Silent Retreat? Say What? How We Learned to Savor Silence in Ojai

Silent Retreat-01We are finally back from another exceptional silent meditation retreat in Ojai, led by DEN instructor and Senior Mindfulness Facilitator, Heather Prete. “Savoring Silence” was truly a unique opportunity for our guests to break away from their daily routines and stressors, and take the time to just be. We began our silence after dinner on the first night of the retreat. Heather went over the ground rules—no talking, minimal eye contact, no cell phones or computers, if you have questions write them down. We then collected the phones to be hidden for the duration of the 5-day retreat, which is no small feat for our busy LA guests! Without the constant need to engage, check in and connect, either in person or on our devices, we were finally able to experience life without all the distractions. What is it like to not need to fill space with words or create a story, or seek validation from others? The experience is freeing, terrifying, rewarding and challenging, all at the same time. In the silence, we are faced with our biggest triggers, but if we stay the course, we find that there is a greater sense of peace and ease waiting for us on the other side. We created a container that was completely silent and safe, a space where our practitioners could go deep into their meditation practices and explore their inner worlds. In the silence we saw people for who they truly are, not for the masks they wear all day. And because of this, we were able to create bonds that are much richer and deeper than words.

Heather did an incredible job at guiding the group into this deep, intimate silence in a way that very few modern day meditation instructors know how to do. Heather began her formal training with Tibetan Compassion practices over 20 years ago and has extensive experience leading silent retreat groups. Her teaching style is nurturing, loving and accessible. She began each session with a dharma talk, sprinkled with colorful anecdotes from her real life, science-based research findings and excerpts from Thich Nhat Hahn. She then led the group into a guided mindfulness meditation, working with a different focus point each day and building on previous work. The retreat also consisted of self-guided meditation sessions, meditative walking and daily yoga, allowing our guests to maintain this inner stillness and truly savor the silence. By Day 5, the silence felt totally natural and guests expressed their deep gratitude for it. The true nature of silence is not lonely or disconnected but is in fact the opposite! Many reported that they had never felt so connected in their entire lives!

True silence is not a contraction, like the tightening and holding we associate with being told to behave in school. It is a process of gently unfolding into non-doing, of letting go of the habits that rob us of being truly here for ourselves and our lives. It is coming home. – Heather Prete

We were so lucky to have been able to host this experience in magical Ojai—a well-loved healing mecca nestled in the Topa-Topa mountains just outside of Ventura. The location of this retreat was a beautiful private estate right outside of town. Each morning, we woke up to the sounds of birds chirping and felt the crisp mountain air against our faces as we sipped our tea. At night, we enjoyed soaking in the hot tub under the stars and listening to Heather’s dharma talks by the fire. This location made our experience so much richer and we look forward to hosting another silent retreat here in the near future.

Our hearts are full and we are truly grateful to have created such a beautiful, transformative experience for our guests. If you’re looking to take your meditation practice to the next level, then we highly recommend joining us on a future retreat. Please keep checking our retreats page for updates. We hope to see you all at our next silent retreat with Heather!

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