A retreat is stillness of body, speech and mind.
It helps us establish good practice in daily life.
To change our attitude from being materially obsessed to being spiritually aware, is a tough assignment, because the pull of the collective consciousness is so seductive. Our bodies are used to fidgeting, our speech is used to projecting, and our minds are used to reacting so that we never find true inner peace. We are wound-up automata – a machine which performs a range of functions according to a predetermined set of coded instructions – and we’re very stressed out.
We need help to just sit still and do nothing. Doing nothing may sound boring and pointless, but this counteracts the frivolity and fantasy in which we currently live. When we can drop that which is unnecessary, we will find a refined, intelligent and wise being.
Retreats establish a good routine for life. Every day, when we rise from sleep, we wash and then meditate. It’s a good way to start the day, with a clean slate of clarity. Being able to bring clarity to all situations changes our whole world view, and maybe the view of those with whom we come into contact.
Retreats are tough to start with, as they cut through all our worldly habitual ideas and physical patterns of behaviour. But gradually we settle down to a simple routine of sitting meditation. No chatter, no TV, no radio, no games – so no stress; just learning to be happy. The chatter at the end of a retreat is quite startling!
Of course, there are periods during the retreat when one just wants to scream 😀 as it could feel like a restrictive “boot camp”, but that too dissolves. I can guarantee that, after a retreat, you will feel more open about everything. Everything is calmer and brighter, and life is worthwhile. The family will notice a change too.
A retreatant life is knowing how to let go and remain still in body, speech and mind, regaining control because we have a sense of direction.
To tell you the truth, I find the best bit about retreats is leaving! There is a sort of re-entry shock to the world, where everything seems … loud and busy! The first thing my wife and I do after a retreat is go out for a coffee and croissant. It’s mind blowing: we just sit there, absorbing everything. After a retreat, everything is a treat 😉 as we become more sensitive and notice more. It’s like the end of a meditation session, where we drop the meditation, suddenly revealing the real meditation of non meditation.
Compassion is lacking because we are either dull, or in turmoil. Although the world is loud and busy, we can smile as we are no longer bound or tied to it – and that is the moment compassion can arise.