What is a Silent Retreat? Use This Simple Guide Before You Go

Are you silent retreat “curious”? We have the perfect guide for you to satisfy your curiosity and learn before you go to your first silent retreat.

Denise Everheart
silent retreat

When you think of a silent retreat, do you imagine struggling to keep silent, feeling bored, or possibly wanting to escape and get back to your regular routine? You’re not alone. A lot of people believe that they could never do a silent retreat, and so they never try one. The idea of not talking for a day or two is kinda intimidating, especially if you don’t know what happens at a retreat, or the benefits of attending a silent meditation retreat. 

Maybe you’re someone who has always wanted to try a silent retreat, and curiosity has brought you here to learn more. Either way, you’re in the right place.

I’m here to share all about silent retreats, and share why you should take a silent retreat, soon! 

Topics covered: 

silent retreat infographic

What is a silent retreat?

It might seem obvious that a silent retreat is a retreat where you are in silence, but a few more details might be helpful. Some silent retreats can be online and taken from home, while others are residential. There are short and long retreats. Some silent retreats are strict, and others not so much. Some retreats include guided meditation, while others are only about not speaking. 

There are religious retreats, non-religious spiritual retreats, and secular retreats. Some include other activities that help you prepare for silence, as well as break up the time spent in silence. Some have meals provided, without you lifting a finger, while others ask you to pitch in to chop veggies.

In short, a silent retreat can be many things. The trick is to find the one that is a perfect fit for you. 

What is it like to be on a silent retreat?

Gurudev quote

Imagine waking up to peace and quiet without a to-do list already running in your mind. Being fully in the present moment as you ready yourself for a day of stillness and silent meditation. 

You are finally getting a chance to catch your breath. You have the time you need to focus on yourself. There’s not even the obligation to make eye contact with your fellow retreatants. Your only obligation is to yourself.

If you happen to choose a retreat that is structured and curated, you can expect to feel well taken care of as you move through your retreat experience. This is especially important if this is your first retreat. Everything from early morning yoga, to how much meditation to do in one session is thoughtfully designed for the best possible outcomes.

Most retreats offer you a chance to reconnect with nature by allowing time in between meditation sessions to go for a walk.

Evenings could include watching videos of wisdom talks, or breaking silence only to sing. Many times there is an opportunity to write down questions for the instructor to answer and give suggestions.

However your first retreat happens to be, leave a little room to be surprised, especially at the end when it is time to break your silence.

To better understand silence, read what Art of Living founder and master of meditation, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says in Come Home Silently.

Benefits of a silent meditation retreat


The positive effects of silent retreats are all about your personal transformation, where you can not only gain clarity about your life and what matters to you, but also make a difference in nearly every aspect of your life. Here are just a few benefits of the power of silence.

  • More calm in daily life
  • Less mental chatter
  • Better emotional regulation
  • Fresh perspective 
  • Improved self-awareness 
  • Renewed energy
  • Greater mental focus
  • Increased resilience
  • Improved mental health
  • Better relationships
  • Deeper meditations at home
  • Improved intuition
  • More joy in life

How to prepare for a silent retreat

supportive environment

One of the most important things you can do before attending silent meditation retreats is to inform your family, friends, and workplace that you will be unavailable for a few days. This will give you extra peace of mind, and free you from the need to check your phone (which can disturb your silence). We can all benefit from a digital cleanse!

If you are doing a silent meditation retreat online from home, you will want to shop for groceries ahead of time, with a simple menu in mind. The Art of Living provides its retreatants with simple menu options plus recipes. You will also want to make sure you have the app or platform used for your online session downloaded and up to date.

Whether you take a residential program or one at home, you will want to plan to wear loose comfortable clothing. You will also need a yoga mat, a refillable water bottle, and an extra blanket. Also, pack or have ready a pair of good walking shoes.

To learn more on how to prepare, read A Long-time Meditator Shares 4 Useful Tips about Silent Retreats.

Find silent retreats near you

Art of Living Retreat Center

The Art of Living Journey app has a national database of both online and in-person programs. Here’s a link to browse the various courses and retreats near you.

How to have an even better silent retreat experience

Structured silent retreats like what the Art of Living offers (we have been leading retreats for more than four decades) ensure that you have the best experience possible. But there is one more piece to the silent retreat experience you might be missing. Having a daily practice that includes breathwork and meditation, like SKY Breath Meditation, is a game changer! In fact, learning SKY is a prerequisite for taking a silent retreat through the Art of Living.

meditation practice

FREE online introduction to silent retreats

The Art of Living’s Silent Retreat includes restorative breathing practices, daily yoga, powerful guided meditations, deep wisdom to expand your awareness, and more! You will love our silent retreat if:

  1. You’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, or
  2. Your practice has dropped off and you need a reboot, or
  3. You’re ready to go deeper in your practices, or
  4. All of the above! 

To learn more about the Art of Living’s Silent Retreat, join the Power of Silence—a FREE online intro session now.

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