My husband and I will soon be heading out for our annual meditation retreat. We practice Kriya Yoga meditation and attend at least one retreat every year. The last couple of years we’ve gone to Florida for a 10-day intensive retreat, but this year we’re staying in Colorado for a long weekend retreat. We’ve been to this retreat several times before and we’re really looking forward to it.
Every time I tell someone that I’m headed to a meditation retreat they say something like, “oh, that sounds relaxing” or “won’t it be nice to get away for a while.” Sometimes I try to explain what’s it’s really like, but it’s hard to explain. We’re not going on vacation or staying at a spa. It’s grueling and hard. Basically, we pay good money to get our asses kicked.
Don’t get me wrong, like I said, I’m really looking forward to this retreat. It’s a wonderful opportunity to focus our attention on our meditation practice and deepen our understanding of the teachings we’ve learned. But the schedule is hard and taxing on the body. At the intensive retreats, we meditate for 2 hours 3 times a day starting at 5:30 a.m. and ending around 9:00 p.m. At this retreat we’ll meditate around an hour and a half 3 times a day starting at 6:00 a.m. and ending around 8:30 p.m. or so. In between meditations we listen to discourses on various topics, do seva (translated as “selfless service”), eat, and rest.
The other ass-kicking part of the retreat is the inner turmoil that generally arises. The mind and ego seem to rebel against my efforts to quiet them. This shows up in various ways and can be really exhausting. The mind can go off on tangents about something and the ego sometimes throws little (or big) tantrums. Trying to work through the things that come up, let go, and surrender it all tends to wear me down. My meditation teacher has likened it to washing a dirty towel. The water gets really dirty in the process, but over time we are cleaning and purifying.
One interesting thing that comes up for me before each retreat is the question of “have I made any progress since last year?” It’s a good opportunity to reflect on the past year and think about what has changed and what hasn’t in both my inner and outer world. Am I still working on the same things I was last year? Do I still react in the same ways I used to? Am I still struggling with the same external triggers? Through this process of self-reflection, I can learn a lot about areas that I still need to work on and things I can let go of.
I encourage you to take the time to reflect on how you’ve changed (and how you haven’t) in the last year. Celebrate the wins. Let go of the old. Keep working on the things you want to change. Feel free to email me for some encouragement or call me and I’ll celebrate with you!
No failure is a failure unless we stop trying altogether. ~ Paramahamsa Hariharananda