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Sit, Walk, Don't Talk: How I Survived a Silent Meditation Retreat

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Jennifer Howd had been building a mindfulness practice for a few years before taking on the challenge of her first nine-day silent meditation retreat. In this debut memoir, she chronicles the humorous--and often harrowing--adventures of the dueling inner voices that emerge in the silence: one intent on focusing on the seemingly negative aspects of her experiences, and the Jennifer Howd had been building a mindfulness practice for a few years before taking on the challenge of her first nine-day silent meditation retreat. In this debut memoir, she chronicles the humorous--and often harrowing--adventures of the dueling inner voices that emerge in the silence: one intent on focusing on the seemingly negative aspects of her experiences, and the other on helping her see the positivity that can come from them. Illuminating for those who are new to mindfulness and resonant for those with established practices, Sit, Walk, Don't Talk: How I Survived a Silent Meditation Retreat also includes a section for undertaking a silent retreat without leaving home along with a helpful appendix listing resources that readers can turn toward when exploring mindfulness in general. Sit, Walk, Don't Talkis written from a secular perspective and will appeal to folks who've never attended a residential retreat but are curious about the experience and want to get a taste of what to expect before possibly taking the plunge. Practitioners who dream of going on retreat but cannot make the time will also get a lot out of Howd's story, as well as folks who've been on many retreats and want to recapture the feeling without leaving home."


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Jennifer Howd had been building a mindfulness practice for a few years before taking on the challenge of her first nine-day silent meditation retreat. In this debut memoir, she chronicles the humorous--and often harrowing--adventures of the dueling inner voices that emerge in the silence: one intent on focusing on the seemingly negative aspects of her experiences, and the Jennifer Howd had been building a mindfulness practice for a few years before taking on the challenge of her first nine-day silent meditation retreat. In this debut memoir, she chronicles the humorous--and often harrowing--adventures of the dueling inner voices that emerge in the silence: one intent on focusing on the seemingly negative aspects of her experiences, and the other on helping her see the positivity that can come from them. Illuminating for those who are new to mindfulness and resonant for those with established practices, Sit, Walk, Don't Talk: How I Survived a Silent Meditation Retreat also includes a section for undertaking a silent retreat without leaving home along with a helpful appendix listing resources that readers can turn toward when exploring mindfulness in general. Sit, Walk, Don't Talkis written from a secular perspective and will appeal to folks who've never attended a residential retreat but are curious about the experience and want to get a taste of what to expect before possibly taking the plunge. Practitioners who dream of going on retreat but cannot make the time will also get a lot out of Howd's story, as well as folks who've been on many retreats and want to recapture the feeling without leaving home."

30 review for Sit, Walk, Don't Talk: How I Survived a Silent Meditation Retreat

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I read this because I am going on a silent retreat for the first time this year and am a little terrified of it. This was a useful book in the sense that she gives a clear picture of what it's like. She also shares her own journey (she has strept throat during her retreat so there are many reflections on pain and suffering.) I found her a little annoying and the all-caps yelling/frustration style to happen a little too often, but I suppose in some ways its comforting to see a person who doesn't I read this because I am going on a silent retreat for the first time this year and am a little terrified of it. This was a useful book in the sense that she gives a clear picture of what it's like. She also shares her own journey (she has strept throat during her retreat so there are many reflections on pain and suffering.) I found her a little annoying and the all-caps yelling/frustration style to happen a little too often, but I suppose in some ways its comforting to see a person who doesn't have it all together still surviving a silent retreat.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    To me, the mark of a good book is how often I cry when I'm reading it. And I cried a lot. I find mindfulness, and what it would mean to be dedicated to it, to be intimidating at times... especially when I think about what would be required of me to survive a multi-day retreat. I wonder if I'm "enlightened" enough to take a challenge like that on or if the regular presence of my judgmental mind is a sign that I'm just not there yet. In this story, the author shares her experience in such an authe To me, the mark of a good book is how often I cry when I'm reading it. And I cried a lot. I find mindfulness, and what it would mean to be dedicated to it, to be intimidating at times... especially when I think about what would be required of me to survive a multi-day retreat. I wonder if I'm "enlightened" enough to take a challenge like that on or if the regular presence of my judgmental mind is a sign that I'm just not there yet. In this story, the author shares her experience in such an authentic and transparent way that it totally pulled the curtain on that world back for me. And I saw nothing more than humanity behind that curtain, the same humanity I possess. As a reader, I loved the opportunity to be on this journey with the author as she shared the dark parts of her experience (that we usually keep inside our heads and don’t share with each other) and be moved to tears when she triumphed and found joy amidst pain. Like anything worth reading, the book is an emotional roller coaster made safe by the great writing of a confident, shameless storyteller. It doesn’t read like a debut memoir, but rather a seasoned writer’s chronicle of yet another slice of her life. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves the richness of personal narrative; those who are curious about mindfulness, what it is, what it means to practice it, and what it really takes (hint: just be human); the mindfulness community (all levels of experience); and humans with hearts.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Heather Seeber

