Earlier last year, I found myself signing up for a guided meditation retreat at Bodhi Zendo. It was supposed to be 3 days silent retreat but I ended up staying for 9 days. A few months later, I went there again and my quest for guided meditation retreats have taken me to some beautiful places like Nilambe in Sri Lanka.
Meditation has been a single most powerful tool I have discovered that helps me return to my core self. I try to practice it everyday but being on the road full time, a regular practice gets derailed more often than not. At times the days are so tightly packed, there’s no time to squeeze in a sitting meditation (Zazen). This is where retreats come in handy but not just this. I have found retreats to be useful on many more fronts.
It frees me of all decision-making
An average person makes about 35000 decisions a day. That’s a lot. As a single woman traveling by myself, my number might in fact be higher as the responsibility of making a decision always falls on me.
This does get exhausting and overwhelming and intimidating. So, once in a while I seek a place or a person to share the burden. A meditation retreat is one of my favorite ways to do that.
the only thing I have to decide is when do I leave and where am I headed next, but while I’m there, there are no decisions to make. Schedule is set, duty is decided and the menu is in place. I just follow the rules.
It strengthens my meditation practice
Practicing meditation with other people and at a place conducive to meditation makes a big difference. It’s far easier to stick to a schedule when everything else is taken care of. Usually after 3-5 days, I find my rhythm that I can carry forward in my everyday life.
It helps me learn about other schools of thought
I have met some of the most interesting and as we say ‘sorted’ people in meditation retreats. They often share an understanding of life that can only be reached through years of practice.
It helps quieten my mind
In my personal practice, one thing I cannot control a 100% is the everyday conversations. between meetings and games and socializing, way too many words are used (mostly by me) that end up floating in my brain long after the conversations. At a retreat, I can choose to be 100% silent even if it’s not a silent retreat and people not only respect that but also facilitate that. This helps me to control my brain clutter.
Have you every been to a meditation retreat? In what ways has it benefited you?