With the help of Ananda employees such as Sheri Goldberg, writer Kathleen Parrish had a thoroughly rewarding first-time retreat.
Photography by Rudy Meyers

As I go to bed that evening, I can feel the rhythms of my body slow and the carnival in my mind dim. The next morning, I have a powerful experience during meditation. Though the dark sky is still cloaked in twinkling stars when I arrive at the chapel, I’m late. When I open the chapel door, Chaitanya is sitting on the floor alone singing “O Holy Night.” His voice is so pure and clear that I start to cry. I quickly grab a pillow and blanket and begin meditating. The practice seems easier this morning, and before long, two hours have passed and it’s time for breakfast.

Only now I’m not tempted to join the talking table, having realized the day before that so much of what I say is ego-driven. Though it seems counterintuitive, as I travel inward, my thoughts begin to center less on me and more on “we.” For once, I just listen, allowing the sludge in my conscious to clear. And in that moment, I remember where I had left my watch the day before (on a table in my cabin’s meditation room) and figure out the best way to handle a personality issue at work that had plagued me for months.

When I leave the next day, I feel like a new person — or at least a kinder, calmer version of myself. I have no overwhelming desire to talk.

Silence has become my friend.

As I pull my rental car from the gravel lot, I notice a herd of bucks standing like sentinels on a nearby ridge. Their antlers seem to sparkle in the milky dawn, and I can’t help but think they had been summoned to issue a sacred goodbye. I acknowledge the gesture with a nod and drive away, leaving the radio off.

I arrive home after 20 hours of traveling and wake up four hours later to go to work. Despite the trek, my colleagues keep commenting on how rested I appear.

“You look great,” my co-worker says. “What did you do?”

“Nothing,” I say, smiling. Absolutely nothing.

Kathleen Parrish is a freelance magazine writer who teaches journalism at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. She strives daily to interrupt her life with silence.