By Ian Marshall
How Do You Know You’re Ready for a Meditation Retreat?
Despite the name of this article, the three questions to ask yourself before doing a meditation retreat might boil down to just one—Are you living a human existence?
A meditation retreat isn’t just about calming the mind, relaxing, and becoming peaceful. Over the course of ten days, you may find yourself challenged and on edge. This is part of a process that should not be shied away from—it’s by seeing these corners of the mind and allowing their significance to drop away that you can grow and reach the place of stillness you are looking for.
Are You Ready to Face Yourself?
In my first Hridaya Silent Meditation Retreat, on the paradise island of Koh Phangan, Thailand, I was coming from a messy personal situation. For the first four or five days, all that ran through my head was the machinations of the previous week in Chiang Mai: “I can’t believe she said that.” “I should have done that differently.” “Why did she get involved?” “I’m such a bad person.” Story lines and alternate outcomes played out as I tried to watch the breath and focus on the Heart. I wrote letters in my mind as I sat through three-hour meditations, expressing all of the feelings and thoughts that I wasn’t otherwise able to share.
Eventually, all this chatter stopped. One morning, I sat and felt chills along my spine as I dissolved into stillness and light, experiencing feelings of bliss and peace as all of my concerns disappeared. Thoughts of Chiang Mai came up a few times after that, but there was no attachment to them. There was nothing to hold on to and nothing to worry about.
Connecting with Your Real Self
If you are going through a period of change or facing the aftermath of some sort of traumatic experience, a meditation retreat can help by making you look at things directly and work through them. This is obviously a challenging approach and it can be hard, but the outcome is definitely worth it.
Using a meditation retreat as a therapeutic tool, however, is only part of the picture. The pure intention behind doing a retreat is to come into real connection with the universe and your true self—which is the same thing. The sense of being fully aligned with this energy is the ultimate end point, and you should remember this as you work through any issues that arise. Indeed, in the light of this deeper understanding and insight, your worldly concerns tend to dissolve into insignificance anyway. When you sense that you have all the love you need inside you and the stillness of the meditative state is enough to keep you content, then what could possibly disturb you?
3 Questions to Ask Yourself
You don’t need to have a deep understanding of advaita philosophy, know a load of mantras, burn incense, or dress in fishermen’s pants to be ready for a meditation retreat. All you really need is the openness to resolve any sense of loss or lack in your life.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I feel like there is something missing?
- Do I recognize that external stimulus is not going to lead me to the ultimate answer?
- Am I ready to look inside and take responsibility for my life?
If these questions spark something that inspires you or piques your curiosity, then you are certainly ready to embark on what could be the start of a beautiful, life-changing inner journey.
Ian is a Hridaya teacher offering classes in London, UK. You can read about his experience in the Hridaya Teacher Training Course here.