Choosing a Meditation Retreat – Things to know

woman meditating

Choosing a Meditation Retreat - Things to Know

Choosing a meditation retreat! What a wonderful thought. So, where do you start? Here, we offer some things to consider if you’re here after typing, “meditation retreats near me” and you want some guidance. This article turned out much longer than we thought. So long in fact that we published it in two parts. We suggest you read part 1 first, but here’s a quick summary in case you’re busy.

(1) Meditation: where are you at?

Firstly, check where you’re at on your meditation journey. Why? Well, we have to start from where we are. If you haven’t done a retreat before, there’s a lot you don’t know yet about meditating and meditation retreats. Think for a moment. What’s the longest you’ve meditated, so far? Have you done at least 30 minutes on a meditation cushion? Have you meditated more than once a day?

(2) How far will your travel to meditate?

Secondly, think about distance. If you search, “Meditation center near me,” you’ll see the closest centers in your area. Yet think: For something so important, it makes sense to think before jumping at the nearest meditation retreat opportunity. If you’re looking for a meditation retreat in Alberta or BC, we are a good candidate. Clear Sky Meditation Center is also one-hour from the US border.

(3) A meditation retreat - are you sure?

Thirdly, is it a meditation retreat you want? Your aspiration is strong, and that’s good. And there are other options than doing a meditation retreat. How about finding some meditation teachers? Attending dharma classes? Or finding a Sangha (group of spiritual friends) or conscious community. Here at Clear Sky meditation center in BC, Canada, you can find all of these.
Western Retreat Center

(4) Your aspiration to meditate

Fourthly, let’s look again at your aspiration. When you think, meditation retreat, what do you actually imagine? Are you looking for an experience, which you may not repeat? Two or three sits, some walking, and experiencing silence for the first time? You can do that here.

We also cater to experienced meditators who may be spending one or three months in one of our cabins. Our cabins also serve people in 3-night retreats, weekend retreats, one-week retreats, too.

(5) Manage your meditation retreat expectations

Lastly, please manage your expectations. Transitions in and out of retreat are important.

Here at Clear Sky Meditation Center in BC, Canada, we can help you with that. We suggest, for example, that you eat your first and last meal with us, rather than alone.

If you’d like some advice ahead of your choosing a meditation retreat, give us a call on 1-250-429-9249. In fact, if you book our retreat manager will take time to call and connect with you. And we like to stay in touch after you meditation retreat, too.

Who knows, maybe you are ready for a 3-night meditation retreat in BC. If you’re on the edge of a shift or transition, consider a longer stay.

Apply for our 3-month intensive Karma Yoga program, living and learning in an awakening community.

Meditation Retreats in BC or Elsewhere

3) Knowing what you want or your level of readiness

Even a short meditation retreat can be challenging, let alone a one-month or three-month retreat.

Here at our meditation center in BC Canada, you’ll get what you need for your retreat. Yet, we also know it’s important to ask: are you ready for a meditation retreat?

After all, you might be a meditator who’s been practicing for a while. You might think the next step is to type in, “meditation retreat near me” and book a retreat. And that might be exactly what brought you here.

Yet, maybe you’ll find that, more precisely, you want to deepen your practice. Make more of a commitment, or statement that it’s important. So, yes, it might be the right thing to find a meditation center near you, or on the other side of the world, and book a meditation retreat. And, you might consider some other options.

Meditation is best thought of as a long game. Monks, for example, would likely have done many things before their first one-month retreat or three-month meditation retreat, let alone a shorter one.

woman meditating

Choosing a meditation retreat instead of what?

Namely, professional meditators start with training and study. Or at least do both. They prepare the mind for meditation. In the west, we see meditation in a slightly different way, perhaps.

We might join a meditation as our first experience of Buddhism, say. It might be at the end of yoga class. It might be confused for reflection or contemplation, even. We don’t often start with the Four Noble Truths, the Paramis or Paramitas, or the Eightfold Noble Path.

So what are other options if you’re considering a meditation retreat? Well, you can study some Buddhist teachings. The Dharma. We’re still building our online dharma library. We have this resource on the Four Noble Truths, and we offer some online classes. And you can listen to our founding teachers’ podcast. None of this means you shouldn’t book a meditation retreat, of course. It will all make your retreats and meditations richer.

Aside from the core teachings of the Dharma, perhaps you are ready for a meditation teacher. Maybe you’re actually looking for Sangha (spiritual community), to find some other spiritual seekers. Depending on where you are at, here at our meditation center in BC, Canada, we offer various options as well as our meditation cabins.
So, yes. We tend to find meditation and think it’s the beginning. We tend to think it’s the only, or the main thing to do. And meditating longer is not the only options. For monks, they don’t even start their journey by meditating. That comes later. They learn the scriptures and do mindful service, they interact with others and learn what is right speech, right action etc. We don’t want to discourage you from your first retreat, of course. Yet, do think about what will truly expand and grow your meditation practice – it might not just be a retreat.

