Monastery Stays | Tips for a Silent Retreat | Part I

Why do people choose a silent retreat? I don’t know, but I do know why I chose it.

My cup runneth over. I have little to complain about, but have much to be grateful for. And with time and seclusion impossible to find, I was determined to find it.

Fast-forward: …a cluttered kitchen drawer (in my head and soul.)

This is where my quest for solitude and reflection began. And what would be the perfect place for this? A monastery, of course.

After researching and considering a couple of California monasteries, I decided on the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, CA.

One of the top reasons that I chose The Camaldoli Hermitage was the mandatory “silence” which I looked at as a much sought after and lavish amenity.

Travel Etiquette Most of the monasteries, including this one, state, almost warn you not to expect “hotel quality” accommodations or service. In this case, my experience exceeded “hotel quality”-including the meals.

What attracted me to the idea of a monastery was that it sounded nourishing and peaceful; a place where a person can think or not think; work or not; sleep the day away or take long walks–all welcoming. However, the idea of required “silence” is what sold me.

Honestly, I did not anticipate how wonderful and tranquil being “silent” could be. We are so used to sharing our thoughts and opinions, our photos, and our recent accomplishments the moment it is happening, or shortly thereafter. Not here.

Did I mention that there is no cell phone reception, no wi-fi, and no television? Just you and nature, or perhaps a book, bubbles to watch them disappear (one of my favorite things to do), watch the ocean change color, or write.

Doesn’t it sound wonderful?

monastery travel tipsI took this retreat alone. For four days and three nights, I stayed in one of the six private hermitages…simply breathtaking and secluded. Being that I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to being alone at night, I expected sleep to be illusive, but, I slept like a baby.

To be honest the bed I slept in had one of the most comfortable mattresses that I have ever had the good fortune to encounter. It has definitely made me think about upgrading my own mattress back home. My friend recently replaced her mattress, so perhaps I’ll have to ask her where she got hers from. I remember her telling me that she’d looked for reviews before purchasing a new mattress on simplyrestcom, so maybe I’ll have a read on there before I make my own decision.

I once read that you should replace your mattress every 7 years if you want to make sure that you are getting as good a quality of sleep as possible, so I have been checking out guides to the best memory foam mattresses online. I might have to invest in the editor choice as there are so many to choose from.

Talk of sleep to one side, although the New Camaldoli is a Catholic monastery, it is not just for Catholics, in fact, you can be of other faiths or non-religious and still benefit from the solitude and discreet and tranquil surroundings.

A little about the meals: I am not a vegetarian. When I read that the meals, made by the monks were, with the exception of fish now and then, I thought oh-oh. Just before you arrive to the New Camaldoli Hermitage, there is a bakery and deli; I bought a few slices of ham, just in case.

Well, was I slapped up side the head with the most delicious and filling food! I must admit, I had one slice of ham, only because I love it and rarely buy it.

17 do’s and don’ts when staying at a “silent” monastery.

1. A few miles before you reach the monastery, do stop at a “Vista Point” or turn-off to take in the scenery. Begin to quiet your mind. Take a few deep breaths.

2. Do make your last phone call, send your last text, say “goodbye” to social media-this might sound silly, but if you are attached to social media and your phone, this step could be the most difficult. So, do whatever will help you be able to shutdown.

3. Do turn off your radio.

4. As you approach the entrance, do take another deep breath, or a few.

5. Do drive slowly. Guests will be taking walks, lost in their thoughts.

6. When checking in, do expect a slower pace-this was my first test. (By the way, you may talk, quietly of course, while inside the reception/bookstore area.)

7. Do feel free to ask questions. However, a binder full of information is provided in your room.

8. If you smile, nod, or make eye contact with another guest, and they “shun” you, do not take it personally. Some people take a vow of silence and hermit-like demeanor. Hermitage; a habitation of a hermit; a secluded place of residence.

9. Wherever you wander, even in your own room, maintain quiet and serene utterances. Keep movement calm and without clatter; especially if you travel with a companion.

10. Do consider at staying the recommended two nights. When I checked in, I was told that it would take about a day to really unwind and get into the mindset of solitude and quiet. Gerry, was right. On the eve of my departure, I was tempted to stay one more day.

Please check back this week for Part II, where I’ll share more about the “silent retreat experience,” as well as the remaining “17 do’s and don’ts.”

trainer, speaker civility

I’m Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, a modern-day civility and etiquette pundit, trainer, and author of “Don’t Burp in the Boardroom.”

I offer on-site workshops to support HR policies, sales team, managers, as part of the new-hire orientation process, service reps, professional development events, college/university students, interns. For more information, please contact me. 650.871.6200