How To Create A Shelter In Place Silent Breathwork And Meditation Retreat
How To Create A Shelter In Place Silent Breathwork And Meditation Retreat
Using Silence, Noise Canceling Headphones and Humming To Get Through COVID-19.
Ok let’s face it – every day right now things are getting a bit heavier, and literally feeling like something out of the twilight zone!
You may not know me yet but if you do get to know me you will find I’m not one to stay in funky, stuck energy for too long without ‘flipping my switch” (which is my phrase for changing my energy STAT) and so after way too many days lately of feeling overwhelmed by this sad, crazy, unbelievable COVID-19 crisis…
coupled with having daily mind blown experiences trying to feverishly learn new tech and gadgets to be able to continue to teach and share my work with the planet and simultaneously days away from launching a new website – I hit my stop gate!
I had to tap out and I decided to embark on a shelter in place silent Breathwork + Meditation retreat for close to 48 hours. I know what you might be thinking “48 hours – that’s it? Most silent retreats are 7 to 10 days long – come on, Rebecca”
But trust me, embarking on a silent retreat during this current environment where every day we feel like we must stay connected to the latest updates to find out what the future holds for us globally, locally and individually truly is more challenging than one might expect.
So…and this was the key….I simply made a decision. I decided this silent retreat I felt called to do (which came to me during a run a few days earlier) was mandatory for my sanity and mandatory to keep my heart and spirit on point – on purpose.
In this post, I will share how I prepared, how I managed during the deepest moments, what I learned and my biggest takeaways for creating your own shelter in place silent Breathwork and meditation retreat.
To start, let’s just identify if you’re truly a candidate to give this a go.
Obviously, those who might be in the “hell yes, I’m so doing this Rebecca” camp would be:
Those who don’t have kids, aren’t responsible for family members and have a semi-flexible work schedule now from home.
Those who live alone or with others who understand what this stay at home silent retreat entails and will give you the space to do it, or you, unfortunately (like many people) are not able to work at all due to this darn virus and your schedule is completely wide open.
Ok, so once you’ve determined if you are in the “hell yes” category and you really want to try this out let me just say this about it and then I’ll get into all the details…
As scary and sort of twilight zoney the concept felt during this time, it truly was such an incredibly fulfilling experience and has ultimately helped me shake off all the heavy, stuck, thick anxious, confusing, lonely and sad emotions that I think so many of us are learning to navigate daily.
I always speak of our emotions as “coming and going like waves” and so if you are with me on this idea – then we all need to get damn good at surfing!
This thing that started out initially as somewhat of an experiment to see if going “dark” to find the light – was even possible for me during this crazy time, turned out to be the most joyful, deep, freeing experience and has reset and reconnected me “back to good” in a whole new way.
Steps For Creating A Shelter In Place Silent Breathwork and Meditation Retreat:
In order of creation:
I created a list of questions I wanted to ponder and meditate on during this time. Questions that I would just let my heart and spirit answer at will…I didn’t want to force answers. I printed out 3 copies of these and put them all around the house.
I cleared my house of all technology – this included computers, Ipads, phones, cords, microphones, headphones, tripods, etc. Anything that involves technology was put out of sight. Unplugged the TV and hid the remote.
I created 2 separate spaces that felt cozy, warm and almost womb-like (weird I know but it’s what I was needing). One for my meditation and the other for writing and journaling.
I turned on every flameless candle I had in the house and put them in every room so everywhere I went felt vibey and calm.
I created an agenda for all the things I wanted to dive deeper into during this time. I also allowed this to be a flowing and flexible agenda but…
for me I did want to follow somewhat of a structure during this time since part of the angst/anxiety/funk I believe many of us are feeling now is partially due to not having our regular routines in place.
While this is what worked for me you may decide doing nothing but just “being” will be the way you approach this silent retreat and I say hell yes, to that if that’s what your soul craves.
Yet, I do know some people are struggling with this feeling of what’s wrong with me – all this time off and I haven’t started one project I said I was going to do!
So, I completely get that doing nothing may add to the self beat already present over the lack of productivity you’re feeling, but this from The Washington Post article where psychotherapist Dana Dorfman says,
“If you’re carrying any guilt about not producing your best work, writing a screenplay, learning to quilt or putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle, you have permission to let that go.”
We all need to be more gentle with ourselves right now, just cut ourselves some slack as we navigate this new reality in front of us.
