Working Silence in Den Andel, The Netherlands.
On March 17th, I traveled to Den Andel, The Netherlands, from my home south of the Fontainebleau Forest. I was heading to a week of working silence with Anjet van Linge and Mark de Groot. It was my third time attending one of their retreats and I was very much looking forward to this one, their first on their sheep farm.
The retreat follows a monastic rhythm, with alternating silence and speech. I have learned from my earlier experiences how this structured rhythm provides a wonderful holding space for me to do some of my most effective work. And I was bringing several projects to this retreat.
First and foremost, I worked on my TEDx talk, which has since taken place. Yes, I was very excited to have been invited to speak at TEDxFHNW in Brügg, Switzerland, on April 13th, 2019, to speak on the topic:
“Finding Happiness: How forgiving my mother radically changed my life.”
I hope this talk will inspire you to consider who you may want to forgive, to reach your happiness. You can watch the talk here and I would love it if you would let me know how this talk speaks to you!
Next, I tended to the newly formatted version of my book, “Happiness Now! A Guided Journey,” and to the texts for the current version of EUDOKIMA’s website. As with any change in written material, a focused proofread is in order and there was no better environment to do this task than a working silence retreat!
Last but not least, an event important to me and at the heart of the work of EUDOKIMA took place during the week:
International Happiness Day,
This event takes place each year on March 20th. It was important for me to celebrate this day within the boundaries of the retreat. Each day, the silence starts after a reading and ends after an evening meditation. The evening silence starts after another reading. Anjet and Mark offered me the opportunity to do those three things on March 20th, 2019.
In the morning, I chose to read an excerpt from Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech.
Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.
Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.
Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
Everything else is secondary.
Stay hungry, stay foolish.
I then invited the retreat participants and leaders to reflect on:
- What is happiness, for you?
- How do you prioritize it – or not – in your everyday life?
And then think of one thing that you can choose to put more focus on to increase your own happiness, while taking into account your environment.
I guided a meditation at the end of the day, inviting reflection on the day and tying in the questions from the morning. In the evening, I read a poem from the book “Benedictus” by John O’Donohue, “The unknown self.”
On March 23rd, I traveled back home.
I chose to travel slowly for this trip, leaving home on foot, taking a bus first, then a sequence of trains and the last 30 minutes in a car. And the same in reverse.
It takes all day to travel from my home to the North end of the Netherlands and that seemed appropriate. So often now, we rush from one thing to the next, some fly across the world while they sleep, having full days on both ends. Transition time gets squeezed and forgotten.
It felt good to take the time to transition, to see all the different places that I traveled through and appreciate the nuanced differences, in this small part of Northern Europe. I encourage you to take some time to slow down, to look around, to notice where you are, what you are feeling, what you are thinking. I encourage you to take time to observe what is there.
Silence may just help you do that.
Founder of EUDOKIMA