And then there was Silence…

We opened our eyes, ready to start a full day in complete silence. The sound of the morning birds was filling our ears and bodies as if we were in a sound system. The idea was born one day at the Kings Cross Skip Garden, writes Silvia Pedretti.

Through silence comes space. Into the space come those things that we have tried hard to find. Our nearest galaxy is the same size as the little speedwell flower if I am in between, looking at both. The universe is contained within both. My awareness of them connects the one to the other.
— Geraldine, Global Generation’s Office Manager

24 hours of silence starting at 6am on the 31st of May, Pertwood, Wiltshire.

In past years, Global Generation’s team away days at Pertwood involved us all in working on the land, and reflecting on our projects and our relationships in London through a series of activities. But this time, in addition to camping, we wanted to experience a new way of reflection and interaction – a new meaning to being together.

So Jane and Rod, who have been on silent retreats in the past, have been our guides, both planning and holding the day’s schedule, ensuring we were both comfortable in the silence and familiar with the unknown.

The sound of a cowbell announced time for meditation, for working on the land, for silent walks, for being together or for being alone. Well, we were never really alone.

The silence was an incredible and inspiring companion on the retreat and, surprisingly, our human silence brought with itself all the sounds of the outside – an outside that was richer, bigger, coloured and very alive. We could have never felt alone.

It was my first time in Pertwood and made all the more beautiful by the silence. The birdsong was louder, the green of the trees and fields was brighter and the companionship made stronger by our mutual want to envelop ourselves in something we hadn’t experienced before. There are moments that flicker through my mind like scenes from a favourite film: grilling pineapple on the fire, practicing Qigong in a field, watching a red sunset atop a hill. What made them so significant was being able to share that with the Global Generation team in a way you would never normally experience those moments. We really did find something in the nothing.
— Raiesa, Project Assistant
Like many other experiences in life - the points in time that you prospectively expect will stay with you never really are the ones that linger. The moment of impact is usually completely surprising. This was how our staff Silent Retreat weekend played out for me.

I expected to find specific moments - almost deliberately sought personal epiphanies - that somehow clicked somewhere in my psyche during hours spent by myself struggling to reach a still state of being. Instead, what really affected me was what came out of the collective silence between us - the space we created within and between ourselves to be able to step back from all the racket and commotion of our task-lists, relationships, and - potentially worst of all - our own minds. This space meant we could suddenly experience everything - as Susie described it - in technicolour.

From the indescribable dawn chorus that woke us to the most extraordinarily perfect sunset that left us all awestruck, everything was magically magnified in its intensity, and so, so humbling. I felt firmly rooted on the ground I stood on, like others have done for thousands of years... moved by how clearly we are all part of one whole.
— Rachel, Youth Manager

On our staff away day, a story was told by the silence: the story of a new dialogue within all of us, between us and nature, between us and the past. Silence allowed us to take in the life of the universe in one day. The future is directly connected with the abandonment of the feeling of separateness with others and the rhythm of the earth.

Ciara, Geraldine, Jane, Nicole, Raiesa, Rachel, Rod, Sarah and Susie reinforced the belief that silence is a great way to grab that sense of the whole and do something important for this earth. After the weekend, coming back to London wasn’t too scary.

Silence ... what happens when we are mindfully silent? The kind of silence that you share with others, together in one place, aware, awake and silent. Alone, not speaking together yet more together than we have ever been before, a shared space of deep appreciation of each other and nature around us. The sound of the birds, the insects and grass under my feet deeply intensified, the warmth of the sun going through my whole body, the feeling that we are all committed to finding a new way of being and experiencing ourselves, going beyond our thoughts and busy minds that pull a veil over this deeper place that is also here, and has always been here. Emptiness? True fullness? Potential? Truth? Intuition? What am I? Who am I? If not my thoughts? I go beyond them, catch a glimpse once in a while, strengthened by the presence and unsaid support of the others. We are all experiencing something new together, a deep connection to each other and to the land. Let me carry this experience with me, develop it, adapt it, grow it and share it.
— Nicole, Programme Director

That silence is something that generates from the inside and can always accompany us, wherever we are and whatever we do.

The true impact of our shared silence came in the hours and days following the retreat. Discussing our experiences around the firepit was slow to start but a laugh brought more than one of us tears. My usually-hectic bus ride home that day was a great space for reflection…and I’ve learnt now to appreciate the silence between sentences.
— Ciara, Gardens Team

All pictures in this post created and photographed by Silvia Pedretti