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Why I do regular retreats

Man meditating looking into valley

One of our regular blog contributors, and the Secretary of our Board of Directors, Dan O’Brien, has just completed another cabin retreat at Clear Sky. Before he went into retreat, he wrote the following thoughts about why he does regular meditation retreats.

Dan:

One of the key ways I nurture myself is by taking the time to be in retreat.

This is important. I’m emphasizing the time because what we get in retreat can’t be fast-forwarded by doing a weekend workshop, a class at a yoga studio, or by watching YouTube clips on enlightenment. Let’s admit that it takes time to develop skills, including self-care and self awareness practices.

It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. Taking the time for self-care and building skills, especially around awareness, makes one more able and more available to help others.

Why take the time to go on retreat?

So in this fast-paced world, in which so many of us want quick results, why build a meditation or mindfulness practice? 

We get a steady flow of emails, texts, and all that stuff in our newsfeeds. This may feel good for a moment or at least keep us busy, but we’re not getting connected in a wholesome way to a community, and we’re not being nurtured in mind or body.

For me, aside from good nutrition and getting enough sleep, to feel connected I have to go back to the basics. A retreat helps me to do that. I am learning to nurture myself through awareness which in turn leads to greater self-care. There’s no shortcut for this – a retreat gives me what I can’t get anywhere else. 

I’m a family man, I teach in a high school, and I offer local meditation classes. I want to be the best I can for all these people, and to me this means becoming more self-aware and more functional. Retreats build my self-awareness, and as I understand myself more I am more available to nurture others and to be a positive part of my communities.

Here are three ways I see that I benefit from doing a meditation retreat:

  1. Retreats help me have insights about how I react to life. This empowers me to transform initial reactions into intentional actions. Often for me, this means being more available simply to listen to others. People seem noticeably nurtured when I stop and do this. The rest of the conversation flows naturally from that point and relationships grow.
  2. I grow a sense of ease that I do not get from time in a fast-paced society. I get reset, back to a natural way of being. This requires taking the time to slow down and simply be, for which I need dedicated retreat time because holidays or walks in the forest don’t have the same effects.
  3. I’m reminded that being engaged matters. My meditation practices and retreat work benefit others most when I am actively engaged in a community. Increasingly, largely due to going on retreats, I am a positive contributor to my communities. 

I’m still learning what it means to self-nurture, and retreats are an essential part of the mix. It only takes the decision to go for it.

If in doubt about the time and expense it takes to go on retreat, I ask myself, “how better could I be using my time?” The answer is always the same – there’s no better way to truly explore this spiritual experience we call being human.

Edited by Andrew Rogers

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