Recommended For Going Deeper: Meditation Retreats New
You may have noticed by now that meditating for an hour can get you to a much deeper place than meditation for five minutes.
Imagine what meditating for ten straight days can do!
The first time I went on a silent meditation retreat was in 2010.
The first week of that retreat, for me, was a constant struggle against anxious & stressful thoughts. It really took a full seven days, for me, at that time, to finally realize that I was never going to win the battle against anxiety… that fighting against my thoughts only made them stronger.
It was in that realization, on the seventh day, that I finally had my “fuck it” moment. I “gave up” the battle. In that moment, and for several days afterward, I experienced a bliss like I had never known before in my entire life. I was “walking on clouds” (that’s what it literally felt like), filled with love and beauty. I felt I was shining like the sun. It was during this period that I decided to make meditation my mission in life… and you can see where this has led me, over a decade later.
Every day that I wake up, I know that this is my life’s mission… and it all goes back to that one moment, in that silent meditation retreat in Thailand.
I can’t overemphasize how much a single meditation retreat can change your life.
I recommend Wat Suan Mokkh in Thailand if you can swing it (the retreat itself is only around $50, but you have to get yourself to Thailand).
Or just book a spot at your local Vipassana center (they are FREE, donation based, and they are all around the world).
Or just google “meditation retreats near me.”
I know it is hard to make time for a 3 day (let alone 10 day) meditation retreat, but it is vitally important, for your spiritual growth & for your career as a meditation teacher, that you do so, at least once every few years. Think of it like a much-needed vacation. Make the time.
If you absolutely can’t go to a formal retreat…
If you can’t go to a formal retreat for some reason, you can do a self-directed meditation retreat.
You can even do it in your own home — but keep in mind that it is extremely difficult to avoid distractions in your home. I would not recommend doing your first retreat in your own home… this requires very high levels of discipline, and I would only recommend it for someone who has already experienced powerful effects from previous meditation retreats.
If you’re going to do a self-directed retreat, I would recommend going camping in a beautiful place, alone, or with companions who will respect your need for several days of silent meditation (talking and interaction with others should be kept to an absolute minimum). Do your best to make sure you have everything (food, toiletries, etc) prepared in advance so you don’t need to do very much during the retreat.
The single most important key to a successful retreat: STOP DISTRACTING YOURSELF FROM YOURSELF.
The single most important key to a successful meditation retreat is simply to STOP DISTRACTING YOURSELF FROM YOURSELF.
Everything you do in life, all your actions, thoughts, relationships — the TV shows you watch, the books you read, the people you talk to — everything you do (aside from intentional meditation, self-inquiry & self-reflection) is distracting you from yourself.
Most (all?) of us have uncomfortable sensations inside. There are feelings of anxiety, fear, overwhelm. There are feelings of bodily pain and discomfort. There are feelings of hunger, thirst, tiredness, and much more. It’s part of being human – we evolved these feelings for a reason (to drive us to take care of ourselves, survive and reproduce). Normally, we humans do everything we can to avoid these feelings… we watch TV, we talk to people, we go skydiving, we eat cookies…
The key to a meditation retreat is that you STOP DOING ALL OF THESE THINGS. It’s hard at first, and it’s very uncomfortable. Your mind will resist it, and keep telling you “oh but wait, you need to do this!” and “oh, but wait, did you forget to think about that?” This “monkey mind” phase can last for days… at least until you start realizing that stopping the compulsive thinking & doing, and finally CONFRONTING your thoughts and sensations and emotions, is unraveling years of repression and healing you on an extremely deep level.
So, just: be here now, do NOT distract yourself (with TV, phone, talking, reading, or anything at all)… be still, be silent, and do nothing at all. Just meditate a lot, feed yourself when you need to (ideally one meal per day of healthy natural vegetarian foods), drink lots of water, take care of your bodily needs, stretch your legs mindfully, walk around mindfully, maybe go sit in a beautiful place, be with yourself, get to know yourself, observe yourself, and be aware of yourself in the present moment. Aside from that, DO NOTHING AT ALL that would distract you from yourself.
Self-Directed Retreat Schedule
When I do self-directed meditation retreats for myself, I don’t have a schedule or a plan. I just meditate as much as possible, and avoid doing anything that might distract me from myself. I do sometimes take short “breaks” for mindful activities (like washing dishes, cleaning up, going for a walk, etc), but even during these times I remain centered as much as possible… observing myself, even when thoughts are arising, and continuously bringing myself back to the present moment. Just like in a normal meditation. But continuously, for several days.
This type of “go with the flow” self-directed meditation retreat is probably not ideal for most beginners, as it lends itself to getting “lost” in thought and action, and possibly missing the deep transformative power of a “real” meditation retreat. If this is your first retreat, I recommend following a schedule, like the one that Mark Van Buren sent me (below).
I’d recommend customizing it and printing it out so that you don’t need to use any attention-sucking electronics throughout your retreat:
Sample Retreat Schedule
- 5am – Wake Up
- 5:15am – Moving Meditation or Yoga
- 6am-8:30am – Sitting Meditation, Walking Meditation (30-40 min of sitting followed by 10-20 minutes of walking meditation)
- 8:30am – Breakfast (Eating Meditation)
- 9am – Rest
- 9:30am – 12pm – Sitting/Walking
- 12pm – Lunch
- 12:30 – Rest/Tidy Up (Sweeping/Cleaning/Etc.)
- 1pm-3pm – Sitting/Walking
- 3pm-5pm – Free Time (Hike/Draw/Etc.)
- 5pm – Optional Dinner
- 5:30pm – Moving Meditation/Yoga
- 6pm-9pm – Sitting/Walking
- 9pm – Lights Out
I hope this is helpful to you.
Have a beautiful retreat ❤️
— Kevin Ellerton