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A Psychologist’s perspective on meditation retreats

Hello readers,

I’m back to my reflections on my meditation retreat.

Before going on my meditation retreat, I thought, 6 days, should be OK. I did 4 days of mindful hiking before, 6 days should be doable. However, I was already struggling on day 2. Day 2’s Sutta teaching came at perfect timing for me.

Teaching:

Seclusion is bliss for the contented, who sees the teaching that they have heard.

To be able to enjoy seclusion, to live far away in the jungle, be by yourself, and not see anyone for weeks. The only way you can do this is if you have no desires or ill will. If you have these distortions in your mind, they get amplified. If your mind is imbalanced, you might go crazy.

You need to choose the right times to enter the meditation retreat or seclusion – when you have certain levels of contentment. You have to be contented, a clear mind in order to enjoy solitude. Dismissing is not an act of ill will or aversion, it’s just that you enjoy being by yourself so much that being around people is painful. Gradually you develop and see what you have heard, you start to give up the suffering, and you start learning to be contented.

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Reflection on meditation retreat

When Ajahn Brahmali shared this, it really resonated with me. Many people around me told me that they want to escape from the world here, they want to get away from everyone, they want to go somewhere far away where no one knows them. Some want to go for week-long retreats, to get away from the world.

Depending on the type of retreat, if it’s some holiday retreat with a spa and pampering, yes, you’ll totally survive and have a good time. lol.

Learning meditation from a Psychologist in Singapore

To start, find a comfortable position or comfortable place, this will help you with not wanting to move. If you are comfortable in your body, you will be still. Why you are restless, why you are moving is because you are not comfortable. All good meditation starts with awareness of your body. Learn how to sit comfortably. If you sit comfortably, you can sit for a long time. Relax the body. Until your body feels comfortable with no aches and pains then only you can move on to meditation of your breath. Be kind to your body.

If you are feeling restless, find out the cause of it. If you are kind to your body, your body becomes like a friend. You tend to want to hang out with one another, you relax with one another. The feeling of friendliness to somebody or something might be the key to being able to stop restlessness.

Ask yourself: Why does your mind wander off, what is it trying to run away from? What are you trying to attain?

Be kind and friendly to your mind: Ok mind, if you need to go off somewhere, off you go, when you are ready, you can come back, I’ll be here waiting for you.

A kid will want to run away from home only because they are unhappy and don’t like it there. Similarly, with the breath, the breath runs away from the mind because you might be cruel, might not be nice to it, so it does not want to come back. A mind that receives kindness, does not want to leave you.

First, take care of your body. Then only you can go to your mind. Mind is a lot more difficult because there are a lot of regrets from the past and worries about the future. The past is made out of memories, they are not tangible and real right now. Learn from the past but don’t punish yourself by holding on so tightly to it. Our past might make us think: I don’t deserve happiness, I don’t deserve peacefulness

THAT’S NOT TRUE!!

Every human being deserves to be happy, to be peaceful, and to receive love, but we create our own barriers by thinking that we don’t deserve it.

Let go of the past – be kind to it. Give it loving-kindness (May all my past, good, bad, or in-between, be peaceful, be happy. May I remember it and be kind to it). Be kind to the future as well – what’s the future going to hold? We don’t know, but we can give loving-kindness to it and not worry about it.

It’s easy to come to the present moment, but the challenge is how you remain in the present moment. You aren’t able to stay in the present moment because you don’t like the present moment. It’s like when you’re watching TV and channel surfing, you keep going from one thing to another because you want to find something that might interest you. Your search for something interesting in the past or the future, how do I be rich, how do I become successful, etc. You don’t respect the present moment. How do I be content with the present moment? How do I feel happy to be here?

Freedom vs jail.

Do you want to be here or do you want to be somewhere else? If you are unhappy to be here, you are in a prison made by yourself. If you’re happy to be here, you are free.

Being here, right now, is the best thing you can do for the future. If you’re listening to fine music, you think or talk, you cannot fully listen to the music and enjoy it. If you are meditating, and you are talking back at it, how can you learn what nature has to say to you?

