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What I learnt from my Meditation Retreat

It taught me much more than just meditation techniques!

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash
Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

I went to my first ever meditation retreat with my husband and parents in law to Dharamshala, India in 2016. The quaint meditation centre nestled in the Himalayas welcomes you to their website with these words, and to their premises with an aura reverberating these words:

“The whole existence is a temple… the trees are continuously in worship, the clouds are in prayer and the mountains are in meditation…”

To say that it was a life-changing experience for me would be an understatement. I was surrounded by grace, a very palpable form of sensitivity and love for life that made smiling easy, that made making decisions easy, that made feeling at peace so easy, that made living so free flowing and easy.

Yes, I learnt the meditation techniques through the daily meditation sessions facilitated by our instructor. But I also learnt much more over the course of my 4 days at the centre, which was not directly a part of the program.

  • Becoming an observer of your life can solve many problems: 

Distancing yourself from your thoughts, your emotions, your negative self-talk can be a great service to yourself. I witnessed the positive effect this can have on your relationships, and on the quality of your overall life during this time. If you’re too involved in a problem, and you’re not able to arrive at a solution, it’s time you looked at it from the outside. Pull yourself out of the problem and look at it from a third person’s point of view. Observing your emotionally charged representations from a distance can bring you a world of new insight about the other person, the situation or your own life for that matter. 

  • You don’t need much to be happy and at peace: 

I wore the same 2 robes every day and had the same simple meals for lunch and dinner in my time at the centre. I had simple heartfelt conversations with my family, in the centre’s simple setup in the lap of nature. The only gadgets we had were our phones, with a very limited access to internet, and that didn’t feel like a punishment at all. The experience put into perspective what’s really important for me, and what I need, v/s what I want. Simple is beautiful, and life is simple – if you’re complicating it, it’s on you to catch yourself in the act and work on simplifying it. The starting point for uncomplicating your life is by asking yourself the tough, uncomfortable questions that you’ve been avoiding. “Is this really what I want?” “Do I really want to spend time with them?” “Are my values being compromised?” 

  • You may not know it but you need a break:

You get so used to living in a certain way, certain patterns with a set routine, that the idea of living in a different way for a while, the idea of taking a break doesn’t come naturally to you. You don’t know you need a break, but your body, mind and soul will tell you when it’s time, if you listen to them. They will send you signals when they need rejuvenation and replenishment, all you need to do is pay attention to those signals and treat them with the reverence they are worthy of. A break from your day to day life can be the cure for all your ‘over’ syndromes – overthinking, overworked, overanxious, overburdened. You will come back to your life with a lot more energy, a lot more enthusiasm if you just allow yourself to unplug for sometime. Make unplugging a part of your to-do list – unplug from your gadgets, from social media, from your work, and when required, even from your relationships to get that precious time for yourself. 

  • You’re not alone:

There were tens of people in our meditation group – we meditated together, ate our meals together and spent our time in between the sessions interacting with each other. The youngest member of our group was 11 years old, and the oldest was about 65. No matter what you choose to pursue, no matter what your age is, you’ll always find people who’re working towards the same goal. Learn from their mistakes, share your experiences, and let the synergy play out. There is a strong case to be made for the collective focused energy of a group, which is much more powerful than that of any individual’s. 

  • NOW is powerful:

This moment right now is all you really have. The past lies in your memory and the future is merely a projection. A lot of your tension stems from your haste, your hurry – your hurry to achieve, your hurry to prepare for tomorrow, and the past that occupies you because you hurried through it. Stop hurrying through life, stop bypassing the moments you’re living. Slow down, do everything consciously, and recognise the power of now. You can create happiness by being in the present moment and recognising that you’ll never have it again.Your present, here and now, is your only reality.

  • There is no perfect place or condition to meditate:

The pristine atmosphere at the centre is great to get you started on your practice of meditation. But you’re not always going to get that through your life. Don’t rely on a certain environment or a certain condition in life to be present and peaceful. Being meditative is a state of mind, and not a state of the surroundings. Meditation is the pathway to living true to yourself and becoming skilled at the art of living. You can be meditative anytime and anywhere. Learn to meditate in an ideal setting if you must, but carry the meditation with you even after you leave from there. The only prerequisite for meditation is your intention.

  • It takes as long as it takes:

Be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself. Anything you begin with takes effort in the start, for it to become effortless eventually. Every individual has their own journey and no 2 journeys are the same. You can’t rush your growth, you can’t punish your way into alignment. I call this active submission – take the actions you need to take, while gently surrendering to the process. Just keep doing the work, in your own pace and in your own time, and trust the process. You’re right where you need to be. 

……….

If I were to condense all the learnings in 2 words, they would come down to: “Celebrate Life!”

If you meditate for an hour a day and you sleep walk through the rest of the 23 hours, your meditation is of no use. The true meaning of meditation lies in being present and living in wonderment of life every minute of every day.

Life doesn’t have to be a struggle, life isn’t something you just get by.

If you choose to find joy in every moment, life is a celebration, every single moment.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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