“To a mind that is still a whole universe surrenders”
- Lao Tgu
In a world full of outer distractions, our priority should always be to focus on our inner being before anything else. To become focused, one needs to be the awareness behind the body. To find that awareness, we must come to a point where our inner world is still. We repeat, the word is still, not silent. The simple answer to becoming still on the inside is to meditate and meditation retreats are a fantastic way to start this good habit.
Yes, we all have studied and learned about the benefits of meditation. However, not many of us find the discipline to sit with ourselves on a daily basis. It might not seem important to you but meditating for at least 40 mins shouldn’t be a choice anymore. The world that we live and work in has become more of a stress-creating machine that reeks of advantage from our deteriorating health. People nowadays are, however, awakening and educating themselves to break the pattern. This has inspired many people to break away from the regular cycle of stress, anxiety, and depression.
To end their toxic way of living and break the vicious cycle, people are now resorting to taking long pauses without feeling guilty about it. To unwind, many people try meditating at home but that rarely helps since most of us are not used to sitting still for a long time. Meditation also feels uncomfortable to many people in the beginning since it brings up all the emotional feelings that need compassion and healing. This is where a meditation retreat lead by an experienced teacher help.
Firstly, meditation retreats help you get out of your regular space of living and puts you in the middle of all mother nature where your healing and rejuvenation is accelerated.
Secondly, you learn the tricks and techniques to practice meditation effectively.
Finally, you really get into a meditative mood with like-minded people on a similar life quest as you. Even a week’s meditation retreat helps you establish this practice so that you continue with it after reaching home.
There are many more reasons to go on a meditation retreat and in this article, we shall take a deep dive into quite a few of them.
Let’s start with the most asked question - what exactly is a meditation retreat?
Swami Vivekananda defined meditation as a process of self-appraisal of all thoughts to the mind. After this, he proceeded with the next step, which is to assert what we really are – existence, knowledge, and bliss – being, knowing, and loving – which would result in the unification of the subject and the object.
To a normal human being, meditation is simply quieting one’s mind and getting rid of any distractions and thus, learning the art of remaining calm and achieving inner peace. Once you start meditating regularly, you will know that meditation goes a lot deeper.
Meditation is a way of illumination through realization of the ‘Supreme.’ When you move beyond the confinements of an illusory world, you shall tap into the limitless bliss, power, and knowledge. You will understand the source energy and know that everything is consciousness and it is always connected.
"Talk to yourself once in a day, otherwise you may miss meeting an intelligent person in this world."
- Swami Vivekananda
However, the purpose of a meditation retreat is not to indulge in the depth of the teachings of meditation but help you experience the beauty of this limb of yoga. To put it simply, a meditation retreat is a way to help you break the toxic patterns of your regular life by spending time in a more spiritual or contemplative environment.
The first and foremost thing about a meditation retreat is its ambience, which highly contributes in the entire healing process of the participant. Thus, most meditation retreats take place amid a natural but stunning setting. So, if you are looking to book a good meditation retreat, then make sure that the place is surrounded by either mountain, forest, desert, river, lake or a beach – remember, nature is the key!
(image credits Bali Silent Retreat)
Another key factor to learn about a meditation retreat is that a good one will always serve you with sattvic, vegetarian, and/or vegan meals. The reason behind these meals is quite simple and understandable - they accelerate the process of your healing. Sattvic food relaxes your digestive organs and helps you become more active and less lethargic. Slowly, it releases all the toxins from your body and this naturally makes you feel better about yourself.
As for the activities, there are various techniques of meditation that are introduced in these retreats and your teacher, in many cases, helps you find the technique that works best for you.
Yoga asana classes are also a part of meditation retreats. Make the most of the asana practice by asking questions regarding the techniques of holding each asana. Many meditation retreats take place in yoga schools where you would find a library full of yoga books. You can spend some time reading about meditation and yoga and enhance your knowledge about this ancient art.
You can also get Ayurvedic massages and related activities that help in the complete relaxation of your body. Different retreats offer different packages to people but most retreats surely involve yoga, meals, excursions, outings, massages, one-on-one counselling with the instructors, and more.
A meditation retreat is your time away from your regular life and its routines. This alone makes you feel great about yourself and thus, you can expect great things to happen to you on a physical, emotional, and mental level.
If you are a beginner, then there are a variety of meditation retreats for you to join across the globe. If you are an intermediate and advanced level practitioner of meditation, then these retreats are definitely for you to enhance your practice.
To help you choose the same, here are some of the best types of meditation treats to learn about and attend –
(image credits Ananda in the Himalayas)
Holidays are often about doing; meditation retreats are all about being – in nature and present moments. A retreat is a place, a program that helps you withdraw from your regular lives and just be aware of your body and mind as they heal and connect with your inner being.
