I regularly attend meditation retreats at the Tibetan Buddhist Society here in Perth, Australia, where it’s my privilege to have been a member for the past twenty or so years. I recently heard a story which made me think of ‘retreats’ in a completely different way.
One of my fellow retreatants had been explaining to her elderly father that he wouldn’t see her for two weeks because she was going away. I have never met her father, but in my mind’s eye he is very much of the old school – tough and conservative. When she told him where she was going his reaction was emphatic: ‘Retreat? I would never retreat!’
Strangely, up until I heard that story, I had never thought about ‘retreating’ as the opposite of ‘advancing.’ But that seemed to be the old boy’s meaning. And once it was out there, it made me think.
Why do we withdraw to our centre for two weeks, forsaking all our normal activities, phone calls and Facebook updates, and focus instead for seven hours a day on meditating, if not to improve our concentration? To deepen our understanding of ideas, so that we understand not only the meaning of concepts, but experience their meaning? To attempt, step by step, to realize our own Buddha nature, ideally not just for our own sake, but for the sake of all living beings?
Even if our progress towards these lofty goals is modest, it is still progress. Still an advance. Which is why, from now on, I suggest that meditation ‘retreats’ should be banned. Let’s have meditation ‘advances’ instead!
I hope you found this blog useful! Here’s a few things you can do:
Sign up for my newsletter. You’ll hear from me once or twice a month with blogs and other news designed to be stimulating and useful.
Check out my books which explore the themes of my blogs in more detail. You can read the first chapters of all my books and find links where to buy them here.
Have a look at the Free Stuff section of my website. Here you will find lots of downloads including guided meditations, plus audio files of yours truly reading the first chapter of several books.
Join us on Mindful Safari in Zimbabwe, where I was born and grew up. On Mindful Safari we combine game drives and magical encounters with lion, elephant, giraffe, and other iconic wildlife, with inner journeys exploring the nature of our own mind. Find out more by clicking here.