Silent Retreats are like Extra Work

                  On a silent retreat this past year, I couldn’t help but explore how silent retreats are similar to extra work.  Extra work are also known as background players, those who walk in the background of your beloved television shows and movies.  I did this part time job while in graduate school for four years, and here is what I learned.

  1. We don’t talk…pantomime.
  2. It’s a unique experience, and you bond quickly.
  3. Food included is a bonus.
  4. Don’t talk unless spoken to.
  5. Long hours sitting (or standing) can be tough on the body.
  6. Unpaid work is unappreciated
  7. Nobody understands unless they have been there.
  8. You have hours to kill.
  9. Only 1-2 people talk while everyone else is quiet.
  10. People from all walks of life have central individual goal: liberation or to “make it”
  11. Vulnerability is achieved quickly, go deep with others when you finally do talk.
  12. Romances may form (inc. vippasana romances)
  13. Bring multiple changes of clothes.
  14. Feels like groundhog day: same day activities repeat or the scene repeats
  15. There can be familiar faces you recognize at both retreats and extra work.
  16. There will be showoffs.
  17. Since you are silent much of the time, stories build in your head.
  18. You are paired off into dyads or walking partners.
  19. Boredom can breed creativity.
  20. There is time to write.
  21. It is what you make of it: horror or dream
  22. Everyone is playing an unnamed role.
  23. We are likely to overstuff ourselves with food, obsess about when you will eat and what will be served.
  24. SAG vouchers attained or number of silent retreats attended are like badges of honor.
  25. People try to get close to the star/meditation teacher.
  26. You are the extras in each other’s experience: extended time to be in each other’s background.
  27. You daydream how life can be different.
  28. At one point you question, “what did I get myself into?”
  29. When have you had this much free time?
  30. There’s a bonding over the next show or retreat to book when it’s over.
  31. Celebrations are at the end, numbers are exchanged.
  32. You cannot leave unless they release you.
  33. Delirium can set in.
  34. There is a collective goal of community.
  35. There is no escape, you are stuck in a small place.
  36. There is a potential to explore possibilities. 
  37. On the outside if people observed this, may view you as zombies. 
  38. Friends and family not familiar with these activities are yearning to hear how the experience went.
  39. The event is generally enjoyed in the anticipation building up to the initiation or the end, but rarely in the process of being amidst it. 
  40. These experiences will make great stories to tell later.