Next, I let all the people know that needed to know – whether it be friends, work peers, clients etc. that I would be “going off the grid” for 2 days. And that once I resurfaced I would reach out.
NOTE: As an emergency precaution because this is a scary time for so many and lives are at stake I do have a second phone that I left hidden in a drawer that is my backup phone for emergencies.
I gave that number to my one friend in the event of an emergency on her end. I might not normally do this if we were in our normal reality – but times are different now so I made that one exception with technology.
Remember, though, that this is personal and as long as you can responsibly take this time away – you don’t need to declare this journey to anyone unless you are someone that works better having someone hold you accountable to your commitment.
The final step, I said a little prayer to the Universe to support me during this time, to allow me to learn what I needed to learn, to find clarity and re-connection to ME and then I dove in.
What happened next…
Compete. Utter. Silence. I immediately donned my new noise-canceling Bose headphones. Nothing but the sweet sound of my breath… the booming beat of my heart like a drum inside my chest and then just silence.
Literally within the first 10 minutes as I sat in my tomato red Papasan chair staring into my fireplace and flameless candles – gentle, soft tears flowed down my cheeks. I am not trying to be melodramatic here – but it happened.
Just like you might imagine in a scene from a movie. It was real. The silencing of all the noise outside of me was the first time since the COVID-19 crisis started that I have felt a continuous uninterrupted block of 42 hours of time with ZERO anxiety, fear, loneliness, or confusion.
About the headphones…
I wore these for most of the time, even when sleeping (a tab bit uncomfortable) and they were a complete game-changer.
I have never been more connected to the sound of my breath, my heartbeat, the magic of the body and all it’s functions and sounds while…
canceling out all other distracting, fear-inducing sounds whether from the news, social media or the voices racing and raging in my own head.
Pure. Connection. The deepest connection to self and it was magical.
As the hours went by…
I just dropped in deeper and deeper. I followed the agenda pretty much to the tee.
The agenda included making time to continue studying new things to add to my wellness and self-care tool belt not only for me but also to share with my clients and students.
My mission on this planet has always been to inspire and guide people to become the best version of themselves and to realize along the way “we all are the boss of our own happy”. So I wanted to include all of the tools I believe in for the best self-care.
The meditations I did during this time were unlike any I’ve done over the last few years.
I think it’s mainly because of the juxtaposition of the state I entered this retreat in – where all my feelings were heightened prior to this the 2 days and so upon dropping into the silent space coupled with the disconnection from everything – it created an opening for more depth than I usually achieve.
In my normal routine before COVID-19, my morning routine usually consists of 10 minutes of guided meditation most often using the amazing free meditation app called Insight Timer + 5 minutes of gratitude visualizations + 10 minutes of affirmations (which I’ve started referring to as my Rapfirmations but that’s a whole other blog).
The fact that I dropped in and meditated in silence for over an hour at a time and it felt like 10 minutes was also another bonus!
The Breathwork style I teach and practice mostly these days is called conscious circular breathing and it is a 3 part breath all done through the open mouth.
This practice is truly transformational and helps shift stuck, blocked emotions, allows for more clarity in all areas of life and quickly connects you back to your heart which inducing feelings of deep love and gratitude.
These sessions were a must during my retreat.
About sound healing…
As the hours went by I practiced playing my sound bowls so when this is over I can add sound baths to my breathwork classes.
Sound therapy is an incredible way to balance and align our insides.
I have been wanting to study this and now finally have begun this new journey.
I enjoy playing my new sound bowls and it is always so beautiful but something unexpected and amazing that my sound healing teacher taught me recently was how to balance the energy centers or chakras through the use of Humming.
Yes, humming…it’s a proven tool for reducing stress, creating calm, improving sleep and producing powerful neurochemicals such as oxytocin, the “love” hormone in addition to being a great way of self-soothing.
An easy way to get started is to just hum the letters of the alphabet, your favorite song or the Happy Birthday song and see how that feels.
There is a fascinating book I was introduced to by Jonathon Goldman called Healing Sounds which is where the chakra balancing through humming exercise can be found. Humming is another beautiful self-care tool that’s accessible anywhere – anytime.
So writing is definitely my jam – always has been. It’s also my romanticized dream for my golden years.
Me in my cozy sweater, sitting in my rustic cabin somewhere up in Northern California looking out over the Pacific Ocean with a crackling fire in the background, just writing away as the hours float by.
Ok, I digress, but back to the writing, I did during this retreat.
