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Of Meditations & Retreats

Many people tend brand meditation to a lotus sitting position. It is a misconstrued idea that meditation means sitting on a cushion, with eyes closed, doing nothing. Many also think that meditation, as in a sitting position can lead to enlightenment. Not that I am belittling what they believe to be true of meditation, as meditation can lead to enlightenment, but to brand meditation to a specific position is as good as following a blind horse being led by a blind horseman without further understanding to what true meditation is.  

To make it clearer, there are many types of meditations which are derived from different practices offering different techniques to transcend what we call sufferings, or the self. Since I can only speak from my own limited experience, I can only share on the benefits of what and how meditation has served me in my journey – which carries the practise of self-awareness, also known as mindfulness.

No doubt I was introduced to the concept of meditation by a sitting position initially. But as soon as I was aware of what I was to observe, since mindfulness is to mean to be aware, or to observe, I expanded my practice into my daily activities, carrying the practise of awareness into each moment into whatever that I was doing. And it is not to bring the mind to present, but to acknowledge what or where the mind is presently, as in you being aware and present to it.

Some weeks ago, I was facilitating a group meditation sitting. Most of them were familiar faces and I wondered why they came back every week for a sitting. One of them revealed that coming back to the group sitting motivated them to continue the practise. I suspected that they might have grasped the concept of meditation incorrectly. Hence the following week, I threw a suggestion to the floor that I was allowing free activity during the time meant for sitting as long as they were aware and to come back to the meditation room at a specific time. I could tell that most of them were very happy at that suggestion and all of them gladly took the offer. Some maintained their meditation through sitting, some went downstairs to a stall for a drink, some addressed urgent matters, one read and some others did other things. I was not surprised at their patterns as I was too, one of them some time ago. Surely, it takes one to know one. That’s just nature.

When time arrived for them to come back to the meditation room, I initiated a sharing session, asking each of them to share their decision on what they did. Most of them reported that they were aware of what they were doing, be it drinking tea at the stall, reading, sitting… whatever… and I simply posted a question back to one of them, if he was aware that he was making an explanation to me and that caught him off guard. At the same time, the others too realised the intention of my questioning. They realised that as soon as the time was up for ‘meditation’, they had ceased the practice.

It is no wonder they questioned their growth. It is as if, they have allocated specific times in a day to be mindful and the rest of the hours are allowed to be mindless. True meditation is being constantly mindful, or aware if you will, of what arises within us; whether it is bodily sensations, thoughts, and feelings. What is the use of awareness during the stipulated meditation times, when at that time is where you will get least triggered thus the least of opportunities to inquire or investigate what arises? What are we looking for in meditation? Is it just peace? Or something else? And to have a true completion of each meditation moment as and when a trigger or discomfort arise is through questioning, as in self-inquiry.

The same can be said with retreats. Why attend a retreat? To enjoy the silence? Not that I oppose to the set ups of retreats but where I am getting at is the intention of attending a retreat. Many go into retreats to give themselves a break and there are so many golden rules like noble silence, no handphones, no laptops, no this and no that… and??? What happens after coming out from the retreat when they go back into the world? They feel rejuvenated for a while but it is mostly back to square one. It is as if they had not attained any skills at all of meditation as in to equip themselves so to address the world.

A recent entry that I edited for my teacher resonated with me the true purpose of attending a retreat and I invite you to his entry Coming Back to Where it Begins for further insights on the purpose of retreats.

Meditation comes in many forms and its essence is in observation and realisation through inquiry and investigation of ideas. Likewise for a retreat, it is a place or specific time frame to equip or sharpen one’s skills to be mindful, or in observation so that realisations can happen to bring understanding to life experienced as a whole. However, it is essential to be able to carry the practice into our daily life as the little trivial moments of peace will not be able to support us through the reality of life. Much like a watchdog, really… and you might not like this term, but the reward derived from it is more than a treat. Only those who persevere will reap what they sow.

2 Responses to “Of Meditations & Retreats”

  1. Heidi says:

    I like the question, “why attend a retreat?” In my new blog I give a self-directed retreat the credit for realizing my life was at a dead end and that eventually led to the realization that I was an alcoholic. http://www.goodlifenoalcohol.wordpress.com

    I like your wisdom. I look forward to reading more from you. Thank you for sharing so cleanly, so deeply.

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