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Silent Meditation: Complete Guide (Updated 2021)

Silent Meditation: Complete Guide (Updated 2021)

In this post, we reveal everything you need to know about silent meditation, including the benefits of silent meditation, how to do it at home, and how to find a silent meditation retreat near you. Let's get started!

Introduction

We can already read your mind upon reading the heading of this article: “But… isn’t all meditation silent?”. Not exactly. Yes, almost all meditation is done in silence on the part of the practicing individual, but silent meditation is a term used to refer to a different kind of experience. Allow us to explain…

In this article we discuss the following:

  • What is Silent Meditation
    • Silent Meditation Meaning
    • Silent Meditation Music
  • Types of Silent Meditation
    • 10 Minute Silent Meditation
    • 10 Day Silent Meditation
    • 3 Day Silent Meditation Retreat
  • Benefits of Silent Meditation
    • Guided Meditation vs Silent Meditation
    • How to do Silent Meditation
  • Silent Meditation at Home
  • Silent Meditation Retreat Near Me
    • Silent Meditation Retreat in USA
      • Silent Meditation Retreat in California
        • 10 Day Silent Meditation Retreat in California
      • Silent Meditation Retreat in Colorado
      • Silent Meditation Retreat in East Coast
      • Silent Meditation Retreat in New York
      • Silent Meditation Retreat in Texas
      • Silent Meditation Retreat in Oregon
      • Silent Meditation Retreat in Florida
      • Silent Meditation Retreat in Washington
      • Silent Meditation Retreat in Massachusetts
      • Silent Meditation Retreat in Georgia
      • Silent Meditation Retreat in Chicago
    • Silent Meditation Retreat in Mexico
    • Silent Meditation Retreat in India

What is Silent Meditation

In the meditation world, silence isn’t always observed. How one meditates is largely dependent on what works best for that individual. Some people require vocal guidance to enter a meditative state, while others may even engage in chanting with the help of their own vocal cords. Meditation can even involve movement, and such is the case in a practice like yoga. The yogi may enter a meditative state, but could also be making somewhat vocal breath work sounds throughout the session. 

women meditating on a grassy field

Therefore, silent meditation is any meditative practice in which the meditator observes perfect silence from start to finish. This could be anything from a period of 10 minutes, up to a period of 70 days (as is the case in some meditation retreats around the world — we’ll tell you about these shortly!). 

Silent Meditation Meaning

Amelia Alvin of the Mango Clinic has the following to say about this particular practice, “Silent meditation is an ancient form of meditation introduced by Buddhas. It primarily deals with mindfulness of thoughts and breathing.” 

Buddhists call the practice Vipassana, and you’ll come across this term a lot when researching the best retreat to attend with silent meditation as the goal. “Vipassana silent meditation is a powerful key to opening up the rusted doors of the soul that never let fresh thoughts come in.”, explains Alvin. 

Silent Meditation Music

Health and wellness writer, Dr. Rashmi Byakodi, proclaims that “silent meditation, where you don’t follow any instructions or listen to any music, can give you a unique experience. It gives you an opportunity to understand yourself, feel conscious about your thoughts, worries and let go of the stress.”

But what about meditations where the practitioner is in silence, but there is still music present? Is this still a “silent meditation”? From an advanced student’s perspective, the answer is no. Successful silent meditation means there is nothing guiding the mind of the practitioner throughout the session, not even background music. 

The point is to tackle the monkey mind head on, and not rely on any kind of distractions. Matt Caruana from Mental Made Manageable believes strongly that true healing requires true feeling. “As humans, we so often try to fight away the emotions we don’t want to feel. As a suicide survivor I did this consistently. By meditating silently, I stepped into what I was feeling in that present moment. By silently persisting through the discomfort, what came next was an understanding about the emotion and what I was experiencing.” 

Types of Silent Meditation

So long as you are observing silence, in a silent space… you are practicing silent meditation. Of course, these practices come in many nuanced forms that are available to individuals from all walks of life. The following are some of the more attainable forms for westerners who want to tap into that eastern lineage. 

10 Minute Silent Meditation

Starting each day with 10 minutes of meditation is one of the best things a person can add to their daily rituals/practices. This is generally where those looking to dip their toe into the world of meditation will start. 

10 to 15 minutes of meditation a day is all one needs to spark the many benefits that this practice has to offer, both mentally and physically. DeVante Love is a Qigong and Spiritual Martial Arts Instructor, and has been meditating in silence since age 10. “Meditation is a practice that helps us slow down from the fast pace of life and tune into what's going on within us. A silent meditation is effective when someone knows how to use their imagination and has a desire to gain new perspectives on themselves and others”, says Love. 

