July 24, 2024

Opinion: Multi-day silent retreats can supply restoration and perception. However they can be an ordeal and will not be for many who are grieving a loss or coping with post-traumatic stress

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Ten-day silent retreats are huge today, particularly for younger searchers.

Lots of of multi-day silent retreats are provided annually in Canada, most of them linked with Buddhist practices. Others are loosely rooted in Western monasticism.

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Multi-day silent retreats generally is a blessing, providing restoration and perception. Because the joke goes, “They’re the proper occasion for introverts.”

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However they can be an ordeal.

Whether or not somebody can profit from a prolonged silent retreat all the time comes right down to the person. However the literature strongly suggests they don’t seem to be essentially finest for the unprepared or determined. Or for individuals with psychiatric situations.

And a few multi-day retreats are extra extreme than others — which makes it disappointing to listen to in regards to the many individuals who give the harder silent retreats a strive, and are available to the conclusion they in some way personally failed. And can by no means do it once more.

I’ve taken half in lots of silent retreats, largely of eight days every.

After I inform family and friends about them, there may be intrigue, but in addition typically a quiet sense of horror.

Lots of people get anxious on the thought of not speaking. Of consuming meals with out phrases. Of adopting “modest gaze,” that’s, restricted eye contact. Of “fasting” from idle chatter, whether or not over the climate, household, sports activities or enjoyable issues to do.

To many it sounds excruciating. And it might probably, certainly, be typically irritating to be left alone with oneself for an prolonged time period. For probably the most half, nevertheless, I discover the eight-day “crucible of silence” to be each comforting and liberating. Within the sense of security offered by the straightforward each day rituals, transient classes with a non secular companion and unstated however highly effective group connection, I’m in a position to discover typically tough ideas and emotions.

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In comparison with many silent retreats on the market, the sorts I attend should not extreme. There isn’t any stress to take a seat in meditation for eight to 12 hours a day, a prospect I discover overwhelming. We would enter into contemplation for simply an hour a day. And that’s interspersed with reflecting on sacred poetry, some chanting, transient classes with a non secular companion, moments with a journal and many time absorbing nature. A recent sense of aliveness emerges.

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Some multi-day silent retreats are extreme and others not. (Picture: Naramata centre in B.C.’s Okanagan, with labyrinth for contemplative strolling.) solar

The non-sectarian, spiritually eclectic retreats I attend, that are the type provided at locations like B.C.’s Naramata Centre, Bethlehem Centre and Rivendell, are designed to assist members keep away from distractions and develop a way of the sacred. There’s construction, however no rigidity of physique, thoughts or ideology.

I do know many individuals who’ve tried one of many extra “common” 10-day silent retreats in B.C. They’re provided by two massive Vipassana Centres, one close to Duncan and the opposite close to Merritt, which belong to a community of greater than 300 Vipassana centres across the planet, based by the late Myanmar-raised trainer S.N. (Satya Narayana) Goenka.

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Judging by the actual fact the West Coast Vipassana centres can accommodate about 60 friends at a time, and every affords a few dozen silent retreats yearly, it appears tens of 1000’s of individuals have ventured into their 10-day retreats.

Nonetheless, I take advantage of the phrase “common” solely within the sense that the Vipassana retreats appeal to by far probably the most attendees. They have an inclination to not be common within the sense of simple or, on the floor, pleasing.

B.C.’s Vipassana centres’ protocol is predicated on what’s presupposed to be the two,500-year-old directions of Buddha. Their web site says the method is the “common treatment to common ills.”

Not like most silent retreats, primary meals and lodging are ostensibly free, though donations and acts of service are welcome.

I used to be unable to succeed in a Vipassana Centre trainer for an interview, so I didn’t be taught what number of of those that join drop out within the early days of the retreats. However I’ve been instructed many discover Goenka’s method extremely demanding, together with sitting in the identical meditation pose for hours upon hours, with out being allowed to shift about.

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A author for The Guardian as soon as described how, with out meditation expertise, she dived right into a Vipassana retreat to heal her insomnia, power again ache and panic assaults.

Regardless of if her physique was throbbing, or her palms and legs fell asleep within the meditation pose, she mentioned her lecturers’ “blanket command was of non-reaction.” Don’t transfer. On the third day of her retreat a wave of individuals left. However the writer persevered and believes she emerged calmer and higher in a position to deal with her “catastrophic pondering.” She nonetheless, nevertheless, had insomnia and different challenges.

In one other useful article in Tricycle, a Buddhism journal, a meditation trainer cautions that retreats should not all about “silence and exquisite landscapes.”

Many members can find yourself anxious, lonely and ruminating. Whereas silent retreats assist individuals to give attention to inside moods and consciousness of the pure world, the writer says they will additionally “activate buried trauma” and will not be helpful to these grieving a major loss.

Vancouver medical psychologist Mark Lau, who takes half in and leads silent mindfulness meditation retreats at Cortes Island’s Hollyhock Centre and elsewhere, says, “It’s a wealthy expertise, nevertheless it’s not all the time nice.”

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The college of apply Lau works inside, which is related to Spirit Rock Meditation Heart in California, is much less rigorous than Goenka-designed silent retreats, however nonetheless invitations members to spend eight to 10 hours a day in sitting or strolling meditation, with non-coercive steering.

“It will get bodily uncomfortable, it doesn’t matter what,” Lau says. “But it surely’s a chance to take a seat with some stuff you don’t usually sit with. You get insights. On the finish of the day it’s probably the most restful expertise I’ve ever had.”

As a trainer of mindfulness-based cognitive remedy, Lau has been with sufferers and others who discover some silent retreats an excessive amount of. And he doesn’t essentially advocate them as a approach to cope with post-traumatic stress.

Nonetheless, Lau says he comes away from prolonged silent retreats in an “altered state that lasts a short while after re-entering. It’s laborious to take care of, however even after it’s over I really feel very restful, with a brand new degree of stillness.”

Lengthy silent retreats should not for everybody, however they could possibly be for a lot of. As Lau says, “It actually comes right down to the individuals who settle for the invitation.”

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