Unplugged: Could You Manage A 10-Day Silent Retreat?
Joe Diaz, Co-Founder, of Afar Magazine, went where few men have gone before. He spent the day after his 38th birthday on a van from midtown Manhattan headed up to a retreat in New England where he would literally remain silent for the next 10 days! Actually, he would be silent AND unplugged. That means no cell phone, iPad, or digital devices of any kind.
So why on earth would anyone want to do this?
"It’s not just that I wanted to take my practice to another level. I wanted to put myself in a situation that would force me to leap big, grow, and develop perspective," adds Joe. In a world that is often described as polarized and chaotic, I wanted tools that would help me see more fully, calmly, and lovingly." Clearly Joe wasn't fooling around. He was serious and committed. And here's another way he kept himself from quitting even just one-day in.
Joe remembers that "It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but no chance. And I’ll tell you why. A month before attending I began sharing what I was going to do with complete strangers. I was up on stage being interviewed in front of an audience of 400 people. I was asked the questions, 'What do you do to unplug?' Sharing my experience was the perfect opportunity to ensure that I would stick with it until the very end. The last thing I wanted was people emailing and calling me to ask about the retreat and me having to tell them that I didn’t do it."
While you and I might miss the hourly social media check-in and seeing what friends and family are posting to Instagram, Joe mostly missed his wife.
"I struggled with the continuity of practice and the grueling schedule done over and over again. One hour felt like a day. One day felt like a year. When we began our sittings of self-discipline on day 4, that’s when things got really interesting. I had never sat for 60 minutes without opening my eyes or moving. The sensations I felt during this time were intense. The fact we sat like this three times each day for six days amplified the experience."
Joe's takeaways from the retreat weren't just how to sit and be quiet for hours at a time. His experience went much deeper than that.
"I learned many lessons. The experience taught me the power of focused work done consistently. In this life of press button comforts it is easy to take our foot off of the proverbial gas pedal when we are uncomfortable. This urge to live comfortably can prevent us from being our best selves and living our best lives. It also taught me that things don’t happen to us. They simply happen. We bring the subjective to the objective. Practicing this intensively over 10 days has helped me to live with more equanimity. I think of it as keeping my wings level during the day to day turbulence as we try to find balance."
Would he do it again?
"Of course. This experience was just the starting line. I aim to create space for myself to do this again in the next 12 months."
To read more about Joe's silent meditation retreat, check out his article in AFAR Magazine which is part of their digital detox #TravelUnplugged challenge. While you might not opt to go silent and unplug for 10 straight days, perhaps the message here is to learn to add a little more digital detox to our life -- even if only for a few hours each day.