SilenceFor a long time now I have had the wish to go on a silent retreat, to find out what happens to me behind the distraction of talk, mindless and meaningful, essential and unnecessary. I booked myself in for a few days to the Glendalough Hermitage Centre and took a vow of silence for four days and nights. When I arrived at the centre, I was greeted with a very warm, friendly welcome by the sisters and staff in the centre, it was all gentle, calm, unintrusive. While the centre is a place of silence and rest, there was some talk among the other pilgrims, twice daily prayers and meditations were offered, just no mindless chat. I loved it. I loved it and it was easy for me to be silent, apart from a few times, when I started to mutter something to myself, like: where did I put the keys? Or: ah, that’s a nice cup of tea!, these kind of things. But I caught myself each time and didn’t feel the need for a chat. One day a dog showed up on the premises and I forgot and I started talking a bit to the dog until I remembered. Does that count? Anyway, I stopped talking to the dog quickly as well. I felt calm and content, I prayed, meditated and walked a lot during my stay and enjoyed every minute of it.
There is this reccurring dream for me, a nightmare rather. I am followed by a dark shadow through my dream, running, fleeing. When the shadow nearly reaches me, I open my mouth to scream, but, that is the worst part: I am mute, no sound comes out of me and I am paralyzed with terror and then I wake up. I do believe that this dream is about something that happened to me when I was a child, when I didn’t have the power to speak or to protect myself. I also had this dream while I was in Glendalough, a few days into my silent time, and that time I woke up screaming my head off! This was a scream of liberation and it felt really good and I felt that something had come together within me. It was about 3 am when it happened and I hope I didn’t scare anyone of the neighbours too much. I got up, closed the windows of my hermitage and went back to bed, snuggled up, safe and relieved. The next day I thought a lot about the freedom to speak and the freedom, or choice to be silent. Both is valuable, both I find is necessary to learn.
I also learned once again, even with the friendly welcome I got at the centre, that Christianity is still freaking me out. I love God, I am in search of spirituality every day of my life, but all the talk of our Father here and our Lord there is something so alien to me. But that’s of course just me, I happen to like my God/ess/e/s a bit more abstract.
I would love to take a silent retreat again, maybe a bit longer next time. I also feel that it is a great luxury to go into retreat and I got a lot of peace out of it. It occurred to me that, unfortunately, when I was in great pain and my live was in turmoil, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind to do something like it, use the opportunity to step back, breath and be silent and just wait what comes up in stillness, and I know of friends and fellows that it’s the same for them, the peace doesn’t come when it’s most needed.
The Glendalough Hermitage Centre is open for visitors and guests, their website is
Glen da lough hermitage Center