By Melissa Barclay, senior communication specialist in the Office of University Relations at Marquette University
First thing you should know is that I’m an extrovert, and some people thought it was funny that one of the most talkative people in the office signed up for a full five-day silent retreat. You should also know that I signed up at the last minute, and even though I knew I wanted to have the experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Attendees who had gone before me were vague with their descriptions. They’d say something like, “It’s life-changing,” or “The food is good,” but no one gave me any clear direction about the journey I would embark on. All I knew is that I needed quiet time to think and reflect on my life, the pandemic and the death of my mom in 2021. It’s not often that you get the gift of a week away where everything is taken care of — no cooking, no cleaning and no work; just rest.
Since the silent retreat, I haven’t talked in depth to other people about their experiences, but I will tell you this: the gifts I received in return after the retreat have far exceeded any personal uncomfortableness I experienced during the week of silence. I learned that I need quiet time, even if it’s just a little, to be centered and hear the voice inside of me. I learned that I need far less than I think and that the things that are truly important aren’t things. Cliché, I know. But after the death of my mom in October 2021, it became abundantly clear that life is short, and sometimes the hardest lessons in life can only be learned in a tragic moment.
I’ll be honest, I cheated and called my fiancé from my car on day three, but hearing his voice and the distance between us made me so grateful for the life that we have. I am so blessed beyond belief. And you know what?
So are you — but you just may need a silent retreat to rediscover the life you already have.