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Silence Retreat: It’s Secret Benefits

by Anne Dimon
Relaxation Retreats

Image Courtesy of Le Monastère des Augustine

Silence | Are peace and quiet becoming a luxury?

The sound of silence.  Wouldn’t you love to just enjoy a bit of that every now and then? To get away from the constant “noise” of everyday living, if only to be alone with your thoughts and to hear yourself think? Peace and quiet is rare, it’s precious, and it’s one of the things that people seek in a self-guided Wellness Vacation or a guided Wellness Retreat.  Lucky for us, the industry is listening. Silent offerings are not exactly going mainstream, but they are becoming more popular and there are more options available. And, that includes outside the parameters of a spa.

One place where silence is a big part of its authentic history is Le Monastère des Augustines in Québec. In 2018, the Wellness Tourism Association held its first meeting of members and partners at this singular living museum and we found that the place itself embodies a sense of peace and silence. Simply walk inside and the sudden hush is palpable. The culture of silence has lived within the walls of Le Monastère dating back to the 1600s when it was built as the home of the Augustinian Sisters who traveled to Quebec City from France to found the first hospital in North America. It continues to be an environment of calm with a slower pace conducive to finding one’s inner silence.

The secret benefits of silence

Isabelle Duchesneau, Executive Director of Le Monastère says silence has always been ally with multiple benefits, including helping to slow down the body and the mind. She says “today, it is an obvious solution to our daily lives saturated with information and noises.”

One of the signature offerings at this singular boutique hotel is the daily Silent Breakfast at the hotel’s one all-day restaurant. While paying tribute to the tradition of the Augustinian Sisters to take all of their meals in silence, this option, allows guests to experience something different while exploring the meaning and benefits of silence for themselves. Taking one’s breakfast in silence also helps us check in with our inner-selves and set our intention(s) for the day.  Several of the hotel’s multi-day packages include aspects of silence.

Image Courtesy of Le Monastère des Augustine

Why is silence in our daily lives so important?  

According to the Augustinian Sisters, who incorporated silence as one of their main spiritual practices, the discipline also helps reduce stress and anxiety, assists with regulating our emotions, improves cognitive abilities, ensures a more restful sleep, among other things. And medical science concurs. WTA Member Yvette McQueen, MD, says, “Silence has physiological, psychological and emotional effects on the body. The physical aspect promotes hormone regulation in the body and brain which will boost the immune system, decreases stress and blood pressure, improves the action of cells in the hippocampus which controls learning, memory, and emotions.” She adds that scientists have shown that shutting off speech will heighten other awareness. “Just two minutes of silence,” says Dr. Yvette, “will suppress the stress hormones released in the brain to reduce tension. Actions such as meditation, walking in nature will let the brain lower its guard from the fight or flight mode. Silence will also enhance more deep sleep for repairing of the body cells.”

Image Courtesy of Grand Velas

Other places to experience silence

About 1,940 miles south of Quebec City in the Dominican Republic, the introduction of Silent Spaces is one of the offerings of the new Wellness Inclusive concept launched in January at Melia Punta Cana Beach Resort.  I recently visited and found the massive property to be sprinkled with dedicated places to relax and enjoy nature in silence. On a guided bike tour, we cycled past natural lakes and ponds that are home to wildlife, and Wellness Spaces including the peaceful Flamingo Oasis one of several designated peaceful spots to enjoy mindful moments of quietude.  

At Grand Velas Resorts in Los Cabos, Nayarit and Riviera Maya, the brand’s Boundary-Free Wellness program includes Silent Spaces created to help guests maintain a healthy mind by participating in semi-silent activities. These silent or, in some cases, semi-silent spaces are located away from external noises of the resorts to allow for activities including meditation, reading, mandala color therapy, creative painting or simply listening to the healing sounds of nature.

According to The Art of Living Retreat Center in North Carolina, the practice of silence —described as “consciously withdrawing energy and attention from outer distraction”—has been used in different traditions throughout time as a pathway to physical, mental, and spiritual renewal. The Art of Living Silent Retreat offers an opportunity to learn to quiet mental chatter, experiencing inner silence, participate in advanced guided meditations and rejuvenate with yoga sessions. 

Silence, along with time, is shaping-up to be one today’s new luxuries.

Anne Dimon is the president of the Wellness Tourism Association and founder/editor of TravelToWellness.

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