By Leah Hurley
Illustration By Caitlin Keegan
It’s a Sunday afternoon in Nobleboro, and I’m in the lobby of a conference center at lakeside Camp Kieve, rooting through a bowl of cell phones marked with the names of a dozen strangers. We all arrived here Friday evening for a silent yoga-and-meditation retreat, marking the winter solstice and led by instructors Patricia Brown and Surya-Chandra Das. I’ve hardly said a thing out loud since I showed up, enjoying the Buddhist practice of noble silence, and the usual chatter in my head is blissfully absent.
Brown and Das are the founders of Rolling Meadows, a 100-acre property and restored 1840s farmhouse in Brooks, where they’ve lived since 2001 and offered yoga, meditation, and breathwork retreats since 2003. In the winter, the pair leads retreats abroad, in places like Costa Rica, India, Italy — and (less exotic, but still lovely) Camp Kieve on Damariscotta Lake.
Silence is a hot commodity in wellness right now, with everyone from Gisele to Oprah touting its benefits. But Brown and Das have been mindfully piping down since well before it was cool. Brown, who was among Maine’s first yoga teachers in the early ’80s, and Das, a longtime yoga student and former lawyer, are partners in work and in life. The transformative power of silence in their own lives prompted them to make it the foundation of their Rolling Meadows retreats, and that emphasis on quietude helps set their practice apart.
I've hardly said a thing out loud since I showed up, and the usual chatter in my head is blissfully absent.
On our first evening at Kieve, surrounded by the glow of candles, Brown and Das called our attention to the stillness of the lake and trees, the deep quiet of a Maine winter, and then explained the basics of noble silence. It’s not only about verbal communication, they said — participants are encouraged to ask questions and share experiences during class time — but also about keeping our focus inward, on ourselves, rather than outward, at the world. Our schedules each day leave a lot of time between classes for contemplation and exploration of the camp’s wooded grounds. During that time, participants are encouraged to keep eyes cast downward when walking past each other. Mealtimes are silent. In the twin room I share with another woman, a mother of three a bit older than me, we exchange no more words than necessary to share a bathroom and shower.
At the end of the weekend, I feel a kind of lightness and ease. After I’ve fished my iPhone out of the bowl, I hug my roommate goodbye. I’ve been grateful for her presence, but I realize I don’t know her any better than when we showed up — and that’s okay. As Brown told us at the start of the retreat, “It’s lovely to meet new people. But it’s also really lovely to meet yourselves.”
► Rolling Meadows offers five multi-day retreats in Brooks this year ($725–$1,295), each with a different theme. For more info or to register, visit rollingmeadowsretreat.com.
1 It’s a bit of a splurge to enjoy this wood-fired cedar hot tub, suspended 18 feet up, near the forest canopy, and overlooking the tidal Back River — but we’ll stack this winter soak up against any in New England. The tub is a perk of the treehouse micro-resort’s Souhegan dwelling, which sleeps four and is connected by a rope bridge. $289–$299/night, with a three-night minimum. Rte. 127, Georgetown. 207-751-5241. seguinmaine.com
2 Steam rolls off the garden hot tub at this mom-and-pop spa, where a one-client-at-a-time mantra means you’ll have the pool and (if you choose) the sauna and treatment room to yourself. Ninety minutes of soak-and-sauna time is a steal at $40. Massage packages available. Brown’s Point Rd., Bowdoinham. 207-666-3254. riverviewsaunaspa.com
3 Maine’s best winter soak for an ocean view, the year-round outdoor hot tub at this swank resort is reached by heated footpath, so you can leave your boots in your room. You could throw a snowball and hit the surf. Or throw it the other way and hit a 9,000-square-foot luxury spa. Rooms start at $279/night. 591 Shore Rd., Cape Neddick. 855-210-6901.destinationhotels.com/cliff-house