How a silent retreat saved me from a state of exhaustion

Do you know this feeling? When you have worked so much for a couple of weeks or months that you’re not able to do ANYTHING any more. Like you can’t watch TV or go for a coffee just for fun as you always feel the need to work on something, because there is a long list of things waiting for you to be crossed off. Well, that’s how I felt when I first started to work for myself. Because when you are self-employed for the first time,  you realize that you are the person that is responsible for EVERYTHING. In addition to your key tasks, you must be an expert in legal matters, marketing activities, financial affairs, taxes, digital media, and so on – the list is long. So day by day, I acquired new skills in every area which was great on the one hand and exhausting on the other. But after a while, and after many working weekends,  I got sick. My body was telling me that I needed a break. At that moment, I decided to book myself onto a silent retreat at the Buddhist Center in Lower Austria (unpaid ad) Because I knew that, if I  had  access to a computer, I would continue to work.

I arrived on a Thursday afternoon after a drive of over 2 hours, and I realized soon that I was the youngest participant at this retreat. I guess the average person there was forty-something. On the first evening, all participants (about 50 of them)  had dinner together and the leader of the retreat explained how the next couple of days would look like. After that dinner, we all observed total silence. To be honest, initially it felt extremely unfamiliar.  Sitting next to each other around a table and not talking to each other was really strange. People started to avoid eye-contact, and I remember the feeling of loneliness despite being surrounded by people.

On this first night after dinner, we did our first meditation session together. The meditation took place in a peaceful room that had been used for meditation retreats for more than a decade. Although I was already used to meditation I was overwhelmed by the energy in the room. Sitting together at this special location with all these silent strangers that were on the same mission as I was something unique that I had never experienced before.

However, I must admit, that first night I didn’t really feel comfortable. The whole situation was new and very different for me, and at night I lay awake for hours. But the next day, I started to get used to it all. I forgot about my goals, my desires and my to-do-list.

It was just ME and the SILENCE.

I attended the meditation and yoga sessions, I went on lovely  nature walks in Scheibbs, I read a book on mindfulness in the in-house library and I was provided with nutritious food morning, noon and night. I could let things slide for a couple of days, and just listen to my thoughts. Day by day I recognized how driven I’d been by my thoughts and desires before and how liberating it felt that my mind was getting calmer and calmer. This process had a healing effect on me – on my inner and outer self. Finally, I was able to let go of any pressure I had put on myself.


And the result is that during the recent few days after the silent retreat I have achieved more than during all the weeks together before it –  just because I felt at peace with myself again.

Quick tip:

No matter what reason you have for feeling strung out, allow yourself a break. Remember to take care of yourself; your body and mind are precious. Meditation is a great tool for self-care, self-development and serenity. Just a couple of minutes every day will change your whole being.


Claudia is a publishing author and the founder of TheSmartSpirit.

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