When we go on retreat, we leave our customary comforts and move into the unknown. As they say, our old problems will not be solved with the same thinking that created them. There are gifts that come to us from the challenges that being out of our comfort zone brings. It is of benefit to hear, really hear not just with our ears but with our mind and heart what the world of another sounds, looks and feels like. When we go on a retreat, our view of ourselves, each other and our world expands. We become more fluid and curious. This benefits not just us but all those with whom we share our world. We may find that in our routines at home we are unlikely to “travel” outside of that which is familiar and comfortable and consequently we may be limited in what can be experienced. It is a big wide world outside and inside… take a chance, take a look, explore!
Folks sometimes say they want my life. I agree it is good and being involved in retreats is a big part of what makes it so good. I have been hosting retreats for the last several years and I hope that sharing some thoughts on the experiences will be of interest to you.
- Sept 2019 – Spirit Fire, Leyden MA – 7 day Silent Retreat
Participants came from as far away as Japan and Brazil and brought with them their cultural traditions. We all brought our own habits and patterns and points of view!
At the end of the retreat the feelings expressed by many participants was overall surprise that one could feel intimately connected with another whose name was barely known, much less any superficial details of their lives. This has been a common experience in all the silent retreats I have led and it is inspiring to see the commitment to the practice of Mindfulness and to the well-being of the participants themselves that radiates out to the world.
Participants entered into silence on Sunday evening after a social supper and an orientation informing them abouthow the week would proceed. At all times the intention was to direct one’s attention to the present moment. This was practiced while meditating on a cushion or chair, walking, eating meals, doing yoga, and upon wakening, showering and preparing for bed.
This practice can be tiring, even exhausting. It takes effort and diligence and no small degree of courage to come back, over and over again to the present moment, seeing one’s own thoughts and mental patterns. Interviews or small group meetings are held during the retreat which give the participant the opportunity for individual check-ins. These sessions are intended to support the practice and engage in conversation around difficulties that may be arising. At the first group interview on day 3 a couple of participants expressed a desire to leave. Neither truly intended to leave but were simply sharing their struggles and unhappiness. On some level they could see that there was the possibility of insight into what was causing their unhappiness. By the end of the retreat both were in tears of joy with what, for them, was a transformation. As the leader/facilitator I am always in awe of the meditator’s journey, and to know that it comes at no small cost in terms of self-compassion and a willingness to visit the parts of ourselves that may have been abandoned.