Noble silence at a meditation retreat!

Noble silence! The meditation retreat, an oasis in the middle of a forest.


Noble silence! That was the essence of the meditation retreat.

Noble silence, meditation, solitude, and self-reflections

The newbies were rather excited and chatty. However, the seniors seemed to know the rules of the ten-day noble silence sanctuary. The center is like an oasis in the middle of a forest. They kept our mobiles, note-books and pens. That was absolutely solitude!

“Which is your room? Let’s go to the dining hall together after unpacking.” The twelve-day vegetarian menu was so simple, yet, delicious. I should come back as a helper in the kitchen, the next time! (Which I did, cooking for hundred-over people!)

On the dining table, we learned that silence means no talking verbally, as well as, non-verbally! No eye contacts nor gesturings were allowed. Everybody was on a ‘mind your own business’ mode! On the way back to our individual rooms, [low voice], “oh, in case I don’t hear the gong at four am, please knock at my door! ” The course manager glanced disapprovingly at us.

Soon, the orchestra of croaky frogs and tadpoles began. It became part of the otherwise tranquil nights. I hid an insect repellant, some convi-packs biscuits, and some masking tapes. The latter was to cover any holes on the window nettings, which I read about online.

The classes started at four o’clock in the morning and ended at about ten at night. The assistant teacher of S.N. Goenka gave some instructions and teachings on the Vipassana technique. During meditation, the huge hall was in a pin-drop silence.

We had to listen to our breaths as the air entered and left our nostrils as in normal respiration. Fleeting memories of the past and worrying concerns of the future flitted in and out of my mind. Very often, I had to remind myself to come back to the present moments. This task of breathing in and out, was hard work, indeed! The meditation’s goal is to purify the mind completely of emotions like anger, hatred, sadness or fear, with the help of natural respiration.

There was, in fact, a lot of reflections, going on in our minds the next few days. By the third to fifth day, several ladies were releasing their emotional ‘taps’ silently. A few men on the other side of the hall were seen sniffing, too.

One day, after a lunch break, I saw a lady sitting under a huge tree, all alone, crying. So I told the course manager about my concern for her. She took that lady to see the assistant teacher.


In this practice of noble silence, there was no one to listen to, as everybody was not talking. We were actually listening to our own little self-talks; self-reflections during our mindful meditation.

“In solitude I find my answers.” Kristen Butler

“Get away from the external noise and listen to the voice within you.” ATGW

by Serena Chen

Published by Chen S. P. @ TPTan

Serena Chen @TPTan, Master degree in nursing (Monash) . Serena teaches local and overseas nurses in a stomaltherapy program. She had presented papers internationally. Serena is a member of the ‘Golden Key International Society (Monash). She was an editor of a mental health bulletin and she enjoys pottery works, cartoons, painting and poems. She shares insightful experiences about being a carer for people with mental illness and cancer in this defining society.

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