Ever wondered why people make the effort to go on a meditation retreat? Well there is the outcome and then there is the experience!
A meditation retreat provides the environment, the leadership, the like-minded company, and most importantly, the time and space to take time out, to unwind, to regain balance, to heal, to refresh, to re-evaluate, and so on. But then there is the experience; the opportunity, the ideal circumstances in which to deepen your experience of meditation.
So this week let us investigate what these deeper experiences of meditation are like (do not miss reading this wonderful, personal account), and how a meditation retreat like Meditation in the Forest that Ruth and I will present again Pre-Easter in the Yarra Valley can help us to actual “get it”.
The reason for writing of this is that at the last meditation retreat Ruth and I ran, Meditation Under the Long White Cloud in New Zealand, so many who came did have particularly good experiences and as a result went home really keen to keep meditating.
It seems these meditation retreats are a wonderful way in which we can directly help other people, so to be blunt, I would like to enthuse everyone who can to consider doing at least one retreat a year – either with us, or with someone else.
Thought for the day
Meditation provides a direct and reliable means
to go beyond the activity of the ordinary thinking mind
enter into the deeper stillness of our mind
and to directly experience the truth of who we really are;
what is in our heart’s essence.
Think about this. Are you meditating for the outcome or for the experience?
The outcomes of meditation are well known: Resilience, relaxation, clarity of mind, increased vitality, performance, engagement, all the proven health and healing benefits. All very useful. All very reliable.
But then there is the experience of meditation: Deep, natural peace. The bliss and the inner contentment. What a relief! What a joy!
Again, a meditation retreat provides a unique opportunity to breakthrough into a deeper, more profound experience. Just the effort required to temporarily leave the busyness of daily life, to leave our home, our work, our friends, maybe even our family; all this preparation sets us up for something special to happen.
Traditionally, deserts, mountains and remote forests were the preferred locations for a meditation retreat.
A beautiful landscape can inspire us. A remote location reduces the distractions and helps to focus the mind.
Then there is the company. A good teacher and what traditionally is referred to as “Noble Company” – like-minded people who are also committed to the path of meditation, all add to the atmosphere that makes a deeper experience during a meditation retreat more likely.
Then there is what we bring to a retreat. Maybe the most important thing of all – ourselves! We bring our own good intentions and our own pure nature.
Sure we may have health issues – physically or psychologically; and sure, there is good reason to go on a meditation retreat for all the obvious health benefits. But to gain those benefits we need to practise, and the more we practise, the more the benefits.
However, I hear from so many people who find their practice of meditation to be somewhat difficult or disappointing. So they make the effort to meditate in the hope that their health, their life will get better. And often it does. But then when things are better, or when they start to feel as if the outcome seems unattainable, the meditation stops.
Now clearly, the best meditation practice is a life-long meditation practice! Meditation helps in so many ways, yet if we do not enjoy doing it, we are highly likely to lapse.
Hence the value of attending a meditation retreat. Take time out, make the time, create the
circumstances, go to a suitable place with suitable people and away you go. Relax, Let go. Allow the dust to settle. Allow daily concerns to drop by the way. Allow yourself to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind and enter into the deeper experiences of meditation.
“I felt as if a hood had been taken off my head and I saw, really saw for the first time in my life.
“As all this began, I could feel the anticipation that something extraordinary was unfolding, yet at the same time there was quite an apprehension. It was like being on the edge of a cliff, a cliff with a huge drop and an almost fathomless dark emptiness below it.
"The apprehension moved into what was almost like a mortal dread; I felt as if I really could die if I was to go over the edge. But perhaps because I have been quite diligent with my meditation practice for so long, perhaps because so often it has been difficult, perhaps because I did persevere these last few years because I really wanted the outcomes - I was almost desperate for the benefits I knew meditation could bring for my health; perhaps because of all this, now I was determined to stay with the fear, to stay with the experience.
“As I did so, my fear intensified, but I remembered the instructions. "Let go". "Jump!"
"It was very visual, very sensory. It was like I was really doing this. I jumped. My heart was in my mouth. I felt as if I was falling. Tumbling. Spinning. And then everything dissolved into light. At first it was an intense ball of light, then it grew and grew until it was just all-consuming light. It was as if the light was all through me. I was the light and the light was me.
“ It is almost impossible to describe the feeling adequately. It was rapturous. More; I was ecstatic, and the feeling lasted for days. Actually, it is still with me. I see things differently now. Life seems so unbelievably precious, I see the good in everybody and all fear of death has gone. I smile and laugh at just about everything these days, and in every way my health has never been better. I know I will never be the same again”.
The fact is that these experiences are real. They can come in different forms. The account above, from a couple of years back, followed a particular pattern. For others it can unfold in different ways. Yet the secret is to focus on the process, not the outcome. If the experience becomes another outcome to seek, then it may prove very elusive. The wise thing to do is to enter into an environment where one can have the confidence, support and guidance to let go. Completely. Then the experience comes. Then the experience can be ever with you. Then the experience will be something you can come back to. Then you will be keen to meditate for the sake of the meditation itself; for the experience, not just the outcome.
Meditation in the Forest : April 11 – 17, 2014
The regular Pre-Easter meditation retreat Ruth and I present is on in the Yarra Valley again in 2014. This retreat is specifically designed to assist you into the deeper experience of meditation so that you can go home confident of what meditation is really like and enthused to enjoy your own regular, on-going meditation practice.
This meditation retreat is usually fully booked, so it may be wise to register soon.
This year there will also be a particular focus on the theory, practise and experience of contemplation. For details CLICK HERE
Retreat and go forwards
Meditation in the Desert
Being on retreat myself, there will be no new blog for 2 weeks.