Silent Retreat

First and foremost, I would like to apologize for having disappeared in last week’s column and I feel obliged to explain the reason. The adventure streak took me on a 10-day silent journey, to a semi-recluse place just a little outside of the city of Modjo. A place where cell phones, laptops, books, pens or the like are not allowed, in order to maintain the vow of complete silence one enters for the said period.

Those who know me even a little bit were skeptical about my abilities to complete the full 10 days without the urge of wanting to burst into a conversation with the trees in the compound. But jokes aside, even the most reserved and silent of individuals could be doubtful as it could seem like a mountain to climb.

Though it was surmountable it was no piece of cake. I am convinced that the whole experience is a good one for everyone to try at least once as an experiment, though this is not the main frame of our discussion. Silence is a word that generally is associated automatically with reprimands, authority and with a few seconds more thought it is able to remind us of peace, tranquility, and rest.

I wonder if solely reading the word ever rings harshness or order in your ears?

Like a sign in a library that makes people start whispering or brings memories of tense exams. There are common ways of breaking the silence in a gathering of groups of people, one of which is asking whether or not someone has died.

This is the relationship people have with silence in the society. Given the association of this word whether due to our upbringing or our school system, it rarely evokes a sense of peace and rest the majority of the time.

It was this experience that triggered my curiousity towards the word and the sensations that it evokes in people when said, read and practiced. Of course, the habits of silence and speech vary from person to person in terms of frequency, mode, tonality, emotions as well as source of the speech itself.

However, studies have shown that silence is proven to have many benefits when done conscientiously. Living in a world where almost every few hundred meters is polluted with visual and aural detritus, by noise ranging from car horns, street vendors, building ad screens, outdoor speakers and the list goes on.

Is there established mechanisms to cope with all of the noise that we intake day in and day out?

Is taking a few days off, even if it constitutes of going out of town or out of the country enough?

There are times people choose to get away from the noise by either delving into a book or taking up any chores around the house, in order to get a break, time with one’s own mind. Sometimes people take a few moments to themselves, going through their minds either reminiscing or putting life’s puzzles together.

One way or another, it is necessary to have a few moments to ourselves to brave through the Twenty-first century.

One of the other questions that came to mind after the retreat was what decisions are made when anyone is faced with worry, anxiety, and boredom. The first instincts might be to go out on the town and get some sort of entertainment to change the mood. Whatever the go-to activities are to overcome difficult situations, do you wonder if these can ever permanent solutions?

Through the seminar, it became clear to me that sometimes these solutions are mostly temporary and they rarely allow the right amount of time to get remotely close to understanding what people are going through.

I guess the main notion here is, whether or not I have time to my mind amongst all of the noise outside of me because let us face it, with all of life’s ups and downs there is noise within as well.


By Christine Yohannes
Christine Yohannes writes about social change, performs at public events and conducts poetry workshops in schools. She has established a monthly event entitled "Poetic Saturdays" - a platform created to allow everyone the freedom of self-expression through art. She can be reached at

Published on Feb 25,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 877]



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