24 January 2011

Ian Gawler blog: Retreat and go forward

Need a break? Want to review your priorities, maybe transform your life? This blog focuses on the busyness of modern life and the value of personal retreats.

Met an old friend recently. How are you I enquired? "Really busy thanks" came the common response, accompanied by a satisfied smile.

It seems that for many people these days being busy has become something of a badge of honour. Certainly there can be great value in being productive and useful, but what of balance? What if the busyness leaves no time for peace, no time for reflection, no time to reassess, reaffirm or redirect our priorities?

For some it seems busyness is actually a modern variation on old-fashioned laziness. These days, the more we have to do, the less we have to think! At least, the less we have time to think about what may be challenging, difficult or even just really important in our lives.

So amidst this busyness, there has never been more need to consider going on retreat. Retreats offer more than a holiday. They are best when they do combine the elements of some R and R along with time for learning, reflection, review and preferably meditation. Simple food, time to be on your own and ideally a spiritual theme or atmosphere. Time to spend time with your self. Time to get to know your self a little better. Time to reappraise priorities and to go forward in life.

So, do you need a break? Feeling stressed? Feeling like the busyness is a bit much and you have lost the plot a little? Feeling like you need to give some time to your self - to regain the balance, to refocus your priorities?

In my view, amidst this busy lifestyle so many of us seem to be caught up in, at least one retreat a year is mandatory.

Now I know it is easy to justify why you do not have the time or space to go on a retreat. You are so busy aren’t you? And how will everyone else cope? But if not now, when? If not now, maybe 20 years go by and you wake up one day wondering what was that all about?
Maybe going on retreat is not only good for us, but good for our family, our friends and our work. When we are in balance and have some inner peace and contentment, not only is our physical and psychological health sure to be better, our capacity to work and be helpful will be greatly enhanced.  Maybe a retreat helps us to rebalance financial preoccupations with the rest of our lives. Maybe parents being away for a while is actually good for children and helps them with independence and appreciation. Now there is a radical notion.

There are a wide variety of retreats available. Many spiritually focused groups offer them, but so do more commercially orientated places. The Gawler Foundation has a range of excellent retreats where the focus is meditation, a healthy lifestyle and time for personal development and reflection. Over the years I did see many people transform their lives for the better at these programs.

And while going on retreats with like-minded people is wonderful and has many benefits, some people I know simply take the phone of the hook, do not answer the door and arrange their own home retreat. Or go to a place of their own choosing and create their own retreat atmosphere and conditions.
Given it is the start of another new year, why not make a plan? Give yourself a real treat and go on a retreat! It all starts with the intention.

Ruth and I have recently completed Sogyal Rinpoche's annual retreat. It was marvellous. Rinpoche taught directly for 2 hrs or more each day. Then there were videos of his best recent teachings, study and discussion groups along with time for meditation and other practices. 600 people including 120 children with their own specific program. Great company! Very beneficial.

This year's theme was "Compassionate Living and Fearless Dying", so next week a little on what that was all about.

Retreats: Sogyal Rinpoche: Rigpa
               The Gawler Foundation

               On enlightenment.


  1. Thanks Ian, just what I am trying to do. Thanks for the reassurance!

  2. I know this is what I need to do. Maybe this is the year where I will actually take some time away from everything else for me. Thanks for the prompt, it is not easy to break a long pattern of putting everything else ahead of oneself.

  3. Have you read this poem called Invictus (undefeated)

    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll.
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

    By an English poet William Ernest Henley

  4. I have now done probably 4 or maybe 5 retreats of 5 to 7 days in duration and I can highly recommend the process. It is essentially a very simple process, sit with yourself for a long time and it is transformative and in its way healing, at least in my experience. But it is not for the feint hearted and if you like the way your life is and you don't want to change it go on a nice holiday instead.