After you learn to be present, you can start focusing on your breath. Why is the breath the most common meditation technique? Because it’s the one thing that is natural, the one thing that you can notice when all other senses have been removed or shut off.

People try to go into breathing too fast before mindfulness is established. You don’t have to watch any body part to watch the breath, it just happens naturally. Mindfulness first, be in the present moment, then only you watch your breath.

Here’s a link to a 7 min body scan that I recorded: https://youtu.be/8I1h88ydX1A

How does being kind to your mind help your meditation practice?

During the day’s meditation practice, I decided to be kind to my mind, and it was easier to meditate. I recognised that I needed to move around every 20 mins or so, and I allowed myself to do that. I noticed that the pain in my body decreased slowly. When rushing around, I get tired, so I needed to slow down. Talking to myself gently is better. It makes meditation lighter, not feel so heavy or like a chore. My mind wandered off to work several times, I guess my mind was worried about what to do about improving my company’s visibility and worried about the rental. However, I told my mind gently, there is no need to worry about that now, nothing is going to change. There is no new insight, I can think about that later. Right now, what is more, important is me. I am most important, now is the most important time, and caring about me is #1. I was also able to do loving kindness to my body and each part of it. That helped the pain in different parts of my body a lot.

What I learned: When we are kind to ourselves and our body, gentle, not forceful, our body and mind feel a lot happier. It’s a lot lighter and it’ll heal itself, creating wonders.

Reason for going on a meditation retreat

However, if you’re thinking of going on a silent retreat or a meditation retreat because your mind feels jumbled or you feel very unhappy living here, or things in your life are just messy. I would advise against jumping into it. As the teachings said, during seclusion, be it in a retreat, or meditations, if you have released yourself from desires, cravings, and ill will, yes, it will be a pleasant experience. However, if you are suffering and having a lot of distortions (maybe you just had a breakup, lost someone, or are feeling overwhelmed at work), it might not be the best immediate option. Many might have a mixed experience like myself going for a retreat. I have been practicing meditation almost every day for the past 4 years, and have been doing it on and off for the past 7 years, yet the retreat was still challenging for me.

If you are unhappy with your current circumstances if you want to run away from life and start afresh. My question to you is: What are you prepared to do differently?

If we are unhappy somewhere, yes, it can be environmental, however, a lot of it is internal as well. If we learn how to view our circumstances differently, if we learn to let our ego drop, and cultivate kindness and compassion for ourselves and others, things will start to look and feel different.

Meditation isn’t a magic pill that heals all your wounds.

Instead, meditation is a practice that helps you see what’s going on inside you in a clearer way. It helps you understand what you are feeling and helps you gain clarity. This means that if you meditate during times of pain, there is a big likelihood that you are going to feel more pain! Meditation will help you learn to sit with that pain, open up your heart, open up space in your body, and allow you to be with that pain.

If you want to go on a meditation retreat, you need to prepare for it.

Start off with a daily meditation practice. Personally, why this retreat was so hard because I had been slacking off on my meditation practice and had been very busy in my head. A meditation retreat is not something that is for everyone and without proper preparation, it can drive you crazy. It’s just like being in solitary confinement.

During the retreat, I tried to mix and match approaches to tailor them to myself. I think that it is a fantastic reminder that everything needs to start off in small doses. Don’t try to have BIG changes and achieve BIG results. Instead, do everything in small successions, eventually, they will all add up.

A meditation retreat is not about escape. It’s about cultivating kindness and compassion in solitude.

It’s a great way to do some inner work but choosing the right time to go for it is important. If you are suffering and going through a hard time and do want to build a meditation practice, I recommend starting off with therapy. Look for a therapist who uses mindfulness as one of their approaches in therapy. From there, work through some of your struggles with your therapist first, try some guided meditations, and develop a personal meditation practice. Thereafter, try half a day meditation retreat, and slowly build from there!

That’s just my advice but take it with a pinch of salt as everyone has different experiences and views. From what I’ve learned and what I’ve experienced with people around me, small changes make the biggest impact eventually. We all just need to be patient.

Till next time! 🙂

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