10 Day Silent Meditation

Those looking to deepen their practice and start pushing the boundaries on what has been previously attainable through their meditations will often gravitate towards isolated retreats that offer multi-day meditation experiences. 

These are usually (but not always) retreats centered in the Vipassana tradition, a meditation practice that was discovered by the Buddha, long before Buddhism even existed. This form of mediation is observed in silence: not just during practice, but for the entire 10 day long period. 

It’s referred to as “noble silence”, and it requires one to exist solely within their own frame, avoiding not only verbal exchanges with other individuals, but also eye contact, gestures or communication of any kind. In this way, it is believed that one can gain the most out of their 10 day experience. 

meditating woman in yellow mat

Founder of Veneka, Shivika Sinha, sets time aside to attend a 10 day Vipassana sitting at least once a year. “At Vipassana, days start at 4am, consist of two meals and 10 hours of meditation, and end at 9.30pm. I do Vipassana because the mind is the object within which reality originates, transcends and passes, and yet I had never ventured inside it. I felt I needed to experience myself in this way in order to live wholly."

3 Day Silent Meditation Retreat

10 days may sound a little out of reach for many looking to attend a silent meditation retreat. For some, a 3 day retreat feels far less daunting, and generally more manageable (particularly for individuals with demanding jobs or children to take care of). 

3 day long retreats are common all over the world. They may not follow the Vipassana standard, but 3 days of silent meditation is far better than 3 days spent on the couch in deep state Netflix. 

Zarina Bahadur, founder and CEO of 123 Baby Box, attests to the fact that even a short period of meditation can offer very tangible benefits upon returning to daily life. According to Zarina, upon return from a 3 day retreat, one usually finds any of the following to ring true:

  • You will have to make more time for practicing it initially.
  • You will need to develop the patience to practice it.
  • You will not have the same level of satisfaction from every silent meditation session.
  • You will need to continue this practice consistently.

Benefits of Silent Meditation

Where oh where to begin. With any form of meditation, the benefits far outweigh the (very few) downsides. Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not only about relaxing or staying calm. Kristina Lopez, a meditation teacher, tells us that “silent meditation gives you time to really just sit with what's going on in your mind. When we take time to meditate silently we are giving ourselves the opportunity to refresh, reset, and reframe how we are showing up in the world around us.”

With meditation, the benefits you get out of it seem to be directly proportionate to the amount of time you put into it. “To really reap the benefits of meditation it is important to aim for daily

meditation, even if that's only five minutes per day. However, if you have the time for it, try a silent weekend meditation retreat”, says Lopez. 

Guided Meditation vs Silent Meditation

So what is the difference between sitting in a guided silent meditation vs. a non guided silent meditation? Guided meditations usually follow the instruction of a teacher or guru, who will gracefully lead the thoughts of the meditator into a very specific realm of calm and/or quiet. 

For some people, the presence of the guide is essential, as they are totally unable to take control of their runaway thoughts on their own. For some, it can be a good idea to start meditating using guides, and then, once the practice starts to feel more familiar, move into the realm of dead silence. 

Emily Fleming is a yoga teacher who observes daily meditation practice. “Personally, I prefer silent meditation over guided meditations because it allows me to stay present to my breath and my experience. I find that my mind wanders a lot more in a guided meditation.” She elaborates by saying, “there’s no “good” or “bad” when it comes to silent vs. guided meditation, it’s about finding the style and type of meditation that allows you to connect to yourself, quiet your mind, and bring it back when it wanders off.”

Easier said than done (we know), but there is never a better time to start practicing than now.

the word "breathe" in neon lights

How To Do Silent Meditation

When it comes to sitting down in meditation, we wish we could offer some kind of structured play by play as to how to successfully go about it. Unfortunately, the only person who can take on your mind is you, and others can merely lay out what it will more than likely look and feel like. 

In any kind of meditation, the end goal is always mindfulness. Break this down, and it’s simply the fulness of one’s mind. Another way of looking at it could be attaining a state of fullness in the mind, so that contaminating thoughts, habits, and default patterns are no longer able to be housed within. Stacy DiGregorio of Lotus Heart Mindfulness offers some broader perspectives on this notion:

“There are many ways to meditate, but I'd like to specifically talk about mindfulness meditation: a form that teaches awareness of body sensations, thoughts, and feelings with kindness. Studies suggest that it can lower your blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart disease. It can help you sleep better, feel happier, and can improve your immune function.”

