If the idea of a ‘silent’ retreat doesn’t appeal… let me try to persuade you and clarify.
Firstly you are not totally silent. You do speak to a spiritual director once a day at the same time each day and he/she helps you attend to your inner world and attend to how God may be speaking or present in that world. It’s not counselling (there isn’t time for that) it’s just guiding you as to how you can slow down the inner chatter and listen not to them but to God.
‘Paying attention’ is a key part and gratitude is another. Gratitude being the key that often opens a creaky door of our innerselves.
You don’t speak to your fellow retreatants but to be honest that’s a blessed relief because whilst you wish them all well there is not much to be gained by small talk and snatched impressions of one another gleaned from short superficial conversations. Not talking allows you to be mindful, especially of the delicious food which we eat together in silence although there is music playing. It really doesn’t take long to get used to this and in fact on the last morning’s breakfast when we could finally speak we were slow to break so precious a gift.
Not talking to strangers means you waste no energy with all that ego centric posturing which we all do worrying how we are coming across/what people think of us, blah, blah. It is just (blissfully) you and God in a beautiful environment in the silent, but powerful, company of people intent on the same thing.
I did chose to talk once a day to David and this didn’t feel unhelpful for me. No one ‘polices’ you, so long as your conversation is well away from everyone (not hard) and doesn’t impinge on anyone else’s silence, it’s up to you. But it would be unwise to allow such a precious opportunity to be frittered away on idle chit chat/social media etc.
I did also inadvertently speak out loud twice and on both occasions someone immediately appeared in the vicinity. First, I fell over and chided myself for my stupidity (no I ddn’t swear thankfully!) before walking round a corner and straight into a fellow retreatant who then felt the need to apologise for startling me (she hadn’t) so I disrupted her silence – oops. Then, on a long walk and finally reaching the top of a very steep hill I said ‘Hoorah!’ out loud. I’d not seen a soul for over an hour on the walk and I utter one word aloud and someone immediately popped out on path two yards in front of me! Made me smile.
Anyway if you want space, beauty, the time to simply be and to still the chatter of your mind. Time to let God love you, which he/she does of course but we are mostly far too frantic to notice. Time to practise gratitude and re-orientate yourself to the greater reality which is the story of our Creator, Redeemer and Friend, I can’t recommend St Beuno’s more highly.
Here is the link and some photos https://www.pathwaystogod.org/org/st-beunos
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