What a Meditation Retreat Can Do for You
Each year, I give myself the gift of a weekend meditation retreat held in silence.
I go with the intention of starting and sticking with a meditation practice. When the retreat ends, I meditate daily for about a month. Then I get distracted and move on to other things.
But I’ve stopped feeling like a fraud for attending weekend retreats even though I’m not a real devotee. Here’s why.
What meditation can do for you
Meditation can be a tool, whether you incorporate it into your life every day or squeeze it in when you remember to or whether you do it on a yearly retreat for a few days at a stretch.
Silence is nourishing. It’s good medicine, much like taking a walk along the ocean, listening to the waves. It’s primal, and we don’t need to understand its healing powers to know something good is happening.
Of course, this hasn’t stopped the scientists from trying to figure it out. Research shows that meditation lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, and improves mood.
The most recent research shows that the practice—even if only done 20 minutes a day for 2 months—delivers anti-aging benefits at the cellular level, protecting against the chronic inflammation that leads to cancer and heart problems.
But there’s another reason you should consider a meditation retreat. I guarantee you will meet someone you feel a connection to. That person will seem familiar, but you won’t be able to place where you’ve met. You’ll be intrigued by them, though, and feel sure you could be the best of friends.
That person, of course, is you.
Whatever brings you to a meditation retreat, whether it be stress at work or a need to break away from the kids to remember who you are, there is something about silence that delivers the gift of whatever is needed.
I never have the experience I think I will. I arrive with expectations. I’m convinced that I know the types of thoughts that will surface over the hours of meditation that lie ahead.
And yes, these issues do come up. You experience what the Buddhists call “monkey mind,” a storm of thoughts flitting about, jumping from subject to subject.
Through it all, you learn to notice your thoughts and then let them go. Eventually, you simmer down and the quiet space between thoughts grows longer. The charged issues that made you pay to sit with a bunch of strangers for an entire weekend? Those issues go away.
And that is when your soul starts talking. Now that it has your attention, it turns out it has a few things to say. These will likely be about issues you thought were long over, processed and dealt with, thank you very much.
Everyone tells themselves stories about their lives and the things that have happened. Sometimes we change a story to turn ourselves into more of a villain than we actually were. Sometimes we make ourselves more of a hero.
I’ve found that the days spent in silent retreat offer a third alternative—the truth. No spin. No hero, no villain. Just life.
The chance to sit with the truth in a state of true acceptance is a profound gift. When you leave the meditation hall on Sunday, you leave more fully yourself than you have been for a long time.
Have you had a good experience with a meditation retreat or just meditation in general?