforgettable.

I stayed at the Doisuthep temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I practiced Vipassanā-style meditation. Vipassanā means "see clearly," and the practice centers around the idea that inside ourselves and in the world around us, things are uncertain, unsatisfying, and uncontrollable. Since the goal of Vipassanā is to align the body and mind through meditation, you focus on certain parts of your body while meditating, instead of repeating a mantra in your head or listening to a guided meditation like you would in other forms of meditation.

If you had ever considered going on a meditation retreat, I hope to have inspired you to go for it. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience for me and the benefits totally outweighed the challenges in the end. But even if a retreat is too much for you right now, you can still read up on how to meditate if you have no idea where to begin.