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A Psychologist’s perspective on online 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 mindful hiking before, 6 days should be doable. However, I was already struggling on day 2. Day 2’s Sutta teaching came at a 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, not seeing anyone for weeks. The only way you can do this is if you have no desires, ill-will. If you have these distortions in our 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, the clear mind in order to enjoy solitude. Dismissing is not the 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, you start learning to be contented.

Reflection about meditation

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.

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 doing 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 break up, loss someone, or 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, 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 was 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 it 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! 🙂