The Power of Retreats
In this month’s blog Lisa Forde, ACMM Principal shares the reasons why retreats can be a powerful and important experience on the journey to becoming a meditation teacher. Continue reading to find out why.
Think about a tightly closed flower bud. Each petal tightly wrapped around the one under it, creating a thick, tough set of layers; impenetrable. There is a sense of constriction, tightness and tension. It takes energy to hold everything in place so tightly. This can feel exhausting.
Now think about an open flower, the petals look relaxed, alive. Air can flow around each petal creating a sense of spaciousness, lightness and buoyancy. There is flow, joy, beauty and openness.
On retreat, you have the opportunity to slow down, let go and relax. To set aside the usual responsibilities, distractions and business of life, and give that flower (your heart) space to open.
Retreat is not only this, it is quality time with yourself.
Time eating healthy food, being heard by and sharing with like-minded people, walking or spending time in nature, being soaked in quality mind food through talks and themes explored and of course time spent in group meditation; all without the constant distraction of life’s usual responsibilities and busyness.
All of this nurturing and soul food can help us reset our mind, body and emotions and return rested and with a refreshed perspective on our life; having made some beautiful connections and new friends.
Connecting with who we really are
Most of us have very busy lives. In the midst of this, we are constantly thinking ahead, planning and ruminating over events, people and relationships, tasks and problems. We spend our time identified with societal roles: parent, partner, career or work, son or daughter etc. We need to be thinking of the needs and demands of others and our roles. Often these roles render us so busy and distracted that we struggle to make time for hobbies and the things we love doing. Over years it is easy to fall into these unhealthy patterns and simply lose our sense of who we are.
Spending time on retreat allows those roles to melt away for a while. This can be freeing and delightful and perhaps a bit disorienting at first. Who am I if I am not being a parent, partner, executive etc.? Once we get grounded, what we eventually start to enjoy is simply BE-ing with ourselves – and discovering that coming home to ourselves places us in pretty good company!
Roles are an important part of living, but when we can’t take a break for long periods we can become disconnected from ourselves and live in our head. Retreats cut out distractions and work so we can experience greater self-intimacy (in-to-me-I-see).
Escaping the Rush and Entering the Sacred
When well facilitated, retreats provide a safe space to rest, experience a more natural state of being and relax. Simply slowing down can be profound. It may give us the opportunity to listen to our body and hear its messages. It can inspire and inform life changes that are overdue.
On retreat our senses are heightened. As we slow down we become more open and receptive to the simple gifts; especially those in nature. Retreats are often held in beautiful natural environments.
The profound benefits of time in nature have been well researched and combined with heightened awareness through meditation and self-connection, create the perfect environment to promote wellbeing and reconnection. It’s amazing how much nature can teach us.
I remember walking through some ragged scrub in the bush and noticing the fallen trees, mess and disorder of nature. I observed that although the scene was not what I might consider beautiful, it had a perfection and loveliness of its own. It reminded me that even though life is not perfect, and I’m nowhere near perfect; it helped me accept that it’s all just right and ok as it is.
The inherent magnificence and perfection of nature is healing, relaxing and enlivening. It adds a sense of connection to something greater, a sense of expansiveness beyond our usual limits and a deeper sense of inspiration.
The biggest challenge can sometimes be going home. We just don’t want this magical experience to end. We know that we are going back into the busyness and roles and it feels so good to be out of them.
And then there’s the Meditation..
Group meditation has profound effects. When we meditate in a group we can be held and the energy of the group and our meditation experience can deepen substantially. This opens the door to new experiences, surprises and delights in what we experience and informs and inspires our home practice. The group energy – healing in itself – is buoyant and supportive; like an ocean that can hold whatever waves arise and fall.
A quiet place, no phone ringing, no-one walking in, no pressure to be somewhere else or do something else. Simply the opportunity to immerse yourself in quality meditation time with the benefit of guidance and support from an experienced teacher. This is the time to fill your tank.
