Retreating into Peace
Imagine this; getting away from everything in your normal routine and retreating into a relaxing cocoon – a cocoon where you don’t have to take care of meals, clean up, take care of others – where you can be still and quieten your mind.
Imagine a mind that becomes increasingly peaceful, not fretting about the past or present – or worrying about the future. You feel more settled; have more clarity.
Imagine being inspired.
This describes the benefits of a meditation retreat!
From experience I can say that it’s hard to fully appreciate the rejuvenating power of such a retreat until you’ve experienced it for yourself – but it’s worth presenting the possibilities.
Geshe-la reminded us in Eight Steps to Happiness that we are so used to being stimulated from the outside that we find it difficult to be quiet and enjoy the stillness of our own mind.
Yet when we take advantage of the chance to enjoy the stillness of our mind, our response to it – in body, mind and spirit – is palatable.
From time to time, we may promise ourselves that we are going to set five minutes aside in each day to meditate – or even to simply sit and read a thought provoking book like Eight Steps to Happiness. But often do those good intentions get lost in the endless stimulation around us.
The first step is made when one commits to attending, and then makes the necessary arrangements to be away for a weekend (or a day if it’s a day retreat). That’s the hardest part! Once that’s done, and you’ve traveled to the retreat location, it’s as if responsibilities and cares slip away for a while – especially if you don’t bring a phone or other device. Maybe that’s too radical – so you don’t have to go that far – but I suspect it won’t take long before you sink into the respite of the environment. The tension seeps out of your neck and shoulders. Details from “away” become quietened. Gradually you are immersed in the inspiration of teachings and the peace of meditations.
When it’s time to eat, the food has been loving prepared. When it’s time to rest, your room awaits you – clean and comfortable. When it’s time to have a break, often nature becomes your companion.
For a retreat that spans over a weekend, Friday night means settling in and adjusting to the new space, unpacking and looking over the schedule. But soon there’s a meal, interesting people to meet, and the beginnings of an immersion into a different world.
The first teaching and meditation are the last part of your day and the meditation Saturday morning continue the creation of this temporary, peaceful cocoon.
The day becomes and ebb and flow of meditations, inspiring teachings, lovely meals, interesting conversations, time spent in nature and rest. By the time your head hits the pillow Saturday evening, you are there – in the moment. Your mind is more peaceful.
Sunday morning and the half day that follows, allows this peace to continue. By the time you pack your things and place them in your car – you feel more grounded. The funny thing about retreats is that the teachings seem to leave each person with just what they needed – yet- what that is varies with the individual. It’s like each person is given the perfect gift to take home with them.
At home, the way forward seems a little clearer. You may be inspired to give priority to some spiritual practices because you have experienced first hand the profound and positive difference they make. In other words, like the little orphan boy in “Oliver Twist” you are saying to yourself, “Please, sir. I want more!” The nice thing is that unlike the cruel man who was in charge of Oliver’s orphanage, Buddha is very happy to give you more.
When a caterpillar goes into a cocoon, I wonder if it has any idea that such a beautiful transformation is about to begin. It must have some kind of faith as it takes itself into that short time of seclusion. Retreats are like that – and with a bit of faith that the time away will produce something special, we follow this inclination to go.
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This post was written by Debbi Jones