Why Should You Go On A Meditation Retreat?

meditation, meditation retreat, meditation retreat 2014, karme cholingThe idea of a meditation retreat freaks people out in the best possible way.

An in-depth meditation retreat, something longer than just a weekend, is almost always a worthwhile and transformative experience, both for our relationship to meditation practice and for our life in general. We build confidence in our own mind, and clarify our intention for moving forward along our path in life.In less than a month, I will be co-leading my only in-depth meditation retreat of 2014. I can’t wait. I notice, that as I talk to students and friends about their practice, people often meet the prospect of a longer retreat, say a week of mostly silent practice, with both inspiration and trepidation. Sometimes their resistance is palpable. But slowing down and getting away like this, and also building trust that we can actually handle our mind during long periods of practice, is an invaluable experience. I personally think everyone should have it at least once, possibly every year.

So I thought the best thing to do would be to hold a discussion forum about retreats below. Would you do me a favor, pretty please? If you have attended a meditation retreat, let’s say of five days or longer at a residential location, could you leave a comment and share your experience below?

And if you have any questions about doing a meditation retreat, such as how to work with your resistance, or when to know if your practice is ready for this kind of immersive experience, could you also post those below? I will be checking in from time to time and will be happy to share my thoughts and feedback on your questions and comments.

8 thoughts on “Why Should You Go On A Meditation Retreat?

  1. I’ve never been on a meditation retreat … but I meditate daily. Wondering how I would react to all that silence, whether I would resent it, be ok w/ it, maybe even get bored w/ it … whatever. I know that I can barely sit still for 20 minutes at a time … how would I do it for several days?

  2. I’ve been to two dathuns (month-long meditation retreats), once as a participant and then as staff. I have no hesitation about saying that they’re the most transformational experiences of my life. It is an unimaginable blessing to have the ability to spend that much time working with my own mind and others’ minds, developing gentleness, fearlessness, and skill. The fruits continue to reveal themselves.

    So, if you’re wondering whether it’s for you, it is! That you’d even consider such an outrageous thing means you should try it. Go, surrender, and be curious about the whole thing!

  3. Don,

    First of all, you don’t have to sit entirely still for 20 minutes. If you need to adjust during the session, I would say go ahead and always do it, being mindful of your need to move of course. I would definitely recommend that somebody start with a weekend meditation retreat before doing a full seven day or one month retreat. But some people just dive in. You can definitely do it. But maybe start with a weekend?

    Jessica, thanks for the encouragement.

  4. I’ve never been on a retreat of any length. I have some ambivalence about it. I only have a vague idea of what happens on retreat so I may have made some faulty assumptions…

    Silence, early to bed, early to rise, simple food are all very appealing to me but for the same reasons I don’t particularly enjoy being a houseguest I don’t relish the prospect of giving up control of my routines, habits and dare I say, comforts? I have really silly questions like can I wear my wool slippers?

    It’s difficult for me to leave my family, farm and garden (in summer) for practical as well as confusing, emotional reasons.

    Also I would have to trust who is leading the retreat. That really just means doing research and hearing from others.

    I’m getting closer to it though… I came very close to going to a 4 day with Robina Courtin but the practical reasons got in the way. I’m looking at a 2 day Norman Fischer but when I see on the schedule meditation 9am – 12 pm I find that very intimidating!

  5. My first month long retreat was one of the best experiences of my life. Taking the long stretch of time involved was a big reason for that. It allowed me to experience and observe my mind in all it’s myriad expressions as well as to feel what it’s like at it’s most settled. Looking back, I suppose I got to relate to the world from that place, clear of filters of “me”. Or mostly, anyway!Rather than being the people pleaser or the entertainer, the deep relaxation I felt was an extraordinary gift of kindness and generosity to myself and to those around me.

    I discovered that I thrive within the container of a thoughtful schedule. Something I’ve always known about myself in other contexts, but hadn’t discovered in relation to practice before that.

    I discovered what it means to have my mind, heart and body in the same place at the same time. How I could make so many close friendships by just being next to someone, mostly in silence.

    The preparation for going into retreat is very helpful. That of tying up loose ends, not generating a lot of unnecessary email…all those things to let you be fully at retreat as much as possible. This taught me that I could bring this home, too, at intervals of time in the month without necessarily going on retreat. The benefits continue to resonate. To sum up, you get to live life rather than it living you. I encourage everyone to try it if you’re inspired.

  6. I’ve done a month long retreat and a week retreat. It’s very much worth the effort. I’d describe it as coming home, to yourself. If that makes any sense 🙂

    Please consider doing it.

  7. I’ve done a bunch of retreats, many weekends, and some week-long and two-week-long ones. I had a lot of trepidation about the first one, about sitting for that length of time and snacks and all kinds of stuff, but it all worked out.

    meditation from 9-12 doesn’t mean sitting still that whole time in any tradition I’ve sat with. sitting rarely goes longer than 20-30 minutes and alternates with walking meditation. there are talks and meals and meditation instructors.

    for me, it takes two-three days to drop all of the stuff I carry around in my mind and just be. sometimes that’s accompanied by a sense of panic and an urge to leave, but I never have and I’ve never regretted staying. it’s good to see where your mind goes when there’s nothing in particular to occupy it.

  8. I agree that having regular medication and retreats are important. I think that each person’s situation is different. They should each consider how much they would like to step away from life to refocus and then do it.

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