The first time I went on a silent retreat was ten years ago.
It was over the weekend of my 40th birthday. When I told my then husband that I wanted to spend $300 to go away for four days of writing and silence and leave him with our children – who were two and six at the time – I swear I could see the steam coming out of his nostrils.
What kind of person wants to spend their birthday without their family? he asked me. What am I supposed to tell the kids?
I thought it was easy, tell them: We are giving mommy a really great birthday present and we will celebrate her birthday when she gets home!
In any event, I had to fight for my right to go, well, write, and experience a silent retreat.
It was totally worth it.
It was a writing retreat led by my writing group instructor. We met at a monastery perched on the side of a mountain along the Big Sur coastline. While we did speak – a little – while we were in our meetings, the rest of the time was spent in silence.
It was an incredible experience. Not only the practice of silence, which I fell in love with, but also the location, the company, the practice, and the freedom.
I have gone several times in the ten years since. Most often I go on the retreat, as it is around my birthday each year. There have been years I have missed, and I have also gone on personal retreats there on my own. Writers such as Pico Iyer and Denise Levertov have also spent time at the monastary.
It had been a few years since I had been – Highway 1 was closed last year and the monastery was inaccessible for many months while the roaday was cleared and the iconic Bixby Bridge was repaired.
It was, as always, a weekend filled with contemplation, reflection, meditation, and communing with myself and nature.
I look forward to sharing with you some of what I wrote over that weekend.
All the best,
Jessica, at 50.