What will the retreat be like?
Amazing! It’s a bit hard to describe but many retreatants talk about the experience as one of the more impactful things they’ve done in their lives, or as something that is a really beautiful and meaningful experience.
Ok so that sounds great, but what will we actually be doing?
There are set times for arriving and departing. Everyone will be invited to observe noble silence, which means not talking or making eye contact with others (except teachers or volunteers) and completely refraining from communication devices (there will be an emergency contact number if people need to reach you). Most of the time will be alternating between seated and walking meditation. Each day there will be a dharma talk, 1:1 scheduled meetings with me, three meals, and time for exercise or walking outside.
Can I really do this?
Yes! Most people who go on retreat get great benefit from it. If you have any physical or mental conditions that you are unsure about then about please ask!
Retreat is not necessarily a luxury holiday (although retreat centres are often in beautiful bush settings). Going on retreat might require some patience and diligence, but it is certainly time and energy well-spent.
Noble silence might also seem like a big ask but generally people find that they can easily adjust to this and that supporting each other with silence creates a special environment of connection and encouragement.
What do I need to bring?
This differs depending on the retreat venue, but you can expect to bring something along the lines of:
- a pillow slip and two single bed sheets, or a sleeping bag
- bath towel, toiletries, and medications
- earplugs if you are a light sleeper in a shared room
- comfortable clothes for meditation and walking
- raincoat or umbrella
- torch, water bottle
- warm clothes and perhaps a shawl or blanket for meditating (it can get quite cold in May)
For Vejjasala, you can read more about the retreat centre and download the guide.
How will I get there?
Generally you are responsible for getting yourself there but we will do what we can to offer lifts or carpooling options. For Vejjasala, there is limited public transport in the area, so we will be attempting to organise carpooling from Sydney (and maybe Canberra). If you need a lift or can offer lifts, please indicate on the form, or let me know. We can also organise a lift from a nearby train station or bus stop.
What should I do to prepare?
While it can be helpful to have an existing regular practice, it’s not a necessity. The main thing to do is to block out that time as well as you can so that you can commit to being on retreat. Other than that, try to have an open mind about what might happen and try to not hold onto any expectations too tightly. Be open to whatever might come up and see what happens with time dedicated to silent practice.
What are the benefits of retreat?
Going on retreat is one of best ways to deepen your practice. While in noble silence there will be much less talking, responsibility, or distraction. You will have the opportunity to maximise your time meditating, increase mindfulness in all activities, while also getting direct support from teachers. For most of us, this is simply not possible in our day-to-day lives. While there are a wide range of experiences of retreat, regardless of what the experience is like, most people find that result of that time is increased awareness and equanimity. There are great benefits to going deeper into the mind through meditative techniques in a supportive environment.
What has your experience of retreat been?
I’ve found that by dedicating time to meditation and awareness I’ve always gotten something incredibly valuable in return. It hasn’t always been what I was hoping for or expected, but I’ve always learned something about myself, opened up some new quality of mind, or discovered something meaningful. It’s given me a lot of faith in the practice and in the potential for transformation through meditation and these techniques that allow us to cultivate calm and clarity by paying attention in particular ways. I feel like my life has been greatly improved from having spent time on retreat and I’m incredibly grateful that it’s something I get to do and get to facilitate for others.