Most of us feel the need to withdraw from our rushed, busy lives every now and then. A weekend retreat is a perfect way to experience a quick dose of peace, try something new and come back reenergised.
When I signed up for a meditation retreat at Nan Tien Temple, I expected a few hours of meditation here and there and lots of free time to catch up on much needed sleep. The vow of Noble Silence (no speaking) for the duration of the retreat also looked very attractive – I could participate in classes and group activities without having to engage in small talk, which, as an introvert, I often find exhausting.
After checking into my accommodation, a nice hotel-like lodge, I went to meet the rest of the group and our meditation teacher. To my surprise, I found that the retreat’s schedule was very full. There was a lot to squeeze into one and a half days – morning chants, a tour of the temple, a tea ceremony, a tai chi class and evening meditation after dinner, just to mention a few of the activities.
I felt overwhelmed when I looked at my schedule, but I soon understood the intention behind it. The Buddhist monk, who was teaching us, talked about how mindfulness and meditation were not something you did once in a while, when you had the right conditions (when you’d managed to get away from the city for a day or two for a retreat). Instead, our teacher’s goal was to have us pay attention to every activity we engage in and practice skills that we could take into our daily lives. So during the weekend we practiced being mindful in everything we did, whether we were meditating, walking, eating, drinking tea, doing tai chi or listening to the history of the temple.
Observing Noble Silence wasn’t the only rule. No smoking and no meat were allowed on the territory of the temple, and all electronic devices were to be switched off. I broke one of the rules – I spent some time taking night photos of the temple (when else was I going to get that chance?) until one of the monks noticed and asked me to put my camera away.
Despite this little distraction, I still felt the power of mindfulness to transform stress into peace and I was amazed that it happened in such a short time. When retreat was over I didn’t want to go. I didn’t reach out for my phone or ebook reader (something I’d normally do when I have a free minute), I just sat at the lake and watched the fish for hours.
Image from muminsearch.com
By Tatiana Apostolova