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Silent Retreats: Many Vacationers Choosing to Leave the Noise Behind

Travelers Today       By    Amanda Woods

Updated: Feb 07, 2013 06:50 PM EST

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Silent Retreats
Omega Institute, located in Rhinebeck, N.Y., offers a week-long silent retreat in September.(Photo : Twitter)

Those who need a break from their smart phones, Facebook and Twitter updates, emails and phone calls may not benefit from the most action packed vacation - instead, silent retreats, one of the latest travel trends - might be a better option.

On silent retreats, visitors literally take a vow of silence. Some sites require complete silence, and others have designated silent periods, ABC Local reported. At some locations, visitors are asked to leave their phones, iPads and laptops behind.  People interact with each other at certain silent retreat spots, but at others, visitors are encouraged to spend time alone.

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The accommodations at silent retreat centers range from bare bones to luxury, with appropriate pricing for each, according to ABC Local.

Organizers of silent retreats say that these getaways refresh visitors and help them to see the world differently.

"People often talk about a renewed sense of wonder, kind of rediscovering the joy of being out on a beautiful day and maybe just watching the way the light changes in the evening," Nat Reid, the director of the silent retreat center in Maryland, told ABC Local.

Jayne Charneski, a busy marketing executive who always spends time on the phone and the computer, said she tried a five-day silent retreat to try to tune out the noise in her life, she told ABC Local. "I was working a lot of late nights and weekends and it was just really intense," she said. "I thought it would give me a way to take inventory." 

Manhattan real estate agent Steven Kopstein also has a busy, technology-driven lifestyle. Looking to get away, his vacation of choice was a 10-day silent retreat in Massachusetts. "When you arrive, you have to give up everything, including your computer, your phone, any books, pencils, pens, paper," he told CBS Local. For him, the hardest part was the silence - the essence of the experience. "We spend 10 days together in the same room without talking," he added.

The Wall Street Journal listed some silent retreat locations worth a visit:

1)    New Melleray Abbey - Peosta, Iowa - This is a monastery for Catholic Trappist monks. Activities resolve around the monk's spiritual activities - usually they are either praying or making caskets. Guests are also allowed to explore the grounds and read in the library.

2)    Escalen Institute - Big Sur, Calif. - This is a yoga and health center in the Berkshires founded by a swami who spent 19 years without speaking. There, you can choose to take meals and meditate in silence. The site offers silence-centered programs, or you can participate in activities such as hiking, kayaking and walking the labyrinth - all without speaking.

3)    Insight Meditation Center - Barre, Mass. - This site, rooted in Buddhism, offers an intense, but not particularly religious experience. First-timers attend a week or weekend-long guided program. Days begin at 5:30 a.m., and guests complete chores such as meal prep and housekeeping, and then can hike on trails in the woods or rural roads.

4)    Ala Kukui - Maui, Hawaii - This is a silent retreat center based on Hawaiian culture. Visitors can participate in yoga and meditation, and receive healing treatments - and they can also take hula, agriculture and arts and crafts classes.

5)    Omega Institute - Rhinebeck, N.Y. - Every September, this site offers a weeklong silent retreat -- broken at times only by chanting. The retreat, called the Sacred Core of Existence, includes lectures by Adyashanti, an author and spiritual teacher, and several daily meditation sessions.

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