Monastery Stays | Part II | Tips for a Silent Retreat

The New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur offers silent retreats. (Link to Part I)

We hear it from religious leaders, psychologists, successful business leaders and other experts—everyone needs to take time to disengage from the hurried life many of us lead (or choose to lead).

Big Sur New Camaldoli hermitageMy walk and talk with Father Isaiah was open, filled with laughter and inspiring thoughts, and a few tears, by me, of course. (By the way, the monks can break silence during vespers and during private guidance walks.)

For personal reasons, I’ll share only one of the three things that Father Isaiah said that set me straight; “We are human beings, not human doings.”

Respectively, our mind and soul can absorb and store quite a bit of information and emotion, but no matter what you think, it must be “emptied” now and then. Just like that “cluttered kitchen drawer” most of us have–it’s great for tossing in the unidentifiable single key or plastic pen, but after a while nothing more will fit in the drawer. So, what do we do?  We stop to “empty it” and start fresh, sometimes with good intentions to keep it clutter-free.

New Camaldoli hermitage, Big Sur



“…You must stay awhile.  You must stay long enough.”  Chris Lorenc, Teacher, writer




Acceptances, thoughts and such:

  • I sat at the table to eat my breakfast where normally I skip it or grab a bite standing at the kitchen counter.
  • Social media lived on without me, and I without it.
  • I realized that I enjoy not talking or having to respond to anyone.
  • Jumping into bed in the afternoon to read book (without guilt) was sinfully delightful, and the world continued.
  • Being alone—no one can let down.
  • Accepting that some relationships are not, and may never be the kind of relationship I wish for.
  • I love my life and how I’ve lived it so far.
  • By resting my mind, it allowed several great ideas to enter.
  • There was a peaceful feeling being on the same grounds where men have chosen to live in contemplation, devotion to God, and silence. (They also make tasty “Holy granola” and honey too!)
  • I really like my work and the people that assist me. (Very fortunate, indeed.)
  • I like talking to birds. (And it felt “normal.”)

The remaining “17 do’s and don’ts for staying at a monastery”

11.  No keys required; no need to lock your doors or windows. I admit, I did at night.

12.  Do bring any particular coffee, fruit, or other preferred snacks. You may store them in the common-use kitchen, or in your private hermitage if you are fortunate to reserve one. Believe me, there is plenty of “shared” food/snacks available to you anytime—you don’t really need to bring anything.

13.  You don’t need to bring a suitcase full of clothes. You’ll be sitting, walking, reflecting…bring along an extra pair of tennis shoes in case it rains. The room has an umbrella; they think of everything. Additionally, dress modestly. Short-shorts or midriff-exposing workout bras—just don’t.

14.  Don’t have an agenda, well, not a set-in-stone agenda. Time without computers, phones, and television, all you may want to do is sleep, nap, stare at the ocean, or come to a lot of realizations that can clear up so many things.

15.  Do take advantage of the opportunity to meet with one of the monks—no, you do not need to discuss religion. They are open to talking about whatever your soul needs.

16.  Don’t, as tempting as it might be, run to get your phone (yes, the camera feature works) to take a photo of the regal quail that landed on the deck right next to you; you will miss the entire point of this experience.

17. Unless you must, don’t be tempted to drive into town for a phone check or shopping spree–it sort of defeats the purpose don’t you think?

I can easily get used to this pace—no pace. But on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoy my work; spreading civility, hearing about people’s experience with rudeness, and having deadlines—this also fills my soul. I kind of missed my husband too.

I learned that I need to stop and empty out my “cluttered kitchen drawer.” I think we all do.  But how—when circumstances don’t allow for a four-day silent retreat?

A bit cliché, but, we can all find a place where we can enjoy a mini-retreat near home—leaving your phone at home, or under the seat of your car. Finding a “place” is the easy part, making time to “go there” is the challenge.

I wish you a clutter-free mind, a serene soul, and a little silence.

A special mention: Gerry, who manages the check-in process and the store, was a blessing to meet. Her demeanor embodies sweetness, genuine care, helpfulness, and calmness. I hope you are fortunate to be greeted by her.

Rosalinda Randall: Author, Speaker, Etiquette and Civility Consultant

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. via email or by calling 650.871.6200