After my month-long trek across the north of Spain, I was ready for a break. More than physically I was seeking a mental refresh to help transition back into ‘the real world.’

A 10-day silent meditation retreat seemed like the perfect remedy. My goals were to:

1. give the legs that took me 900km some rest,
2. strengthen my concentration from a world constantly in motion; and
3. reflect on my experiences in Spain and France.

I was familiar with the 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. timetable from my first course. That is, essentially ten some-odd hours of meditation each day and not much else. No writing, no communication and only two light meals per day for the repeat students like me.

My first course was intense but I thought this time sitting for 10 days would be easier after walking for 30. I couldn’t be more wrong.

My back and knees ached on the first day and continued until the last.

Then there was the trouble of concentrating my mind. My thoughts bounced from one thing to the next like pop-up ads. This happened sometimes during the walk too but at least I could revert my focus to the trail, a city, or even a conversation.

At the retreat there were virtually no distractions and by day three I felt like I was going insane. When I walked The Way of St. James I grew accustomed to seeing new places each day. Now I followed a rhythm of sleeping, meditating, and walking the same loop around the center.

Seating can get creative at the retreats.
Thankfully, by day six I made some progress. I could finally sit in the same position for an entire hour, without adjusting. 

It never came easy though. The last few minutes were always excruciating and at one point I screamed so loud internally I wondered if it was audible.

Walking 30 km per day never brought this kind of relentless pain. Although, I think I needed both experiences to prepare me for life back in ‘the real world.’

This time I travel to the Italian island of Sicily. Ready or not, 'real world' here I come.


If you are brave enough to try one of these 10-day silent meditation retreats, check out The courses are free (food and lodging included) and held all over the world.