18 February 2019

The dangers of not going on retreat - and how long to go on retreat

As the world gets busier and busier, the need is to retreat for longer and longer. Yet many make the mistake of saying “I have not got time for that”, and ending up paying a high price for what seemed like an easier option.

So this week, why go on a retreat?, what makes for a good retreat?, and encouragement to take advantage of Ruth’s retreat offerings, but first

Thought for the Day

Mindful of a thought, 
Like the momentary glimpse 
Of a colourful sunbird flashing through the light, 
The heart remains undisturbed, 
Serene in its sky-like presence. 

Whatever the circumstance, 
Bodily movement or stillness, 
Feeling well or distressed, 
With good concentration or scattered attention, 
Everything can be brought back to awareness.


The risk is you wake up in twenty years time and wonder what happened? 

Where did my life go? It is so easy these days to get caught up in all the things there are to do - good and bad - that what is really important can be missed.

This is a major lesson on offer from those who have been through major tragedies. The tragedy cuts through the day to day, automatic living and gives time, maybe even demands time be given to questioning what life is really all about.

Retreats offer the benefits of a tragedy without the trauma of the tragedy itself.

The opportunity
When we go on retreat we step back from life. We go into a sheltered environment, have meals provided, have teachings, practice and a program schedule to join in with; and then the magic.

We have time to our self - our self. Time to regain some balance. Time to reflect. Time to re-assess. Time to plan for how we intend to be within our lives. And time for insight.

The environment
Retreats are best taken amidst natural beauty.

Traditionally people took to the mountains or the deserts in seclusion; although there is a strong history in all the great traditions of group retreats.

Some places are profoundly conducive for meditation and retreats. This is like some places just feel creepy and are better avoided. Of course there is no good science on this that I know of, but then those who have not felt the truth of this probably would not go on a retreat anyway.

Some places have a natural potential to support retreats, others are enhanced by regular practice.

The Foundation’s sanctuary at Yarra Junction has it all - great natural beauty - the Yarra Valley surrounded by mountains - a strong welcoming, regenerative and peaceful feeling, plus years of meditation practice within.

The teacher
A retreat needs the experience, stability, expertise and wisdom of a reliable teacher. When we do take time out, it can be a bit like taking the lid off a pressure cooker; sometimes the proverbial hits the fan.

This is why good teachings provided amongst the anticipated rhythms of the retreat are essential to support and guide all present.

With good support there will be time in which there can be profound breakthroughs and profound resolution, and the establishment of a deeper sense of inner peace.

And this is why many keep returning.

Of course, virtually everyone has the benefit of time out and re-setting their direction - one of the primary benefits of retreat.

Noble company
In Buddhism they talk of “the sangha”. Traditionally this referred to the monks and nuns, but these days sangha describes all those committed to the inner way. Being amongst like-minded people is aptly described as being in noble company.

Noble conversation
Most retreats spend some time in silence; some time where conversation flows. Either way, there is this sense of communing with the others and communicating in a way that shares common values and intent.

This is the crux of this post. The temptation these days is to go for a weekend; maybe just a day workshop…

Having attended and let literally hundreds of retreats here is the best advice I can give.

Be kind to yourself.

The more you are tempted by a short retreat, make even more effort to go longer.

Sure a day is useful. You can learn stuff in a day, take it home and apply it and it will help.

A weekend is good too. A bit more time out, but then you just start to relax and it is time to wind up again and leave.

Five days is a beginning. Time to unwind, have a day or two actually present in the retreat and then a day to be in leaving mode.

Seven or ten days is a good length for a short, meaningful retreat. There is time to make some real progress. Time to let go of the day-to-day stuff, to settle, to go inwardly to a reasonable degree and still have time to re-emerge and be well placed to return home.

I have to say how much it saddens me the 10 day cancer programs have been discontinued at the Foundation due to the popularity of the 5 day version. And it seems more and more people opt for shorter retreats.

So again - the best advice I can give
Do at least one personal retreat each year. You owe your self at least that much.

Go for as long as impossible! In other words, extend yourself. Imagine what feels doable, then add a few more days and find a retreat that goes long enough to serve you well.

What Ruth is offering
Ruth and I shared leading retreats for many years. To be frank, she has been my best student - the most diligent, the most capable.

When I woke up one day and realised my time for leading retreats was over (at least for the foreseeable future; who knows what might happen when I am 80 ), it was a great comfort to know that those who had valued what I had to offer now have Ruth leading her own retreats.

Ruth will lead a seven day meditation retreat pre-Easter with Melissa Borich that is highly recommended. Ruth has asked me to come in one evening for a Q and A session that I am happy to do, so maybe I will see you there?

 Ruth is also leading another meditation retreat at the Living Centre in September as well as two healing based retreats with Prof Sanjay Raghav.

Details are on the Foundation’s website. Do yourself a favour…


RECLAIMING JOY - April 12 - 18 2019, Yarra Valley Living Centre.

Details - call the Foundation - 03 5967 1730 or link here for DETAILS

The legend of Meditation in the Forest lives on!

This classic 7 day meditation retreat is on again for yet another pre-Easter.

In 2019 it will be lead by Ruth Gawler and Melissa Borich.

Some will have had the good fortune to have shared time with Melissa in some of our previous retreats. Melissa is a highly accomplished yoga teacher with a wonderful capacity to tailor yoga for beginners or the advanced. Melissa has also trained with me as a meditation teacher and is one of the people I highly value and recommend.

These two women will present a wonderful retreat - lucky you if you get to be there :)

My new meditation book is now with the printers and is set to be released in May. More news on this soon...

Ruth and I leave for India this week. Buddhist gathering at Bodhgaya and big conference in Delhi with the Brahma Kumaris. Will post on Facebook - maybe a good time to "like" my page and keep in touch... Dr Ian Gawler is the public page.

Happily we have a wonderful house and garden sitter who will keep the water up to the garden while we are away :).

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