Slowing down to speed up: Insights from a silent retreat

Slowing down to speed up: Insights from a silent retreat


by Ania Lichota


I went full of curiosity, ready for anything and open minded. I had decided that I shall stick to all the rules of sharing a room with a total stranger (not have a key), not saying a word for six days, with no access to phones, TV nor the radio. I won’t be able to take notes or even read – it’s just me with myself, no noise, no distractions.

I knew it was time to touch the stillness around and within, to catch up with myself. Eating wholesome foods and breathing fresh Welsh air to purify and relax the body. To provide a break, to detoxify and catch up on repairing sleep. To be free from the ever present WiFi and radiation it brings with it, no connectivity.

I longed for it all and so I went.


Going into silence was effortless and welcomed. Sitting on the cushion for forty minutes at a time was tough during the first two days. My body eventually became t supple and flexible by doing Chi Gong. My mind adjusted listening to the teachings of a living Buddha and being guided through the meditations. I delighted in it. For me this experience landed on fertile ground, prepared by my climbing in the Himalaya. This experience continued my journey of refining my character and added to my previous insights.

Every lunchtime, I walked for an hour in wild nature – sometimes in rain, sometimes in snow, sometimes in sunshine. I walked through old parks and wild Brecon Beacons. It was a break from everything that I have as a daily routine in London.

Breaking the silence on day six was a bizarre experience. I found that I did not want to talk to anybody. So I stretched the silence out for three more hours by escaping to the garden after lunch.

Why would I bother with all of that though? Firstly, I met great people from all sorts of walks of life – from an IT recruitment specialist to a Leadership training professional, an Oxfam high flyer, business modeller and investment banker. People came from Holland, Spain, Mexico, Austria, Ireland, France and the UK.

I gained tremendous concentration. I am able to stick to one thought and one task for longer than I had ever done before: an ability I shall cherish and strive to improve even more. I developed a new level of mindfulness that allows me to see the reality – to distinguish the ‘what is happening?’ from ‘how I feel about it?’ and to consider ‘what is or was my own reaction?’ and the effect it had on me and the world around me.

On the train back talking to my boyfriend (who did it with me as an experiment) I saw how it has changed how we relate to one another: from the imagined people we were at the beginning of this experience to the real flesh and bones we had become. I could see how I had attracted him into my life by writing a word on a blank piece of paper over four years ago. Life started to make perfect sense.

I developed a peace of mind that whatever is happening, is happening for a reason (usually caused by my mental stories of the past).When I can be with it, there is nothing awesome or terrible about it. Equanimity, a calmness and composure, sets in.

My senses have sharpened up so the food is tastier; the colours are brighter, touch more sensitive. My hearing and listening are so much more refined. Most of all, I became deeply aware of my subtle body and what role it plays in relating with myself and others; how when I am mindful of it I can gain a greater presence in the room; how I can keep people engaged in conversations; how I can create an even safer space for my clients to abide and surprise themselves with their own insights. My talks are more radiant.

A new life started with the retreat. As with most changes, now I am doing the follow up work. I want more of the extraordinary ordinary moments in my life.



Ania Lichota 3


Ania Lichota

Ania left Poland in 1996 with one bag to study at LSE. After a stellar career in finance, Ania is now a coach and inspirational speaker who likes climbing mountains – she is one of few women, who has reached the Seven Summits.  Her personal journey has helped many including building schools to help local Nepalise girls access education.



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