by Vedanta Society of Providence
Last weekend (6:00 PM Friday, Aug. 23 – 2:00 PM Sunday, Aug. 25), a residential meditation retreat was held in Vedanta Society of Providence. As its name “meditate-a-thon” suggests, this retreat was exclusively dedicated to long hours of meditation with some short readings and breaks (optional) for meals. About 25 people participated in this retreat and their experiences are being shared with others via comments for this blog post.
It was my first meditation retreat and I am glad that I survived through it! Since childhood, I have heard stories of a sage meditating for many years together (sometimes centuries) and usually it is dramatized in popular folklore by showing anthills around that meditating sage indicating that he/she was motionless and deeply engrossed in meditation. Well, having never tested myself by subjecting to any rigor of long hours of meditation, these stories create some fanciful idea that perhaps I could try it too (if not for centuries, at least be able to sit for an hour or two).
The first day was OK as it is the beginning of the retreat. But on the next day (Saturday) the session was from 5:30 AM to 9:30 PM and that is when I found it so difficult. My legs hurt me very much from mid-morning and so controlling the mind was a far-cry, as it was a big fight going on with my body. In the afternoon, I somehow persisted after the initial pain for about 45 min and then somehow everything became manageable (mind+body) for a couple of hours thereafter. The rest of the meditation retreat from there on was either fight with the body pain (now that the shoulders and neck joined my legs for some company) or I was going into some sort of stupor (technically called "laya"). The last hour on Sunday was almost unbearable as perhaps I was totally enervated.
I was told by my fellow-participants who had some prior experience in such longer retreats (5-day or 7-day) is that after the couple of days of difficulty, the body and mind become easier to manage for the next few days. So maybe I can live in this hope that I had not gone over the hill yet in this short retreat of 2 days – nice to feel good about oneself, isn't it?
Also I was very impressed by some other fellow-participants who sat for
long hours with apparently not much breaks or disturbance. Well, we need
role models in every field to inspire their own peer group.
Swamiji in his conclusive talk on Sunday cautioned us from getting complacent about our daily meditations by thinking that participation in this retreat was some sort of achievement. On the contrary, this retreat brought home the truth to me that there is a long way to go. I hope we will have more such retreats in Vedanta Society of Providence in future.
On behalf of a participant:
Was a very well planned & organized retreat. Program layout, selection of readings, guided meditation were very helpful. Overall atmosphere that emerged during this retreat was so conducive to spiritual unfolding. As the retreat came to a close, wished it continued longer. This retreat has provided inspiration to pursue similar retreats in the future.
On behalf of a participant:
First of all, I wanted to thank you Swami from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity to participate in the Medidate-a-thon. It was an amazing experience that I will not soon forget and has motivated me even more to keep up with my daily meditation practice.
My immediate reactions from the meditation weekend, was/is a feeling of lightness and clear-mindedness. I have never felt so emotionally strong in my life. Since meditation creates such personal awareness, I have not had as many emotional reactions/ (or roadblocks as I have called them in the past) to unwanted events…even when I got in a car accident on my way home to Maine that following Monday after the retreat, I had no problems. Each action, event, comment, etc. it is what it is. I seem to dwell less on an event and accept it for what it is. I move on almost immediately, or at least try to. Why dwell upon the car and losing $1000.00 to fix the car. I can't change these facts, as frustrating as they may be. Spending a relaxing week with my family has given me time to reflect and implement some of these new concepts in my life. My Dad owns a blueberry farm in rural Maine and I have spent over 12 hours these last few days picking/meditating with the blueberries. It is one of my favorite places where I really feel like one with nature. While I usually pack in many events…it felt right to plan nothing and for many moments just sit or work on the farm in silence.
During the meditate-a-thon I did experience some not so comfortable moments on the second day (sat.). Some old wounds and experiences in my life boiled up and I was faced to think about them and let them go. I believe I did. I felt I released a lot of old energy. I was trying to round up any fears and let them go or understand them better. I thought about the attachments that I as an individual has.
Most of all, I feet a body and mind connection that is growing in strength. I have felt this on occasions during my positive meditation experiences. Morning is always the better time for me–especially at the temple. In the morning I feel the present moment pushing into my mind and radiating. By the end of the retreat I also noticed a magnetic energy collecting that felt so powerful. It was/is beautiful. I felt so interconnected to the world. I found so much joy in watching the bees pollinate the flowers….hearing my eyelids close for the first time….swallowing my saliva, watching the shadows of the sun move across the back patio at the temple at a snails pace, even the voices I heard with people walking by at the temple seemed different to me–I really heard the human voices and different intonations…also just
feeling who you are in your own shoes has been a wonderful experience. Just being me and being okay with that. I have really made an effort in my live to slow down and pay attention to the present. I feel my connections even to my parents has grown immensely this week.
Thank you so much Swami and I look forward to many more events.
For me, mind becomes meditative only once-in-a-while after sitting still for quite some time. But soon the meditation hour comes to an end. The meditate-a-thon, seemed to be a great opportunity to sit together in a group, with no excuse to break out of posture.
The opportunity came with mixed results. One session in particular went quite well. At some point my shoulder started to freeze (this never happened before). Good thing the children's room was open for stretching out.
However, I feel greatly encouraged to attend the proposed monthly 1-day meditation retreat. Who knows when we may strike gold!
I heard many positive feedback. Personally I think it went very well, this being the first of its kind here. What I liked about the retreat:-
* The turnout (24 people!!)
* Silence (Quite a feat, retreat being next to kitchen/dining)
* 20 min readings each session
* Residential retreat (2 nights)
* No cell phone/internet (Mobiles were surrendered during check-in. WiFi down)
* Option of taking to the floor or the chairs
* Option of going up in the chapel for meditation
* Children's room for stretching
* No "helping-out" distraction (pre-assigned volunteers for food/cleanup)
* Scope for walking meditation late in the afternoon within the campus
I was impressed with the good planning. All instructions were given during check-in and introduction, and members executed them well for a silent and seamless experience. Clever improvisations secluded the retreat area from the clamor of the makeshift dining zone.
Truth be told, I was quite nervous about participating in the meditate-a-thon, being used to the usual 1-hr meditation. But now I'm looking forward to the next one. Actually I heard someone (not me) whisper if we are to ever have a five-day meditate-a-thon.
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