The Short Version: A six-year-old child should focus on friends, family, creating, and learning — not attempting to navigate adult responsibilities like driving a car or managing a family. And yet, many of us place similar burdens on ourselves when we neglect our inner child’s needs. That’s where Silent Stay Retreat Center and its leaders, Dr. Bruce Davis and Ruth Davis, come in. Picture it as a sanctuary; a place where the distraction of work, cellphones, TVs, and intrusive thoughts fall silent. At Silent Stay, you can get respite from the chaos of daily life.

I’m a firm believer in taking care of your inner child. 

For me, that may look like marveling at the Museum of Natural History in New York City for the hundredth time or testing my smarts in trivia at a local brewery as a guy with an acoustic guitar plucks away in the background. 

But my inner child isn’t just about satisfying those childlike needs to play and entertain; it’s also about nurturing and reshaping what I was taught. 

Without diving too much into analytical psychology, here are the basics of understanding your inner child: The experiences we have during adolescence directly influence how we navigate conflict in adulthood. For instance, if we were raised by parents who responded to poor grades with yelling, we might grow up to be adults who thrive when we receive praise and recognition for our achievements.

But we often ignore this little being inside of us; we get caught up with work, relationships, school, and the busy demands of everyday life. According to “The Magical Child Within You” by Dr. Bruce Davis, our inner child is essentially crying out to us: “If I were literally your child, you would listen to me and care how I am. Well, I am literally your child; you have just learned not to see me!” 

Drone view of the Silent Stay Retreat
Visit Silent Stay in Santa Barabara, California, at the Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Bruce and his wife Ruth also own and operate a silent retreat in California called Silent Stay. Silent Stay Meditation & Retreat Center is for singles and couples looking to connect and find inner peace through complete silence, meditation, nature, and heartfulness. 

“The biggest thing to realize is that we are more than our thoughts and busy minds. There’s a place where we can go that’s safe and quiet where we can rest inside when outside, we’re worrying about our families, our work, our finances,” Bruce explains. “People discover a whole landscape waiting for us inside — and that’s where the adventure begins.”

Understanding Your Inner Self

Have you ever heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup”? 

It’s sort of like how they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. It’s not selfishness — it’s a reminder that we must first replenish ourselves to support and care for those around us.

Just as a cup must be filled before it can overflow and share what’s inside, we also should prioritize our own well-being and self-care to give our best to others.

Woman looking peaceful in mountains
Silent Stay’s schedule consists of “do-nothing periods,” where you can roam the campus, enjoy the nature, and meditate in peace.

“Many people aren’t aware of it, but we often live on the surface of our consciousness. We spend our days striving for comfort, constantly busy, stressed, and lost in thought. We’re like ships riding the ocean’s waves, never truly finding comfort. There’s always a sense of lacking — whether it’s in our possessions, relationships, finances, or health,” notes Bruce. 

Bruce also emphasizes when we pause and enter moments of silence, we’re finally able to dive beneath that surface, into the “vastness of our awareness.” 

It’s there, he says, that we encounter a profound presence characterized by peace and tranquility. Through retreats or periods of inner reflection, we learn to release the grip of our daily narratives and find solace inside. 

“People on their own have trouble going into their inner silence. But when you take a retreat and return, the goal is to drop the anchor inside so you feel the ocean of who you are. Life becomes very different when you’re not battling the ocean and waves daily,” Bruce says. “And the silence supports that.”

Silence Promotes Individual and Couple Growth

Bruce is no stranger to the therapeutic power of silence. 

In the 1970s, Bruce recognized a different path amid a psychological trend emphasizing new therapies such as primal therapy or Gestalt therapy. Primal therapy is a form of psychotherapy that encourages individuals to unearth their childhood experiences through cathartic release — crying, screaming, or verbal expression. Gestalt therapy focuses on the use of empathy and unconditional acceptance to help individuals get rid of distress by learning how to trust and accept what they feel. 

Instead of delving into the chaos of emotions, Bruce found solace and healing in the tranquility of silence.

Meditation circle at Silent Stay Retreat
Enjoy silent meditations with retreat leaders Bruce, Ruth Davis, and Nicole Becker.

So he published his first book, “The Magical Child Within You,” in 1975. Today, Bruce is a trained psychologist who has published several other self-help books, including “Hugs and Kisses,” “The Heart of Healing, Monastery without Walls,” and “Unveiling The Heart of Awareness.” 

“I just really enjoy sitting with people silently,” Bruce admits. “Going underneath all the stress of daily life and finding this ocean of our heart around well-being makes us feel very spoiled.” 

It’s part of why meditation is highly recommended. Just a few minutes of quieting down your senses and focusing on breathing can help you see the whole forest instead of each tree. But Bruce knows meditation isn’t for everyone; at least, right away. 