Silent Meditation at Home

The best place to meditate is in your home. Read that again, and let it truly sink in. You see, a lot of people are attached to the belief that they need to “retreat” in order to disconnect from the world, and reconnect to themselves. They wait for their 2 week annual vacation, and flee to the mountains or the depths of India in search of a state that is actually readily available anytime, anywhere. 

While meditation retreats are wonderful tools, and a lot of fun if you’re really connected to this ancient practice, they are not absolutely necessary for attaining mindfulness. These tools lie within, and they are the right of every living, breathing individual to exercise as daily practice. 

You want to get to a place where meditating at home is as natural and enjoyable for you as any other activity you do in your space. Having a bubble bath, taking a nap in that patch of light in your lounge, or making your evening cup of tea should be on par with your morning meditation right from your bed (or any designated meditation space). 

Silent Meditation Retreat Near Me

Silent Meditation Retreat in USA

For those who want to explore their options for meditation retreats nearby, it’s very likely you won’t have to look very far. Before the 90s, avid meditators had to save up and make their pilgrimage to countries like India or Nepal, so that they could enjoy the wonders of these retreats in person. 

Today, they are all over the place, and for some people (particularly US residents) retreats will be within close proximity and reach just about every weekend of the year. 

Silent Meditation Retreat in California

Out of all the places in the United States, California has always been slightly ahead of the pack when it comes to wellness and holistic practices. This area had meditation retreats on offer before anywhere else in the USA, and today it is considered a spiritual hub of the western world. 

You’ll be spoiled for choice when looking up meditation retreats in this part of the country. Not only can you attend the lengthy Vipassana retreats at any of the operating centers, but you’ll find a myriad of shorter ones, ranging anywhere from 2 days to 20 days (depending on the hosts). 

In California, you also never have to meditate at home if you don’t want to (or can’t — kids, noisy neighbors, etc). There are daily group gatherings throughout the area, where individuals come together for the purpose of meditation just as they would for workout classes, yoga sessions, meet and greets, etc. 

We recommend this link for all current and upcoming retreats and gatherings within the California zone. 

10 Day Silent Meditation Retreat in California

Something we need to mention about Vipassana 10 day courses is that anyone can attend this silent meditation retreat for free. There is absolutely no charge for these meditation retreats, as they are funded by the “dharma” or good service of those who have reaped the benefits previously, and thus felt compelled to donate to keep the operation open so that others might experience the same benefits. 

a person doing meditation

The 10 day silent meditation retreats known as Vipassana originated in India, thanks to Buddha’s discovery of the practice. Slowly, the practice spread across different lands, with Vipassana centers being set up all over the world, simply so that more people could gain access to this very transformative opportunity. 

Today, there are Vipassana meditation centers in just about every country on Earth, and first timers are invited to participate in the 10 day course to become fully exposed to what Vipassana is all about. This is done in noble silence. After completing one’s first 10 day session, the individual is then part of the Vipassana community for life, and is allowed to attend any course at any center, anywhere in the world. There are Vipassana courses that range up to 70 day long retreats, for those who really want to attain that elevated state in more permanent ways. 

California has an astounding 3 Vipassana centers available to any who seek to learn this practice. There is one in Southern California, one in the Bay Area, and one in Northern California. Applications can be made directly through the Dhamma website

Silent Meditation Retreat in Colorado

Known for its mountain ranges and general energetic pull, Colorado is another American spiritual hub, and a place where meditation retreats take place quite abundantly. 

In Elbert, there is a local Colorado Vipassana center, with 10 day courses taking place throughout the year in varied segments. Applications to attend can be made directly through the Dhamma Sela website

Silent Meditation Retreat in East Coast

Venturing toward the East Coast, meditation retreats become a little less advertised, but nonetheless available. You’ll find that in states like Florida, Massachusetts, Carolina, and New York, meditation retreats take place outside of the city centers in more nature-dense areas. This is very different relative to the West Coast, where cities tend to merge with nature, so retreats can take place closer to home. 

It is common for residents of the East Coast to make their way more inland, toward the west, when looking to attend meditation getaways that offer a break from their immediate surroundings. Highly populated areas with dense energy (not naturally inclined toward the embracing of mysticism) can be difficult places to meditate due to the high levels of white noise or “contradictory frequencies”. 

Silent Meditation Retreat in New York

While there is a Vipassana meditation center in the heart of New York City, this is not a retreat center and they do not offer the 10 day courses from this establishment. Instead, the New York base is the HQ for the association on the East Coast, and you’ll regularly be able to attend talks on the practice. Children can also learn to meditate at this particular establishment. 

Anyone wanting to attend a silent Vipassana meditation retreat in New York will have to make the short journey through to the Dhamma Dharā center in Massachusetts. It is here that the 10 day course can be properly explored, without the chaos and noise of the city getting in the way of the retreat’s peaceful nature.  

