What we learned from people coming here to do meditation retreats
People often come here for a few days or a week to do a meditation retreat in a cabin.
Over time, we heard many of them say how they struggled to simply meditate all day, suddenly. And it’s not surprising.
Often, retreatants book meditation time weeks or months ahead, knowing that otherwise it won’t happen – their busy work or family life would just keep going. This is also why they arrive straight off the highway of life, their minds and nervous systems still going at 120 km/h.
With this, even though we encourage everyone to have a meal with us before they go into silent retreat, it’s still a shock to be in silence and in “deep retreat” mode, barely 24 hours since leaving home.
What happens when you come to a dead stop, straight off the highway?
Slamming the brakes on the moment you leave the highway may or may not be bad for your vehicle. I’m not a mechanic. Yet, I do know to wait for my car to cool down before touching anything under the hood.
It’s the same for us coming straight out of life into a retreat. If we haven’t cooled down, we probably can’t go straight under the hood. So we look for things to do. We clean the windows, vacuum the seats and the trunk. Essentially, we look for things to do to keep us occupied, because that’s what we’re used to.
And retreatants trying to suddenly be in full retreat, meditating all day, were finding a gap of time when they just couldn’t stay in formal meditation. They were needing something wholesome and structured to fill that gap.
That’s why now, we offer a package that gives you a few hours a day scheduled time for service activity, like weeding, helping with firewood, gardening, cleaning, or doing prep work in the kitchen. Retreatants are still mostly in silence, and yet find this a very supportive part of their day, for a short retreat in particular. They report feeling more energized and focused in their formal practice.
Integrate your practice
Another thing we were hearing from retreatants was their nervousness about going back out into the world after their time with us.
Sure, we’re awesome. Yet, perhaps they were thinking ahead to their busy lives. They had reached a new level of calm, and in comparison, their daily lives now looked just like that metaphorical 120 km/h highway.
The three hours of activity (Karma Yoga) in our Practice and Integrating retreats also help with this phenomenon. It brings the meditative practice closer to your daily life. Doing Karma Yoga, working with mindfulness and intention, you learn to integrate the practice into your daily activity as part of the retreat, instead of hoping it will happen afterwards.
A retreatant in October 2017 captured it beautifully with this kind testimonial:
I’ve been so busy the last 2 years, part of what I wanted to do was take my experience (on this retreat) and have a more mindful day when I return home.
And one of the things that’s helped with that is Karma Yoga. You get into that serene moment of doing that act or duty, and just by focusing on that, there’s this intense mindfulness of what’s occurring, and you can see the progress that’s happening.
Leslie Chivers, Edmonton
Speaking of planning a meditation retreat
I also wrote this blog about how consciously booking my first retreat, well in advance, probably saved my meditation practice from disappearing altogether.
It’s now twelve years or so since that retreat, and I’m so glad I’m not saying, “Dang, I wish I’d kept up that meditation thing, I knew it was good for me…” Instead, I’m in a completely different place, thanks to that decision and what it led to.
So don’t look back ten years from now, and find yourself still thinking of doing that retreat.
Clear Sky Retreat center is in BC, Canada, about four hours drive from Calgary and a short flight from both Calgary and Vancouver.