“We tell people not to worry about your thoughts or your breath; the important thing is to take time and feel the presence of peace,” Bruce says. “Let go of everything you’re holding onto and then just be in the present. A silent retreat is all about remembering your heart. We let go of our busy mind by receiving the presence within us. The silence washes our thoughts, inviting us to be more, think less, to receive our heart. Here is our source of inner peace.”

A typical day at Silent Stay may look something like this:

  • 7 AM: Breakfast in Silence
  • 8 AM: Silent Sitting
  • 9 AM: Morning Meditation
  • 10 AM: Non-doing Period
  • 11 AM: Gentle Yoga
  • 12 PM: Lunch in Silence
  • 3 PM: Heartfulness: Cultivating Effortless Being
  • 4 PM: Non-doing Period
  • 5 PM: Dinner in Silence
  • 6 PM: Silent Sitting
  • 7 PM: Evening Meditation
  • 8 PM: Guided Relaxation

Bruce shared the story of one young man who signed up for the retreat and had no idea what to expect. He worked long hours in tech, but once he arrived at the gate, there was nothing. No cellphones. No computers. 

“He immediately tried to make reservations somewhere else,” Bruce recalls. “But there’s nothing available, so he buys some scotch and stays with us. Long story short, he never drank it.” 

The young man told Bruce that he took a walk when he got to the retreat. There, he saw a hawk fly overhead. At that moment, a flood of memories rushed in — memories of cherished moments spent with his father during childhood walks.

“He said he spent the last three days just remembering nature and his father, like he was at home again, even though he’s gone now,” Bruce says. “So a silent retreat gives people the opportunity to come home again.” 

Peaceful, mindful walk in Santa Barbara
The weather is beautiful in Santa Barbara, with an average temperature of 60°F. 

But Silent Stay isn’t just for people who want to get in touch with their inner selves by themselves. It’s also a perfect reset for couples. 

One couple flew in from Colorado for their anniversary, but the wife didn’t tell her husband where they were going or what they were going to do. Once he found out, he was less than impressed — a vacation dedicated to nothing

“They fought on the airplane, all the way in the rented car, all the way until they got to the gate,” Bruce recalls. “But then, at the gate, they realized they couldn’t fight anymore because they had to go into silence.” 

Through tears, the couple later told Bruce how the silence helped them remember their relationship. 

“It’s not what we talk about; it’s not what we do together; the real relationship is the presence of having this person in my life,” Bruce explains. “And they just remembered that was the treasure. People are so busy, and their minds are so occupied that sometimes, they forget to receive the presence of just being alive.” 

Silence Is More Than Just Golden

Silent Stay isn’t an ordinary resort. Each retreat site sits upon land steeped in spiritual histories.

Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara was originally built for Jesuit priests who took 30-night silent retreats. The Ojai Hermitage in Ojai is a ​​110-acre hermitage property. But whether you’re staying at the Santa Barbara or Ojai location, both retreats are literally a breath of fresh air. 

Located in the foothills of the Los Padres National Forest, you can spend four days and three nights in one of California’s most incredible natural wonders. The Los Padres National Forest comprises nearly 2 million acres, including the mountainous land along the California coast from Ventura to Monterey.  

Beautiful view at the Silent Stay Retreat with mountains and outdoor space
The views at Silent Stay Retreat are absolutely breathtaking, as the campus sits near the Los Padres National Forest and mountain range.

Nestled in the heart of Santa Barbara, the Pacific Graduate Institute campus is an all-inclusive experience. Here, guests are treated to three meals daily with the ability to accommodate any type of diet. At the Ojai location, guests are encouraged to bring their own provisions or explore local markets, allowing them to become familiar with the area and craft meals at their own pace. 

Silent Stay also has a retreat in historic Assisi, Italy, the birthplace of St. Francis, one of Italy’s patron saints; there, you stay in the center of the old city in a family-run pensione. It was named one of the top meditation retreats by CNN Travel. 

Bruce says the location of the retreats play a big role in helping people find that inner quiet and peace. 

“Part of the retreat is letting go of our daily story because most people live in contracted awareness. As our awareness contracts, our perception also narrows,” he explains. “People sometimes never get out of that contracted awareness. But when you live in the peace and quiet, you begin letting go of your story, and your awareness gets bigger.” 

Silent Stay Retreat location in Assisi, Italy
Craving something different? Try one of Silent Stay’s retreats in historic Assisi, Italy.

It’s like looking through a telescope — sure, you can see Orion’s belt, but right outside the scope of your vision is the entirety of the Milky Way. 

“Whether we’re in Italy or California, we are here to teach people about slow living,” Bruce says. “When you live at a different pace and feel the presence of silence during the day or the meal — it opens many doors.”

If you’re curious about which upcoming retreats are available, you can check out the Silent Stay calendar and book your stay online. And who knows — this could be one of those decisions that alter the way you see life. You just won’t know it until you actually go for yourself.