Embrace the sounds of silence

When I was a young mother back in the early 80s, I was given a special gift from my Mum. It was a silent weekend retreat. The unique value of that experience and opportunity stayed with me for the next 25 years until I was able to offer the same to others.

Our lives are just so incredibly full, crammed with so much coming and going, juggling and striving, we often lose sight of, or have no time for, our deeper selves and our personal needs. I wanted to create an opportunity for those men and women who spend so much of their time meeting the needs of others to enjoy a small dose of simplicity, silence and nurturing themselves.

The Missing Peace weekend is offered in March each year and is open to all who would like to take a break from their usual hectic and demanding life and enjoy an informal experience of silence and ‘down’ time.

There is no formal structure or program, and no activities that must be participated in.  The only requirement, really, is silence. Over the ten years this retreat weekend has been running, many participants relish the rare chance just to read, sleep, write or perhaps draw. Others might delight in the time to meditate, do tai chi or yoga or walk in the surrounding bushland.

Held in a rustic former monastery at Stroud, the retreat takes full advantage of the beauty and peacefulness provided by the secluded rural setting as well as the monastery itself.

The retreat begins with a casual shared meal, explanation and chatting on the Friday evening to help everyone wind down and relax. From about 8pm on the Friday night, silence is observed until we come together again to share a late lunch on Sunday when the ‘cone of silence' is lifted. During all other meal times, silence applies. Needless to say, no television, DVD player or even a humble clock radio will be found in one’s room while staying at the monastery.

With the emphasis on simplicity, this short weekend is offered to give people an opportunity to relax, reflect, recharge and ‘slow down’. Silence is a powerful and rare commodity in our busy, noise-filled lives. It is not easily found and enjoyed these days.

Silence is something most of us think little about. Noise, on the other hand, is all-pervasive. Noise underpins the way we communicate, learn, seek entertainment and generally relate to the world around us. It feeds us all sorts of external stimuli that make our lives feel richer and engaged, yes, but also demanding and often unsatisfied.

Silence though, can nourish the part of us that feels frayed, drained or frazzled by our oh-so-busy lives at times. Silence can feel very foreign to begin with but by the end of the retreat weekend, participants often don’t want it to end.

The Monastery at Stroud is a truly unique refuge in our bustling modern world and to this day, it retains the peace, humility and earthiness of its original purpose. Hand-built in mud-brick and timber in the early 1980s with extensive community involvement, the monastery supported and enhanced the spiritual calling of the Sisters of St Clare for more than 20 years. In spite of the venue having been a real monastery, there is no formal religious framework or emphasis at this weekend. There is, however, a sincere hope that the experience will speak to each participant’s personal spirituality and core of peace.

Accommodation is basic but comfortable and numbers are limited as all participants have their own rooms.  All meals are vegetarian, freshly prepared and served with simplicity in mind.

Participants are not the only ones to benefit from The Missing Peace weekends. Proceeds from this annual retreat support the work of the Himalayan Light Foundation to provide solar power and lighting in remote communities in Nepal.

If anyone would like more information about the retreat, they can contact me on 0403 246 163 or email mag.juju@hotmail.com.

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