The Benefits of Going on a Meditation Retreat
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We live in a culture of distraction, in a fast-paced world where unplugging and slowing down is getting more difficult each day. Amidst all the chaos, what if you could make more time for self-love and introspection?
The benefits of meditation have been studied and proven time and time again. And since you can practice it just about anywhere and at any time, you might be wondering why you should go on a meditation retreat in the first place.
Our everyday life is full of distractions and stressors. We constantly have to deal with a variety of situations that may bring up strong emotions. Over-stimulation can take a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing. This is where retreats come in – a place where you can get off the hamster wheel and just be with yourself.
Read on and find out what exactly are meditation retreats, the benefits of attending, and what you can expect.
What is a meditation retreat?
Image credit: Shakti Yoga
First of all, let’s bust some common myths and misconceptions regarding retreats. They’re not an isolated place where people sit in the lotus position and chant for hours. You don’t have to spend the entire time meditating, nor do you have to be familiar with Buddhist practices or have any prior experience with meditation. And you don’t have to be vegan or give up the foods you like in order to attend, either.
Simply put, a meditation retreat is “me time”. It is an opportunity to slow down and find a safe space to be with yourself.
Holidays are often about doing; retreats are about being – listening to your own needs, leaving the outside world behind, focusing on doing less, and just being present. Just as the name implies, a retreat is a place where you can withdraw. It offers a break from everyday life, where you can get in tune with your true self.
Meditation retreats vary in length, from one day to several weeks, and you can choose the program that works best for you. Some are silent and some are not. There are programs that focus on a specific meditation technique, while others may delve into several styles.
You’ll find meditation and yoga retreats, which combine both practices on a daily basis. There are silent retreats, where you keep quiet throughout your stay. Some are more easy-going and focus on cultivating awareness and releasing tension, such as mindfulness retreats.
» READ MORE: Why Should You Go on a Yoga & Meditation Retreat?
Reasons to go on a meditation retreat
Image credit: Bliss Body Retreats
We all have moments of mindfulness throughout the day. However, due to our hectic lifestyles, they’re often fleeting. Retreats are a powerful tool to disconnect from our daily routines and reconnect with ourselves.
Sure enough, we can make time for self-care and meditation even with a busy schedule. But oftentimes, these short sessions of meditation squeezed in an otherwise frantic day are not enough to fully disconnect and truly bring our awareness deep within.
One of the main reasons to go on a retreat is to experience deep meditation. Retreats offer the perfect setting for this – peace, silence, tranquility, expert guidance, and no distractions.
Even though you might have a calm space in your apartment, house, or nearby park where you feel comfortable meditating, there’s something about being away that allows you to fully disconnect and let go.
Furthermore, all the planning is done for you. Everything is taken care of, from accommodation and meditation sessions to the meals, workshops, and other activities that may be offered. All you have to do is allow yourself to immerse in the experience.
Benefits of going on a meditation retreat
On a meditation retreat, your entire attention is directed towards self-care. And of course, meditation comes first.
Here are some of the benefits you’ll reap from attending a meditation retreat:
You’ll learn to meditate in a useful way
Learning to meditate and setting up a regular routine can be challenging. Retreats offer the guidance and space you need to start out right or take your practice to new heights.
If you already meditate regularly, you’ve probably noticed that it’s easy to get caught up in a rut, sticking to what’s more convenient to you and avoiding what’s more challenging. On a retreat, you’ll get to explore new techniques, thus stepping out of your comfort zone.
Plus, you’ll receive instructions and guidance from experienced teachers, with whom you can talk face to face, ask questions, and receive feedback from.
You’ll check in with yourself
Image credit: Bliss Body Retreats
In our day-to-day lives, we tend to avoid uncomfortable thoughts. On a retreat, you’ll get to sit with yourself and check in. By doing so, chances are you’ll come across certain feelings, emotions, or traumas you might not have known where there or you simply kept them buried deep inside.
On a mindfulness retreat, you’ll deal with your fears, thoughts, pain, and scars in a non-judgmental way, letting go and setting yourself free.
Retreats offer the time and space you need to focus on your mind, body, and spirit. You bring your attention to your body, checking in with different parts, organs, muscles, and joints to see where there’s any tension buildup. You turn your attention to your mind and soul as you organize your thoughts, reconsider your priorities, reevaluate your hectic lifestyle, and come to terms with past traumas.
You’ll get in tune with nature
Image credit: Ocean Shelter
Most retreats are held in serene natural or rural settings, far from the hustle and bustle of the city. In fact, the landscape plays an important role in getting you in a deep meditative state. While contemplating the natural beauty around you, your mind goes quiet, your heart opens, and you become more receptive. You begin to see things you did not notice before.
This is a good reminder of how connected we are with the environment, something we often forget living our busy urban lives.
Many programs offer nature walks, forest bathing, sunrise and sunset meditation sessions, stargazing, and a lot more opportunities to immerse in the beauty of nature.
You’ll do a much-needed digital detox
It’s easy not to notice how much energy staring at screens can drain from; that is, until you take a break from it.
On a retreat, you’ll see that you can survive without technology. Taking a break from texting, emails, social media, news, calendar, TV shows, will give your nervous system the chance to recalibrate.
You’ll learn how to apply mindfulness to your daily life
When you return home, you might encounter the same daily distractions and emotional ups and downs. But you’ll have learned new techniques during the retreat that you can apply to your day-to-day life in order to let go much easier.
What can you expect on a meditation retreat?
Image credit: LaBudhi
Anyone can attend
You can expect people of all ages and backgrounds to attend, each with their own unique reasons.
Retreats welcome all levels of practitioners, from those who are just looking for an escape from the noise of everyday life to people trying to set up a regular practice or would like to learn a new meditation technique and challenge themselves.
Don’t worry if you don’t have experience, your thoughts easily wander off, or your legs fall asleep. The goal is to learn, deepen, and continue the meditation practice. At the end of the retreat, you’ll find it much easier to meditate for a prolonged time.
Some retreat programs suit all levels, and are great for those looking to attend alongside friends or family who may not be as experienced. Others are tailored to meditators who are at a certain stage in their journey. Make sure to read the retreat description where you’ll find which level of practice it’s aimed at.
A group feeling
Image credit: Samyama Mindfulness Meditation Center
Meditation is a solitary activity. On a retreat, you’ll get a group feeling, as you’ll be around like-minded people and participate in workshops and side activities. Even though there are other participants, the experience does remain a personal journey.
Easy-going or intense programs
The programs differ, as they may revolve around various meditation techniques.
For example, on a Vipassana silent retreat, you keep “noble silence” for hours on end, day after day. The meditation practices and most activities are performed in complete silence. You let go off your phone and other gadgets, leaving all distractions aside.
Though the idea of not talking for a prolonged period may put some people off, making a commitment to keep silent for a few days is truly liberating.
» READ MORE: What to Expect on a Silent Retreat?
You can opt for a Buddhist meditation retreat, which follows a particular spiritual lineage. You can try a modern style, like Transcendental meditation, or you can join a program that offers less disciplinary techniques, such as walking meditation or Loving-Kindness meditation.
Image credit: Yobaba Lounge
While it’s true that many retreats serve vegetarian or vegan dishes, you don’t have to be a vegan or vegetarian to attend. Plus, some retreats tailor their meals according to your specific needs. What you can expect, though, is plenty of healthy food to nourish your entire body.
*Cover image credit: Bliss Body Retreats
Take a break and focus on yourself and your overall wellbeing on a health and wellness holiday.