Category: Ask a Zen Teacher
By Daniel Scharpenburg
Going on a spiritual retreat is like entering a hole in the universe.
If it was just a break from your normal routine, I think that would be enough to have a big impact, but it's more than that.
I used to resist spiritual retreats, thinking they were a waste of time. Now I know better. It helps to put some space between ourselves and our ordinary lives. A lot of people are resistant to retreats, I think, but that's the ego causing those feelings. That's our small self that is looking for ways to become distracted---to avoid seeing things as they really are. There is a part of ourselves that wants to continue dwelling in delusion.
On my way to a two day retreat I said, “I feel like we're going on a trip even though we aren't leaving town.” Going on a retreat is going on a trip---a trip out of the world, out of your self.
A spiritual retreat is a journey within---a journey to another world---because there is a whole other world inside you. A spiritual retreat creates the space to make it possible to see that.
But you have to be open to it.
I've been on numerous Buddhist retreats and I've gone on retreats in several of the major branches of Buddhism. I've gone on retreats with Zen Priests and Masters and Theravada teachers and Vajrayana Tulkus and Rinpoches.
I've went on a oneness initiation retreat and a native American sweat lodge twice.
I've gone to Pagan camp.
These are not all the same. They all have things about them that are different and unique. Even different Buddhist retreats at the same place are remarkably different sometimes.
But, they all had one thing in common: They took me out of my ordinary life. They separated me from my day to day self.
At times I can separate from my day to day self by meditating and engaging in a few rituals at home, but a retreat gives extra sacred space to engage my true self. Sometimes meditating by myself at home isn't enough. I can have different breakthroughs on retreat. It can really shift your perspective and change the way you look at things.
If you've never been on a retreat I suggest you find one in your area.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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