    I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I've never been to a retreat such as this; I don't even practice meditation. I'm actually a bit intimidated by the whole thing. But the author is so honest and relatable; I could imagine myself thinking the same thoughts she does, having the same internal dialogue, experiencing the same insecurities. The section on breaking the silence so closely mirrored my feelings in social situations, I could have written it myself. I finished the b I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I've never been to a retreat such as this; I don't even practice meditation. I'm actually a bit intimidated by the whole thing. But the author is so honest and relatable; I could imagine myself thinking the same thoughts she does, having the same internal dialogue, experiencing the same insecurities. The section on breaking the silence so closely mirrored my feelings in social situations, I could have written it myself. I finished the book wanting to learn more about how to incorporate simple mindfulness and meditation into my everyday life. Ms. Howd also includes an extensive appendix full of links, books, and mini-guides. I imagine it would be as helpful to an expert in this area as it was to me, a novice.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Robert Choates

    This short and easy read provides a glimpse into the author's mind during her mindfulness meditation practice while on a nine day retreat. She's open and vulnerable in her thoughts, and if you engage in a similar practice, you'll recognize and relate to all the debris that too easily rises when the mind goes 'quiet'. The story the author tells is touching, grounded, and humorous, and if you meditate on your own, without the benefit of a group or a teacher, and have ever wondered what exactly does This short and easy read provides a glimpse into the author's mind during her mindfulness meditation practice while on a nine day retreat. She's open and vulnerable in her thoughts, and if you engage in a similar practice, you'll recognize and relate to all the debris that too easily rises when the mind goes 'quiet'. The story the author tells is touching, grounded, and humorous, and if you meditate on your own, without the benefit of a group or a teacher, and have ever wondered what exactly does go on at retreats, the book offers insight and direction.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Caryn

    This book is a nice inside look into a silent meditation retreat from the perspective of a humble and vulnerable student. It was nice to read about what a person can learn about themselves while being imperfect but willing. Jennifer's writing style is easy to relate to as a person struggling with modern life. I'm even inspired to go deeper with my own experiences with meditation and silence. This book is a nice inside look into a silent meditation retreat from the perspective of a humble and vulnerable student. It was nice to read about what a person can learn about themselves while being imperfect but willing. Jennifer's writing style is easy to relate to as a person struggling with modern life. I'm even inspired to go deeper with my own experiences with meditation and silence.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    I received this book free from Goodreads for a honest review. It was fast reading and I was anxious to pour myself into the story since I had never been on that type of retreat. It was a very moving story about how another woman related and at the same time resisted moving forward in her life. Being stuck at the midpoint birthday in her life, she found solace in overcoming some areas of judgement. It brings to mind that we are all in a kinship together but must individually deal with pride and r I received this book free from Goodreads for a honest review. It was fast reading and I was anxious to pour myself into the story since I had never been on that type of retreat. It was a very moving story about how another woman related and at the same time resisted moving forward in her life. Being stuck at the midpoint birthday in her life, she found solace in overcoming some areas of judgement. It brings to mind that we are all in a kinship together but must individually deal with pride and resentment when getting along with others. The need for comfort comes through even though we try to hold ourselves back from feeling vulnerable. It was also good to see how we often revert back to judging others and must reevaluate our motives and actions even after several attempts at retreats. I enjoyed the book and thank you for allowing me to share your work.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Teferet

    This was a delightful little book. I recently had gone on a week long meditation retreat, so it was quite fresh in my mind when I read this book. It was almost like talking to an old friend who had gone through an ordeal the same as I had, and we could laugh at all of the saying silly things we had done. I’m glad I’m not the only one who freaks out about where their spot is going to be in the meditation hall, LOL! This would be a wonderful intro for a beginner, and it is also a lovely read for This was a delightful little book. I recently had gone on a week long meditation retreat, so it was quite fresh in my mind when I read this book. It was almost like talking to an old friend who had gone through an ordeal the same as I had, and we could laugh at all of the saying silly things we had done. I’m glad I’m not the only one who freaks out about where their spot is going to be in the meditation hall, LOL! This would be a wonderful intro for a beginner, and it is also a lovely read for someone who sits often. There are also great resources at the back of the book, including a few meditations, recommend reading, and packing list for retreats. A wonderful read!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I had read about this book a while ago and had it on my “to read list” for what seemed to be forever. Well, I finally got it off of Amazon and decided today was the day to read it. Very quick read. Only took me about an hour to get through it. Very informative about silent meditation retreats and the specific one Jennifer Howd (author) experienced for her 40th birthday gift to herself. I am definitely going to check out these retreat places because it feels like I need to do something like that I had read about this book a while ago and had it on my “to read list” for what seemed to be forever. Well, I finally got it off of Amazon and decided today was the day to read it. Very quick read. Only took me about an hour to get through it. Very informative about silent meditation retreats and the specific one Jennifer Howd (author) experienced for her 40th birthday gift to herself. I am definitely going to check out these retreat places because it feels like I need to do something like that for myself. Loved the book. Recommending it to everyone!!