A holiday also offers a break from your regular life, however, here you do not completely focus on your wellness but simply get busy having fun or try to relax for a while. In most cases, relaxation doesn’t happen since you are still programmed to stay attached to your regular life. In a retreat, you intentionally take steps that help you detach from everything else and stay in the present moment. Pretty good reason to go on a meditation retreat right?
Here comes the backbone of this entire article, that is, why should you consider going on a meditation retreat? While the reasons for going on a meditation retreat can be many, we have listed some of the significant ones, below
We hope the above reasons have answered “Why you must go on a meditation Retreat” and convince you to take a plunge and join one.
Now that the mystery has been unveiled and you are aware of what goes it’s time to convince yourself and hear your inner voice Must go on a meditation Retreat!
Most meditation retreats start with welcoming the participants with a welcome drink and guiding them with the program schedule as well as accommodating them well. Once that’s done, an orientation program takes place. Many retreats also perform the fire ceremony to welcome the positive energy into the program.
Most retreats start the day at 6 AM or 7 AM. Then, the classes of yoga and meditation take place with tea breaks in between. Most meditation retreats serve meals at least three times a day. After two classes of meditation and yoga, one can eat breakfast. Once it is done, another class takes place and this is followed by lunch and then, some resting time. During this time, people also set out to explore nearby places. Once the last class is over, people have their dinner and by 10 PM, the lights are off.
However, this is a common schedule of yoga and meditation retreats. They may vary according to the program designed at different centres. Many centres also introduce massage, Pilates, Tai-chi, mantra chanting and other cleansing activities in their schedules.
There is no calculated time to stay at a meditation retreat. Many meditation retreats last for one or two days while many go on for as long as 15 days, or more. It is common for people to choose a week or two week’s retreat in order to establish a practice of meditation in their daily lives. However, it is entirely your choice to book a retreat depending on your schedule and the amount of time you have.
Most meditation retreats provide their participants with all the needed accessories, apart from clothes and personal belongings. You can pack loose and comfortable clothes, creams, face wash, body wash, soap, bed sheets, books to read, combs, make-up, shoes, etc while going to the retreat. You are provided with rooms, bed linens, yoga mats, journals, pens, etc at the retreat. Even so, it is advisable to check with the centre about the same before you make your reservations.
Meditation retreats are for everyone to attend and improve their quality of life. From an 18-year old teenager to a 70-year old person, anyone can come and be a part of these retreats. All you need is a little faith in you that you are investing in yourself to better your life and connect deeply with your highest self. Those who want to begin their meditation practice and those who want to deepen their practice can and should the meditation retreat of their choice.
After the end of a good meditation retreat, people usually feel very centred and rejuvenated. Many of them get a clarity of mind like they have never before. For the first-timers, meditating on a daily basis gets them connected to something deep within themselves, in a way, like they had never before. As for the practitioners of meditation, it allows them to navigate in those corners of their minds that they didn’t know existed. People are able to understand their brains better and also order their brains to accept their command and put things into order. Overall, the experience is rejuvenating, recharging, and quite liberating for people.
The simplest way to understand that meditation is working is to know that it will work wonders for you and that you are doing it. Instead of dealing with a wide flurry of thoughts, you will naturally start organizing them inside your head or by writing them all down. After the end of the retreat, you must start checking your body, or become aware of it and its movements. If you are always moving around, fidgeting, fiddling with something all the time, moving your legs when doing a task, etc, you will notice that once your retreat is over and you continue with meditation, these activities will start disappearing since you will slowly gain control over your anxious brain. This is a sign that your meditation is working.
It is quite common to feel sleepy or fall asleep at the time of meditation. There is no one reason why you fall asleep during meditation. Many people find it so relaxing that the deep breaths help them de-stress and release feel-good hormones that tend to make them drowsy.
Most people who attend the retreat are sleep-deprived due to their life-cycle, high stress, insomnia, and other reasons. When they meditate, its calming effects help them fall asleep. In this case, one should usually allow themselves to sleep without questioning themselves. It is good for your brain and body.
It is only natural to feel a bit sleepy when you have never meditated before or deal with a lot of stress every day or simply are in need of recharging your entire body and mind. The active brain waves at the time of meditation (especially if you are a beginner) are similar to early stages of sleep.
With time, you will improve and as your body rejuvenates, you will be falling into the state of trance and not sleep. Just keep going!
“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life; dream of it; think of it; live on that idea. Let the brain, the body, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success, and this is the way great spiritual giants are produced.”
- Swami Vivekananda