4) Your spiritual aspiration, or other motivation

Once you’re clear on what you want, it will serve you well to nurture this aspiration. Let’s not take our spiritual life for granted. After all, not everyone gets the spiritual calling in this lifetime. So, what does it mean to have a spiritual aspiration? You may ask yourself, for example, what you hope to get from your meditation retreat or your practice as a whole. Would I like to deepen my level of calm? Am I focused on gaining insight into the human condition and getting relief from suffering? Or, am I looking for some relief from anxiety, whether personal or societal, in a retreat more focused on well-being than deep insight meditation. So, be honest about your aspiration. Then you’ll more likely get what you want. Ask yourself some questions about your meditation practice, whether you call it your spiritual practice or something else:
  • Are you on a spiritual journey? Is this just your first meditation retreat, with many more to come? Do you aspire to a one-month or a three-month retreat?
  • Or, is it likely this is the one time you’ll experience a retreat – and you just want to try it so you can say you have?
This is meant to be judgment free. Either way, think about how you’ll approach it. This includes your meditation retreat preparation, and how you’ll make the most of it afterwards: Do you hope to increase your daily meditation sitting time? Or to come home and find a local meditation group? Or perhaps book your next retreat right away, as a way to inspire your ongoing meditation practice? Getting clearer on your aspiration will help you get the most from your retreat. It will also help you with our final point in these two blogs about choosing a meditation retreat: your expectations.
sun rising over meditation center in BC

5) Expectations for Your Meditation Retreat

Wisdom comes with experience. After you have done one or more meditation retreats, you’ll learn better what to expect. If you’ve never done a retreat before, three nights may be life-changing. A one-month meditation retreat, a three-month meditation retreat, certainly. Yet, let’s say more about expectations. If it’s your first time, a few days in silent retreat may be a profound experience. Having said that, don’t expect to go from the highway to deep absorption. We get it. You’ve invested time and money in something very worthwhile. You’ll want to get the most from your meditation retreat investment, and that’s natural. The fact is, you’ll probably sleep a lot at first. Your body will need rest. Your mind will need rest. In a few nights, you’ll essentially ‘press reset’ by unplugging from daily life. So, be clear that whether you come for a short or three-month meditation retreat, you’ll find that it takes time to decompress. Don’t feel bad if you spend most of the first day sleeping, or your knees won’t let you sit as long as you’d like. This is easier to accept in, say, a two-week meditation retreat. Or a one-month or three-month retreat. The first few days are for the body and mind to begin to be ready for the practice. Then, one settles into the meditation practice more deeply, which looks different for everyone.

Everthing is karma - whether it's ours or not

How your short or long retreat goes will depend on karma (in this lifetime and in past ones!). How can we prepare?

Here are some ways to prepare so you can make the best of your meditation retreat:
  • Eat well, exercise, and stay hydrated before you come
  • Maintain a regular meditation practice leading up to the retreat
  • Read Dharma or listen to audio Dharma talks – keep the teachings strong in your mind
  • Tidy up anything that may weigh on your mind during the retreat, such as bills or key communication
  • Do your best to slow down your mind and body in the days leading to your retreat, instead of ‘getting everything done’
Whether you do a short or long retreat, don’t beat yourself up or be surprised when you spend the last part of the retreat thinking about leaving, or what you’ll do later. Try to double down but also honor the transition and don’t pretend you’ll be in deep retreat right up to the moment you’re packing your bags.

Being realistic is important. One cannot rush the unfolding. It happens as it should and this, too, is different for everyone.

Short or even three-month long meditation retreat?

Ok, so you’ve decided to do a meditation retreat. Even better, you’ve decided to come to our meditation center and stay in one of our meditation cabins.

Certainly, we can help you if you’re planning a meditation cabin retreat. We’re a meditation center in BC, Canada, that offers cabins for stays from three nights to three months and potentially longer.

You can book our meditation cabins for as few as 3 nights. We supply food and support to help you get the best from your short meditation retreat. We don’t take bookings for less than three-night retreats because of the set up required for them. It’s better for you and us that way. Take a long weekend for your retreat, and factor in your travel time to get the best from your experience.

First, you’ll get a personal orientation, where you’ll learn key things you need to know about your stay and our cabins. And we’ll ask about your meal preferences.

If you’re a more experienced meditator, we also accept bookings for long meditation retreats. If you are considering a one-month meditation retreat, get in touch before booking.

If you’d like to do a 3-month retreat then we can potentially accommodate you, too. When anyone does a long retreat in one of our cabins, we need to be sure of their health and well-being,and we’ll want to check in with you before accepting your booking.

Summary

Contact us through our website to find out more. In summary: If you’ve decided to do a long weekend retreat in one of our meditation cabins, or even up to a week, go ahead and book now. We’ll get in touch. To do a month-long retreat or a three-month retreat at our meditation center in BC, Canada, we’ll need to speak with you first and find out more about your experience and background. Please contact us before paying for a long meditation retreat.

Bonus Checklist - Choosing a meditation retreat or retreat center

Here is a checklist of considerations.
  1. Are you ready for a meditation retreat?
  2. Are you looking for something else, like teachers, teachings, or community?
  3. Length of time for your stay?
  4. How many days off work will you need to book?
  5. What’s your budget? Factor in travel and dana for meditation guidance.
  6. Does the center match your needs? People often need to know, for example, that we provide food, and our cabins have wood stoves and no power.
  7. Is the support available for you at your level? We have experienced guides to check in with each day.
  8. What are you waiting for? The best way to boost your practice is to do a retreat. The only way to make it happen is to go ahead and book. Or you can start by giving us a call. Our conscious community loves to hear from aspiring meditators and potential new spiritual friends.

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