Sometimes meditation students ask me if taking time out for retreats is truly worthwhile. In my own experience, I have found retreats to be one of the most important things I do to refuel and replenish my mind. Often in the West, we understand how to take care of our key possessions such as our cars, yet many of us put less emphasis on deep maintenance for our minds.
In caring for our cars we perform routine practices such as cleaning the windshield, keeping enough gas in the tank, checking tire pressure. For dharma students, daily meditation is a basic, routine maintenance for the mind along with sangha practice once or twice per week. Daylong sits are akin to getting the oil and filter changed – we’re taking the time to fuel and replenish parts of ourselves that might be running on low. Longer retreats are mind and heart tune ups, going much deeper into the workings of our being and getting the parts functioning harmoniously and smoothly.
If you’re on the dharma path and meditation is an important part of your life, all of these steps, from daily sitting to weekend retreats and longer, will lead to a fuller, more complete practice. They help to insure your mind and heart are running optimally and you’re better equipped to meet the challenges of everyday life.