A good friend of mine gave me a notebook several months ago and the notebook, which I thought was a blank page notebook (shame on me for not opening it up until this during this retreat) turned out to be a fabulous writing prompting book titled The Story of My Life.
What a great way to take a walk down the memory lane of your life. Every writing had me recalling so many forgotten pieces of my life which in turn stimulated all sorts of juicy thoughts, memories, and emotions.
And. More. Tears. All for various reasons, but what a perfect addition to this deep dive into me. If you love to write and want a fun new way to trip down memory lane, this was one of my favorites from the book.
Here’s the prompt…
”Imagine your childhood bedroom, now list 10 items from that room and describe what they meant to you.”
Try that writing and see where it takes you…enjoy!
I started as a personal trainer, then added diet and nutritional coaching and finally became a licensed massage therapist. All of these modalities complemented each other and I was drawn to each one as ways to help my clients look and feel better in their skin.
So moving the body in various ways has always been my passion. During this COVID-19 time though, I cannot stress enough how important moving our bodies is – whether brisk walking, cycling, running, jumping rope, dancing, etc. for our health and wellness.
Over the two days, I did a couple of 20 minutes HIIT workout and two long runs outdoors which I practiced as moving meditations.
One extra component I have been doing for over 25 years as I run or during any form of cardio is to say my affirmations out loud while moving.
This practice is powerful beyond belief and it’s something I teach my life coaching clients to do as well, especially if they are struggling with heavy feelings.
I call it Movement Affirmation Technique® – because it really is a technique for shifting mood and energy quickly. It’s important to do this while tapping into as many senses as possible.
The best way to do it is to be outside moving (proprioception) your body while getting fresh air and sun on your face.
Try to do this in a stimulating, nature setting (sight) where possible.
Get your heart rate above its average daily normal bpm (beats per minute) preferably which in turn will engage deeper breaths as you continue moving.
And the final icing on the cake is the vocalizing of your affirmations. Not just thinking and repeating them in your head.
There is something so magical about speaking and creating vibration through your voice coupled with hearing (sound) your affirmations back to YOU that is such a valuable piece of this technique.
All these done together for at least 10 – 30+ minutes (longer is always better) can truly change your mood and state almost instantly.
Not much to say here except that my food was mostly lots of veggies, juices, and teas. I kept my meals very light as it was important for me to keep a really clear and open channel for connection during this experience.
If you have done a silent retreat before or know about them – typical silent retreats at a facility can last up to 10 days so this was not an earth-shattering feat (as I mentioned at the start of this blog) to go for 42 hours.
But what was truly a feat for me during this time was how it shattered the veil of anxiety, fear of the unknown and paralyzing feeling holding bits and pieces of me hostage.
It paved the way for me to move forward with a deeper connection to all of ME, all the messy, beautiful and sometimes jagged parts of me I’ve been wanting to say hi to for a while now.
It also simply reinforced my belief in just how important our self-care tool belt is…now more than ever.
Humming: Humming rocks! Try new things and be open to new fun ways to get yourself back to good.
Noise-canceling headphones: They may look silly but they are officially my new favorite addition to my “self-care toolbelt”. If you want to get connected to deeper breaths – get a pair and breathe with them!
Self-Care Toolbelt: You can never have too many tools is THIS belt!
Commitment: The only way to really get something done is to just DECIDE and then take the steps to put it into action. I never thought I would be able to do this thing…let alone during a global pandemic. But once I decided…game over. Yes, decision is everything!
If you think you may want to try this, if you’re in a position to do it – one word of caution, the re-entry phase can quite frankly suck!
It was pretty tough to come back to the frenetic, fear heavy energy floating around on the planet right now so for that reason I’d suggest possibly beginning with a shorter version of this, maybe just a ½ day or 3-4 hour blocks of time just to see how it feels.
Or if you do take a longer journey – being easy and gentle with yourself as you acclimate and unlike I did, set up your re-entry to be at the end of your final day so you can re-enter for only an hour or two and then get a good night’s sleep.
Then on the next day, you will have taken the initial technology hit the night before and it won’t throw off your entire day.
Anyhow overall, this was one of the most amazing experiences of my lifetime. I only wish I could have floated in that pure, happy space for a longer period of time.
Now I have something to dream about for post-COVID-19.
So if this sounds intriguing to you – go ahead and plan your shelter in place silent breathwork and meditation retreat, then just decide and go do it! I would love to hear comments and feedback about your experience!