The Value of Retreating

We are just finishing up our week-long retreat here at Seven Oaks.  I've had the privilege of leading twice-daily movement sessions, giving an evening talk and doing many interviews.

Classic teachings suggest that if you are not living in a monastery and want to cultivate a living connection to spirit and the mystery of this life's journey, it is most helpful to have a daily practice of some kind - something that will connect you with what is most important in your life.

Beyond a daily practice, though, are times of retreat.  This week over fifty participants have stepped away from their routines and are here to engage in social silence and practices that cultivate a more intimate sense of presence.

When we pause with intent, a marvelous unraveling can happen.  Old, deep tensions begin to soften.  New possibilities can emerge.  As I've been sitting in interviews listening to the changes and transformations, I'm awed by not only the courage of the practitioners, but also by the fact that these practices work.

The practices you do on retreat are deceivingly simple - and not at all easy.When we seek to be present, whether through sitting meditation, walking meditation, meals in silence and time exploring in solitude, we are treated to an amazing display of all the ways the mind avoids being present.  All the flavors of aversion, clinging, worry, restlessness, numbness, doubt and fear come parading right out on center stage for our viewing pleasure.

What helps make it bearable is the fact that despite being in silence, you are not alone.  Collectively we open to what is present - the 10,000 joys and the 10,000 sorrows - and somehow, collectively, we find the capacity to make room for it all.

Our next retreat is over New Year's.  Do consider scheduling this into your life.  I think it's a worthwhile investment.