Entering into a retreat environment, in particular a Silent Meditation Retreat away from your day-to-day luxuries, with no verbal or other communication is very different to spending the weekend at home alone. (although can be amazing too!)
So here are my handy tips to consider in preparation for and to allow for a smoother transition to sitting in silence for numerous consecutive days!
Sitting Still. Being able to sit still for more than ten minutes at a time (and up to an hour) takes some getting used to for most of us. Each day try sitting and focusing on your breath coming and going as a focus point. Hip opening poses like Baddha Konasana (butterfly) and Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (pigeon) are two in particular that can be helpful and can be done in advance of the course as part of your yoga/stretching routine.
Sitting on the Ground. Although not all courses/retreats will require sitting on the ground for long periods, not all meditation halls have chairs or back support props and leaning against the wall might be discouraged. So understand your physical capabilities and set realistic expectations.
Discover the Breath. Your breathe will be a powerful companion for you over your retreat, to steady and help you to sit in moment to moment awareness. Practice noticing the thoughts, feelings and emotions that arise as you sit and breath each time.
Decrease Stimulants. Reduce your reliance on sugar (& sugar drinks), coffee, spices etc as many retreats are minimalist and keep their food simple, also you may not have access to these.
Choose Whole-foods. Focusing on nourishing and possibly vegetarian food, moving away from packaged and fast foods to avoid any mid retreat cravings!
Early Rises. The majority of retreats I have attended start their program before 6am, some even 04:30. Try to get into a routine of going to bed earlier (9/9:30pm) and waking up earlier. On retreat its not uncommon, to struggle in the morning to wake up and still feel drowsy for the first few days, especially if you arrive exhausted! As the tiredness leaves your body, you will hopefully feel more renewed with the positive energy of the retreat. So don’t despair!
Technology Attachment. Begin to decrease your technology use and even consider leaving your devices in a safe place untouched for a few hours each day. If this is unimaginable for you, start with just 30mins. Some retreats will ask that you hand your mobile phones in at the start of the course, this is for your benefit – to be able to fully immerse yourself into silence. You may kiss your mobile phone when you are reunited, but you will also appreciate that life can function without it as a constant demanding companion.
Affairs in Order. Flowing on from technology, many retreats will request you leave all your devices at home. So be organised and get your work and personal affairs in order as much as possible. Ensure that your accurately complete the next of kin (NOK) details on your registration form and that your NOK/loved ones have the emergency contact details for the retreat manager.
Going Solo. A silent retreat will allow you to come face to face with yourself, all the good and not so good about you. Its fascinating when there is silence how the thoughts and what types of thoughts arise.
Health Needs. In addition to sitting with and being confronted by your thoughts, its important that you are realistic about where you are with your physical, mental and emotional health before you book in for a silent retreat that brings you face to face with ourselves. Be honest with yourself and your needs and whether it is the right time and level of support that you need at that time. Once you start the deep work of a retreat its not always ideal to leave before the end, so respect your needs and if you can “fully attend”.
Mindful Moving. Part of many silent retreat practices is to share your space/room with others. This may include the dining areas, bathroom, sleeping areas and of course the Meditation Hall. Begin to create a greater level of mindfulness about how you move around, eat etc – do you scratch your bowl and drag your chair from the table?? Do you rustle around in bed, grunting and groaning? Sharing spaces mindfully in order to minimise disturbing others, can bring alot more awareness to your everyday.
Organised and Disciplined. Practice getting into a routine of getting things done including a daily meditation practice. Be organised and pack your clothes and belongings well, consider what you need for all weather, for sitting and for walking/exercise times. This can really minimise frustrations on not having brought things. I suggest pack enough clothes so you don’t have to do any washing (you won’t have time, as your spare energy will be required elsewhere!)
Go Without. Retreats are often in remote locations to fully capture nature and stillness around. You wont have access (or perhaps permission) to just jump in your car and drive down to the nearby shops for something you “need”. Practice making do with what you have, or delayed gratification with simple things.
Understand the Teachings. Read in advance the basic requirements you need to adhere to during the retreat and know the essential philosophy that will form the basis for the teachings, so you can get the most out of these sessions.
Just Do It!. Book into your course early and start to get physically and mentally ready for an experience that will definitely change your life.
Need some help getting organised for your retreat or help with starting a meditation practice? Consider a Wholistic Coaching session with me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mobile: +61 (0) 418 576 075
Gabrielle@BeBliss Online yoga meditation & relaxation – 24/7 support for you xx