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Hi, I'm Ming-Wai and I stopped talking for 5 days


The most common response I got when I told friends and co-workers that I was going on a 5-day silent meditation retreat was: Whoa, that intense.


And this surprised me because many of these people have hobbies that I find way more intense than meditating - like daily cold plunges, marathon running, or week-long backpacking trips in the wild.


But I acknowledge that meditation can feel intense sometimes. And my experience at this 5-day silent retreat was transformative because of it.


So what is a silent retreat? The meditation style of my retreat is called Vipassana and is held in “noble silence.” This not only means no talking, but also requires no reading, no journaling, and no eye contact. The meditation teacher does an evening talk about meditation principles to focus on, she will do guided meditations occasionally, and they offer some yoga classes. But other than that, the rest of our days were spent in seated or walking silent meditation.


My first 2 days felt strange but I really enjoyed not having to cook, clean, answer questions, make decisions, etc. It felt like vacation! The hardest part was walking by someone and not making eye contact. I also noticed that I missed that connection with people and missed small talk. I would want to ask where they got that sticker on their water bottle or where they got that sweater. But I’m a rule follower so I kept my eyes down and stayed in silence.


By the end of the third day, I was ready to binge watch some Netflix. I remember after dinner that night, I went to my bunk (yes, the room reminded me of a nicer version of my 5th grade sleep away camp) and grabbed my flashlight and thought how nice it would be to turn on my phone and chill the rest of the evening. 


But then I heard the gong that signaled our evening silent sitting meditation and shuffled back to the meditation room to keep hanging out with myself and my breath… again.

The view outside the meditation room

By the fourth day, I was starting to get really emotional. We did a guided meditation focusing on people that loved us unconditionally and tears were streaming down my cheeks as I visualized and felt the love that I am surrounded with in my life. I spent the rest of the day exploring these feelings, recognizing how blessed I am, embracing my worthiness to have such love, and noticing my negative reel when I questioned these truths.


On the morning of the fifth day, I woke up and thought how nice it would be to come home to my kids and husband and the tears welled up in my eyes again! During our walking meditation that morning, I hiked up to a little clearing and was looking over the valley. I was thinking about my purpose in life, where I wanted to put my energy, and all the people who support and love me… and there was about 10-15 seconds where I got a taste of how it felt to be truly embodied. In that short moment, I felt like I didn’t NEED anything. I recognized that I had everything that I needed and that I have the ability to choose how I wanted to invest my energy and move forward in alignment with my values and purpose. It was a feeling of intense freedom! And of course, I started crying again.


Within 10 minutes, I recognized how fleeting that feeling of freedom was. I was back in my head, feeling annoyed with something my sister said 2 weeks ago, trying to focus on my breath, wondering what would be served for dinner, and all the usual distractions of the mind.


And that was the transformative realization of my 5-day silent meditation experience. I cherish that taste of freedom that I got. But I also appreciate all the discomfort that I experienced during this retreat too. The discomfort of sharing a room, sleeping in a bunk bed, getting bug bites, not being able to complain about it, feeling all my emotions but not being able to talk or journal about it, and knowing that the only way forward is going within myself. The goal of this retreat (and of life) isn’t always to live in peace, tranquility, and attain enlightenment. No, the goal is to have the courage to experience it ALL and just be.


If you are interested in doing a silent meditation retreat, check out my review of Mindful Shenandoah Valley.


P.S. BIG NEWS! We're planning our first ming+ming retreat near San Luis Obispo at Sagrada Wellness in January 2025. Stay tuned!

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