Why Are Retreats a Vital Part of Practice?

Why Are Retreats a Vital Part of Practice?

Retreats are powerful. They give you a chance to reset, refresh, and de-clutter your mind. They offer time to resolve unfinished things in your heart, to learn to see yourself and the world with eyes of compassion and forgiveness.

Retreats help to attune to your inner rhythms and to the immense current of universal life flowing through you as you. On retreat you can let your guard down, let your heart open and your bodymind unwind. In the safety and refuge of community, you learn to relax and rest in the richness of life as it is. And at the end of the retreat the benefit is visible: whether it’s a day or a week or longer, everyone looks younger, more open, clear-eyed, and radiant.

Take a moment now and ask yourself: is it time for a retreat? Can a retreat serve you? What might be stopping you from taking time to support your being in this healthy way? Retreats can be healing, transformative and profound, so I encourage you to dip your toes in and explore. You’ll be glad you did!

Trudy Goodman
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I can certainly attest to the power of retreat in my own life. One week after my first time on a meditation cushion I attended a daylong meditation retreat. It was challenging and much of the time I had no idea what I was doing. But as I walked to my car at the end of the day, I felt a clarity and lightness that I had never known before. I knew right then that I would make retreats a priority in my life. They became an oasis of calm and lucidity during a turbulent time in my life. I continued to retreat regularly as my life settled down – they served as vital maintenance for my heart and mind. They still do.

For the committed practitioner, meditation retreats are not a luxury but an essential part of deepening their practice. Concentrated time spent away from daily distractions allows access to parts of our minds and hearts that are normally out of reach; retreats help us contact our deepest evaded realities.

Retreats of various duration are available year round, anywhere from half day or daylong retreats to 7 or 10 day retreats (or more). If your life situation prevents you from traveling afar or carving out chunks of time for retreats, take advantage of nearby half-day and daylong retreats as often as you can and shorter residential retreats that only last a weekend. But do make them a priority as you deepen and sustain your practice.

Lisa Ernst

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Maintenance for the Mind

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.