After many years of attending shorter and longer silent retreats, I came across an invitation to a spoken retreat and spontaneously registered myself because I was curious to find out what to expect. The brochure said “A spoken retreat follows the structure and format of most silent retreats with the main exception being, that the participants are strongly encourage to verbalise their minds!” Needless to say, each of the participants had to attend a short intake interview by phone and was then provided all details and instructions via an audio-file sent by email.
“All participants are strongly encouraged to express themselves verbally at all times – being on their own or with others.”
SPEAKING BY YOURSELF
As best you can put your mind’s inner commentary into words. Speak out loud what you think as often and as long as you can stay focused. Whenever you fall into silence, congratulate yourself and gently bring back the tone of your voice. Experiment with tonality, melody and volume. When your mind fatigues, start to speak to yourself and with yourself. Do it with kindness. Talk about anything you like or dislike – things you want or need to do and all the things you don’t want to do. Follow through with each train of thought arguing with yourself vigorously to dissect where your preferences and action tendencies come from and what they are based on.
SPEAKING TO OTHERS
In this retreat we cultivate speaking “to” rather than “with” others. Speaking to others means that we encourage you to speak about yourself, revealing some of your moment-to-moment awareness with each statement. Do not ask questions. If you feel the urge to ask a questions, perhaps you can work your way around it. Say “I wonder how you feel today?” Or “I am so anxious standing next to you, that I want to overcome my sense of awkwardness by asking you if you like the vegetarian food.”
THE SPOKEN RETREAT DIALOGUE
Use “I statements” as best you can. Repeat what your counterpart said and then add your own observation of the world and yourself. Example: The other person says “I like how green the gras is here.” You say “You like how green the gras is. I went to the other side this morning and found that it is even greener there.” And so on.
THE SPOKEN RETREAT GROUP CONVERSATION
Similar to the Spoken Retreat Dialogue (R), the Spoken Retreat Group Conversation was developed to increase the depth and richness of the retreat experience. When one group member makes an “I statement” all other group members need to repeat the statement and then make a judging comment based on their own view and experience. Which then in turn is again repeated by each group member. Smaller groups are preferable here for obvious reasons.
Mindful Talking. Choose any thought that comes up in your mind and speak it, out loud. Again and again. Let’s say your thought is “I wish Arsenal wins anything this season”. Try as best you can to fully concentrate on that though and speak it out loud to yourself again and again. Slowly savouring every word. Enquire into each syllable, each word, the sound, the way you produce it, the meaning – of each word, of parts of the sentence, of the whole sentence. Find words with the same meaning for each word in the sentence: “I, myself, me, self, …”; “Wish, desire, want, aspire, crave, …”. When your mind gets distracted – for example by thinking of another football club like Middlesborough for example – say “Thinking, Thinking, Thinking” and bring your attention gently back to your phrase. If your mind drifts to images – say your favorite players holding a cup on a presentation ceremony – say “Imagining, Imagining, Imagining” and then bring back your attention gently and with kindness to your sentence. Take a fresh interest in your sentence and continue your mindful talking. If you notice any feelings arising such as warmth, fuzziness or hatred – say “Feeling, Feeling, Feeling”.
Take it from here!