Do you need to get away to get better, and moreover should you be considering a meditation retreat…
…It is quite frightening how quick the pace of life has become. Everyone seems to be moving quicker, yet travelling less. Heading faster towards the termination of their journey, very few people are stopping to enjoy the sights and sounds along the way. Life has become hectic, if not manic, and partly it is ourselves who are to blame.
Society has allowed itself belief that patience is no longer virtuous. It is believed that everything has to be ready now, if not sooner; that how you are viewed by others is more important than how you view yourself; that the attention of others matters, but our lack of self-awareness doesn’t. The rise of technology has gifted us with many tools that have aided and improved our lives. But at the same time, it has taken away our personal space, our free time, and our chance to sit and be at peace. Nowadays you must look further afield, to say a meditation retreat, to achieve stillness, you need to relearn how to regain control of your own life and live it rather than endure it. Here we look at the issue of retreats and how they can help you get your life back on track. So, ask yourself, is it time to withdraw?
As well as noticing all of the above, you might have had a specific reason to attend a retreat. You may have had a health scare, or recognised some behaviours in yourself that you have decided to address – prevention being better than cure. The decision is in itself a big thing. You are choosing to take yourself away from the normal, and numerous, toils and demands of everyday life, to attend somewhere where you know there will be intrinsic difficulties in learning the practice of meditation. Knowing that the process is exacting as well as beneficial, you have elected to invest in your own health and wellbeing, and that is the first positive step. Focusing on yourself is not a selfish act, far from it, you are choosing to repair, recover and reinvigorate yourself so that, going forward, you can give everything to life. Knowing the motivation behind the decision should ease any sense of guilt you may have from what you might consider a withdrawal from the real world.
Most of us have no real idea what silence is. It is not quiet, it is not peace, it is deeper and more rewarding. Not being able to communicate verbally may seem like a strange lifestyle choice (even short term), but this is because your mind craves constant information and input in order to “function”. Silence will at first be very frightening, especially when experienced with others, but is a chance to look inwards at yourself, instead of outwards at the World, and this is something few of us ever do.
As well as silence, the data stream will be turned off. Not only will others not talk to you, but your phone will be surrendered, as will other sources of information. This may seem more awkward than the silence itself, but distractions serve only to halt the process of healing. When there is something else to focus on, you will forget to focus on your own sense of wellbeing and that is what is causing the problems in the first place. Until you learn to address your own problems, you will never be in the best possible state to address the problems of others.
This silence creates rather than destroys fundamental connections with the world that surrounds us. You will notice things, see things and think more about what you are witness to. In these moments you will begin to notice things and recognize yourself, even rediscover your true self.
There is a tremendous clarity to be gained from spending time in silence and you will learn this to be true. You’ll also notice that far too often you speak just to fill the silence itself – the so-called awkward silence. But in so doing you are destroying the benefits that are to be gained from the actual silence simply because it feels a little uncomfortable. The real reason is because silence is not normal, and anything “alien” is feared. It is therefore a natural action to fill the silence to avoid the awkward feelings it generates – even if it would be better not to do so. The mind is effectively playing a trick on you to keep seeking more interaction and more information i.e. more stimulus for the mind itself.
You will so easily become lost in the sound of your own voice, or the voice of others, and this detracts you from focusing on your wellbeing. If however you practised more self-awareness, and more silence, when it comes to speaking, the words you used would be more profound, and less likely to be misinterpreted or cause upset – hence spoken in haste, repented at leisure. One benefit of silence is to teach you the power of words.
You live in the present, yet no doubt your mind will be focused either on the past or in the future. You may be worried about what has happened in the past, and what that might lead to, and also as to what may come about in the future, and how you will cope. At all times this way of thinking takes you away from your life, from the current moment in which you are living. Rather than enjoying what you might be eating, you’ll possibly be worried about the effect it will have on your weight; instead of seeing the beauty of the sky, you might obsess that you forgot your umbrella, or that you left the washing out; and instead of enjoying the company you have, you’ll hark back to previous occasions when other people were present. All of this costs you the chance to enjoy the now, the exact thing you are doing at any given moment. A retreat will aid, through meditation, the skill of living in the present, and being mindful as to everything that is happening in that same moment. It is not saying do not hold memories or make plans, but it is saying that you can let go of fear, hurt and worries to engage with each moment as you live it. It helps you become a master of your own mind, and that freedom is a wonderful thing to achieve.
There are things that you can do to improve how you experience and enjoy life, and at times you may have to consider taking yourself away to get better at it. You should never feel selfish should you opt to do this, it is perfectly reasonable to want to be healthy and others should want you to enjoy good health too surely. Occasionally it may mean a period of absence from your “real” world in order to help you cope better with that same world when you return to it. Think of a retreat as a holiday for the mind and spirit, a chance to heal, rejuvenate itself and to recover from all of the traumas caused by everyday life. That you are looking to be the best person that you can possible be should be applauded and not criticised, and perhaps it is the case that those who question your decisions may only do so because of a lack of understanding as to why you are making them.
Take the time therefore to explain exactly what you are planning to do and moreover why you are planning to do it. When they see that you are in need of a break, they are likely to be more understanding and perhaps supportive of your choices. What’s more it may be that they identify in themselves the need for the very same kind of retreat that you are proposing – and in so doing you are opening up their minds to the opportunity to relax, recover and return refreshed just like you. That is perhaps the best gift that you could give them, the knowledge to recognise a problem and a means to solve it. Enlightenment for all would be a wonderful thing now wouldn’t it?!