05 July 2024

The Gawler’s Meditation Retreat 2024 – a photographic essay

What is it like to take 7 days out of a busy life to enter into a residential meditation retreat? 

What happens? What do people go through, and what are the benefits? 

This week, a photographic essay from the recent Meditation in the Forest retreat held at the Yarra Valley Living Centre, and then a little on the 3 month solitary, silent retreat I begin soon, but first

      Thought for the day (a long and very evocative offering!)

Do not let your solitude obscure the presence 

Of something within it that wants to emerge. 

Precisely this presence will help your solitude expand. 

People are drawn to the easy 

And to the easiest side of the easy. 

But it is clear that we must hold ourselves 

To the difficult, as is true for everything alive. 

Everything in nature grows 

And defends itself in its own way 

And against all opposition, 
Straining from within and at any price 

To become distinctively itself. 

It is good to be solitary, because solitude is difficult, 

And that a thing is difficult 

Must be even more of a reason for us to undertake it.

To love is good too, for love is difficult. 

For one person to care for another, 

That is perhaps the most difficult thing required of us, 

The utmost and final test, 

The work for which all other work is but a preparation. 

With our whole being, 

With all the strength we have gathered, 

We must learn to love. 

This learning is ever a committed and enduring process.

            Rilke

They say by simply arriving at a retreat, half the benefit is obtained. 

Consider this… There is a lot to do to clear space to go away by your self for a week. While some do go with their partners, many rely on family to manage without them, rely on colleagues to cover for them and need to assert their own needs to actually take the time; to make the time. Not easy. Intention counts for a lot.

Many who came to our recent meditation retreat had been to previous retreats with us, but many were new and there had been quite a gap since the one before - what with COVID and life as it unfolds.


So it is not uncommon to arrive at a retreat with some apprehension. How will I go? What will the group be like? The food? The teachings? All the meditation? Just spending time away from distractions and being in my own company? What will it all be like?



Of course, for many, these are the things they crave – time on their own, time out from busy lives with busy schedules. Time to have meals prepared and served for you, A routine. Plenty of guided meditation and yoga. Time to walk amidst the majestic trees of the Yarra Valley. The labyrinth. Sit by the Little Yarra River. Slow down. Breathe more deeply. Regenerate. Refresh.

Quite a few of the participants were people with long-standing, regular practice. They were coming to deepen their practice, spend time with like-minded people and to simply enjoy the entirety of the retreat.

Others were relatively new and were seeking to dive in more deeply; while many more described themselves as lapsed meditators who needed help and inspiration to return to regular practice.

Each day of our meditation retreats has a theme. For this one, where the focus was squarely on meditation, we started with relaxation; deep relaxation. This was led by our wonderful yoga teacher Melissa Borich who brings a great depth of experience and understanding to the relaxation practices. Then we had an overview of meditation by myself, Ruth presenting on mindfulness – where she earned the moniker of “The Mindfulness Queen”, and then me again on awareness, stillness and integration.

We recognise for many, our retreats are an important part of their yearly holiday times. Valuable times where the need is not just to retreat but to regenerate. Hence we aim to strike a happy balance between long meditation times and short; and add the joys of yoga options, walking meditation out in nature, optional body therapies (with a great team of therapists) and a generally light touch.

In the event, this recent retreat brought together people for every state and territory in Australia except Tasmania, as well as people from the North and South Island of New Zealand. The group came together remarkably quickly and well; while the bonding was actually deepened during 2 days of well-held silence.

Speaking personally, I was a little apprehensive about my own capacity to play a significant role in the retreat, given my recent health issues. In fact, I became energised by the group and all the meditation we did together, and like everyone else, left feeling much better than I did on arrival.

So, it was a delight to put this all together; to return to leading retreats after the recent hiatus and to work once again with these two amazing women - Ruth and Melissa. The 3 of us look forward to presenting another retreat next year. In all likelihood, we will theme the 2025 retreat around contemplation…

A big thank you to the Brahma Kumaris for hosting us, to Sandy Clinton our administrator, and to all those others who helped make the retreat possible and such a joyful success.

More on a personal note

In a few days I will enter a 3 month, solitary, silent retreat. The focus will be upon meditation; I will do some reading but no phone, emails or general computer use. Solitary and silent. Another big thank you to Ruth and everyone else who is making it possible for me to take this time. Maybe I will write something once it is over; we shall see… and in the interim, no blogs folks, so my apologies in advance.

Here is another quote:

      In horror of death, I took to the mountains.

      Again and again I meditated on the uncertainty of the hour of death.

      Capturing the fortress of the deathless unending nature of mind,

      Now all fear of death is over and done.

               Milarepa – Tibetan saint

Spare me a kind thought :)

What are people saying about The Meditation in the Forest retreat?

“ Enriching. An opportunity to focus on self and slow down. So very informative from all 3 presenters. Accommodation, food, assistance from staff all wonderful. Excellent value for money.” Alice

 “The balance was great. Really enjoyed having sufficient time to digest and reflect and read my notes. As usual lovely food, very comfortable dorm and loved the gentle, helpful demeanour of all the staff. Please pass on my gratitude. It has been just what I needed. I feel as if I have had a reboot and am feeling very positive about weaving all the learnings back into my life on return.”Betsy

“ Very good. I enjoyed meditating for longer periods than I was used to and the lead meditations were excellent. The retreat was very well organised and the balance was just right. I had body therapies - Shiatsu and Spinal Flow and they were both very good.I really enjoyed the retreat and feel like I’ve improved my meditation practice, learnt a lot and met a lot of lovely people.” Glenn