First Retreat Experience
I attended my first retreat over New Years weekend at the Oakwood Retreat Center. It lasted from Friday evening until Tuesday lunch and was led by Joan Staubach and sponsored by TriState Dharma. Near the end of the retreat, Mary Ellen gave a short talk on dana. She asked two questions--"Why did you come here?" and "What do you take away from here?"
Why did I come? Mostly because it was suggested by people who have practiced much longer than I. So far their suggestions had been good, so I trusted their advice to go on a retreat.
I was also just curious. What would it be like to be silent for four days? What would happen if I meditated for hours every day?
I was full of anticipation and fear. Talk with the same friends who encouraged me to go helped me face the fears, find the trust, and move on with an open mind, body, and spirit.
And what did I take away? When she asked that question, tears literally began streaming down my face. I had no idea the spaciousness that could be found given time and support. My meditation and spiritual growth went to a depth that I don't think would have been possible without the intensity of prolonged devoted time. My daily practice has not led me to experience so profoundly the exquisiteness of the breath and the delight of stillness. Though there were only glimpses, I had a taste of the deeper fruits of insight meditation. I had never truly understood the connection between insight and meditation. But given the time, space, and support of the retreat sangha , I had the experience of insight that just arises unbidden by my brain, body, or self. A true gift.
One difference I have noticed in my practice since the retreat is that I approach the time with much greater ease. I don't seem to worry as much about what I'm "supposed" to be doing. I am much more willing to just do nothing.
I hope to do the retreat again next year and to do other, longer retreats. As Joan said repeatedly, "We're not done doing nothing yet."