A good teacher will intersperse sitting with plenty of movement. This will ensure that any feelings and thoughts stimulated by deep meditation can be dispersed and released.
Prolonged group meditation reminds us of how deeply beneficial meditation feels. It reminds us what a difference meditation makes which renews and feeds commitment to our home practice. We return inspired, deepened, connected and with a more expanded view of what is possible.
Opening to understanding ourselves better
Taking this time to be with ourselves and opening up through meditation and relaxation can bring us more in touch with:
- What is going on for us- our bodily sensations, deeper thoughts and emotions.
- Things that we haven’t noticed for a while or things we have been avoiding. Commonly we can have profound insights about our life or situations that have been troubling. Sometimes what arises is not comfortable or easy.
The great thing is that this allows us to deal with unresolved feelings and issues so that we can return feelings clearer and more resolved. At times, issues heal and resolve without much effort and greater clarity emerges organically.
Life changing insights and personal development can be achieved with openness and willingness, especially when the program is crafted in such a way that there is a progression of activities and a good mix of movement, sitting or guided meditation, talks and discussion that creates the opportunity for the student to be supported on a journey of self-discovery.
This process is like the unfurling of flower petals. As we relax and sink deeper into meditation and soften the defensive layers built through busy living, we open to and experience more of the sweetness and fragrance of our essential self.
Soaking ourselves in teachings
Whilst we are opened and relaxed, is the perfect time to absorb new teachings. I am always surprised at how much I learn – some of it intellectual and most of it involves a deepening and greater embodiment of my inner wisdom. Things that I “knew” intellectually before seem to anchor into my system in a deeper way, so that I “know, feel it and sense it” it experientially and holistically. This deeper form of learning helps us make behavioural changes more easily that we may have found difficult before.
The benefit of attending multiple retreats or regular retreats on an ongoing basis is that each time we attend we are at a different time and place in our life. At different times we are open and ready to embrace, deepen and understand certain aspects and at other times other aspects. Each retreat experience is unique and totally different. Each time I attend, I come away with new understandings and learnings that I was ready for at that time. Every retreat I have attended (that has been run by a good quality teacher) has been profoundly useful and relevant for where I was in my life then.
Surprises in connection with others
Another delightful benefit resulting from openness and softening of our usual defences is enjoying the enhanced way in which we connect with others. The sharing that happens on retreat is often of a much deeper and more honest nature.
Being more vulnerable with ourselves and others allows us insight into what is going on for others and the ability to express and be heard in relation to what is going on for us. This allows deep validation and in itself this can be very healing. It also provides an opportunity for us to see the “mirrors” between ourselves and others. Even though people are paired randomly for discussion, they often find striking commonalities between each other. We realise that underneath the defences and barriers, we share common struggles; we are all human. Knowing that others are experiencing the same struggles as us can really help us be more compassionate and less self-critical.
As we connect to our deeper nature we see and feel that this deeper nature is present in all of us – that it’s universal. This felt understanding can lead to a deep sense of peace, safety and joy.
Retreats during Covid.
There is no need to miss out on the growth and beauty of retreats just because of Covid. (In fact, I would argue it’s more needed now than ever).
If the retreat is unable to run in person due to lockdown, then it will go online and the difference will be refunded or credited. Can you think of a better way to spend lockdown?
Just book flexible flights so that they can be changed if needed.
We will make sure that you retreat in an environment that adheres to all safety regulations.
There is so much to love about retreats. It’s where the magic really happens. If you plan to become a meditation teacher then attending retreats needs to become a part of your practice. The growth, connection, insights, profound learning and power of group meditation are foundational experiences.
Then of course, there is the bonus of hanging out with lovely, like minded people. That is one of the BEST parts of it all. Learning, experiencing and really BE-ing with others.
You can attend ACMM Meditation Teaching Retreats when you are enrolled in the Meditation for Wellbeing, Certificate, Advanced Certificate or Diploma in Guiding and Teaching Meditation, or after graduation from any of these courses. In fact, many students and graduates keep coming back over and over again. Every retreat has a different theme and focus.