Silent Meditation Retreat in Texas

The Dhamma Sirī is the official Vipassana meditation center for the southwestern region of the USA. It’s a beautiful location for a meditation retreat, if we do say so ourselves, and the volunteers who keep this center running are admirably dedicated to their service. 

The center is situated in Kaufman, which is a three hour drive north of Austin, and just a 40 minute drive from Dallas. 

Silent Meditation Retreat in Oregon

Oregon is the spiritual hub of the Northwest, and sees numerous meditation and self-help retreats taking place throughout the year. A lot of people from both the east and west coasts like to make the journey into Oregon for their annual pilgrimage, attesting to the fact that there is something very special about the energy of this area. 

woman sitting and facing sunset

There is no single Vipassana center in the state of Oregon at this time. Instead, all Vipassana meditation retreats are organized by a group known as the Northwest Vipassana Association. The NVA make it their mission to host the course at various venues around the state, so that as many people as possible can gain access to them throughout the year. 

Silent Meditation Retreat in Florida

Florida is an easy going place where meditation is widely observed. There are meditation communities both near and far, and anyone seeking to deepen their practice need only look close to home.

At this time, there is no Vipassana center in Florida itself, but there is a Vipassana organization that seeks to offer a meeting point for anyone who wants to Segway into this kind of practice. It’s called the Gainesville Vipassana Society, and you can check them out both in person or online. 

Silent Meditation Retreat in Washington

The Northwest isn’t a dead zone for spiritual practice, though many make it out to be so. You just need to know where to look, and in Washington state it’s the more rural areas that tend to offer the most meditation retreats.

Washington residents need only venture to Onalaska, where they’ll find a Vipassana center in full operation (and usually at full capacity, too!). The Dhamma Kuñja is offering amazing service to this part of the country where there is definitely a strong call for more mindfulness amongst citizens. Apply well in advance for this one!

Silent Meditation Retreat in Massachusetts

As mentioned, seekers can find 10 day retreats on offer at the Dhamma Dharā center in Massachusetts. It’s here that a lot of residents from surrounding states venture when they are looking to experience the full benefit of meditation, particularly individuals from New York State, and both ends of Carolina (where Vipassana centers are not found). 

Silent Meditation Retreat in Georgia

Jesup, Georgia is one of the most beautiful destinations for any kind for a self-improvement retreat, meditative or not. The lush forestry in this part of the country is incredibly conducive to creating a container in which profound transformation can take place. 

Dhamma Patāpa is the center here, and they offer the 10 day course for new students, as well as 1, 2 or 3 day courses for returning students. 

Silent Meditation Retreat in Chicago

Residents of Chicago reap the benefit of not having to venture very far at all when they want to partake in structured meditation retreats. For starters, the Dhamma Pakāsa center sits just an hour and a half inland from Chicago, in a municipality known as Pecatonica. 

More than this, Illinois is known for having a plethora of active meditation retreats year round. Whether you want to get away for a weekend, or attend lengthy transformative workshops to perfect your practice, you’ll find it all in this part of the country. 

Silent Meditation Retreat in Mexico

People are always surprised to learn that meditation is practiced very seriously in many parts of Mexico. What’s more, Mexico and retreats go hand in hand, with this terrain offering just about everything a person could need for a transformative escape. 

The Vipassana center in Mexico is the Dhamma Makaranda, and it is situated in San Bartolo Amanalco. Remember, no matter where you choose to attend a 10 day meditation course, the center will always offer the teachings in your required language. You do not specifically need to speak Spanish to attend a course in Mexico, just as you do not need to know Hindi to attend in India. 

Silent Meditation Retreat in India

Speaking of, attending a silent meditation retreat in India seems to be a bucket list experience for meditators who have been involved in this practice for a while. It’s also often a great escape for beginners who feel as though they do not have what it takes to incorporate meditation into their lives on their own, and want to learn it from within the country in which it originated. 

Whatever your motivation, India is a wonderful place for meditation retreats. India has an astounding 98 active Vipassana meditation centers, as well as 15 non-active centers (community gathering points, public talks, etc). The full list of these centers can be found here

The most renowned center sits in the city of Bihar, in Eastern India. It was here that the Buddha first achieved his enlightenment, whilst seated beneath the Bodhi tree, practicing silent meditation. Naturally, avid meditators gravitate toward this very sacred land. 

Did You Enjoy This Article?

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, you might also like the following articles: Guided Meditation with a Tibetan Singing BowlSound Bowl Meditation and Healing: Recent Studies, and Singing Bowl Meditation.

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