  9. 4 out of 5

    RiversideReader

    This book made me cringe. The author goes on a week long silent meditation retreat near Joshua Tree. It is held in a nice retreat center and taught by well known and respected Dharma teachers. She shares a room with another woman. Unfortunately, Ms. Howd is ill with what she thinks is strep throat. She suffers and learns from her suffering. What I learned from her suffering is that not once does she consider that all the coughing and sneezing she does at the retreat could be infecting others. Sh This book made me cringe. The author goes on a week long silent meditation retreat near Joshua Tree. It is held in a nice retreat center and taught by well known and respected Dharma teachers. She shares a room with another woman. Unfortunately, Ms. Howd is ill with what she thinks is strep throat. She suffers and learns from her suffering. What I learned from her suffering is that not once does she consider that all the coughing and sneezing she does at the retreat could be infecting others. She is aware that the noises she is making may be annoying since it is a silent retreat but germs apparently do not occur to her at. all. Obviously, this retreat was held pre-Covid but, still.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    This book was a nice surprise. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone!! Being a HUGE fan of UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center...this book was made that much more valuable to me in my life. Thank you Jennifer for writing this book and being so incredibly open about your true inner thoughts in your journey. A Good Read!!! This book was a nice surprise. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone!! Being a HUGE fan of UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center...this book was made that much more valuable to me in my life. Thank you Jennifer for writing this book and being so incredibly open about your true inner thoughts in your journey. A Good Read!!!

  11. 4 out of 5

    W

    Provides a good insight on what to expect for a silent meditation. Of course individuals may experience it differently but this gave a good overview. I like the tips at the end on what to expect/ bring. Very practical. While I may not be going for any meditation retreats in the near future it’s still good to know.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erin Donaldson

    Great little book about a Silent Retreat - mediation and the authors thoughts and journal entries throughout. Sounds like a profound experience, I love how she is very open and honest about her "sh*t" and acknowledges her thought processes and how she gets herself out of it. Great little book about a Silent Retreat - mediation and the authors thoughts and journal entries throughout. Sounds like a profound experience, I love how she is very open and honest about her "sh*t" and acknowledges her thought processes and how she gets herself out of it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alex Linschoten

    An easy-read diary of Howd's experience during a week-long mindfulness retreat. Fairly accurate, by my own experience, and some useful advice. An easy-read diary of Howd's experience during a week-long mindfulness retreat. Fairly accurate, by my own experience, and some useful advice.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bakertyl

    I liked the style, but wish there was more about the author's journey through the retreat... basically, I wanted more of it. I liked the style, but wish there was more about the author's journey through the retreat... basically, I wanted more of it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Logan Streondj

    Good book about her retreat experience, I'm sure beginners would find it quite helpful. Good book about her retreat experience, I'm sure beginners would find it quite helpful.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    A very easy, quick read. Jennifer effectively communicates what a silent meditation is like and the range of emotions she experienced during it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Morine Kuria

    I was hopeful that I would get insights into meditation but I found the book a little shallow. Or maybe it's just because I haven't really ever meditated before and I was looking to get into it. I was hopeful that I would get insights into meditation but I found the book a little shallow. Or maybe it's just because I haven't really ever meditated before and I was looking to get into it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Sorry introduction to what happens at a silent meditation retreat. Makes me think I could do one someday.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    great ideas--just not fully developed-- Love the concepts though--

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mario

    4.5

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  22. 4 out of 5

    Vivek

  23. 4 out of 5

    Karen Twinem

  24. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Interesting account of the author's experience at a silent meditation retreat. She shares some useful insights and tips. Interesting account of the author's experience at a silent meditation retreat. She shares some useful insights and tips.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Colin

  26. 5 out of 5

    NW

  27. 5 out of 5

    Waterlearner

  28. 4 out of 5

    Careyleah

  29. 4 out of 5

    Robin Paulsen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marie Lampropoulos

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