5 Ideal Conditions For The Perfect Retreat (For Beginners)
A man dressed in a suit, deep in meditation, in the middle of a subway station.
Unfazed, his calm and peaceful energy serves as the perfect juxtaposition for the insanity that surrounds him.
It’s true that we can engage in a meditative retreat anywhere (although preferably not in a subway station!). But what are the ideal conditions for a retreat?
Below are 5 ideal conditions for the perfect retreat. They ring especially true for beginners! ENJOY!
With Space, Comes Silence
As population increases and the cities gets denser, our world has become both cramped and noisy. Problem is, we’ve become accustomed to it.
To illustrate, lets use decibels – the unit of measurement for the intensity of sound. The scale begins at 0dB, which is near total silence, and any sound above 90-95dB being able to cause hearing loss. Taking into account length of exposure.
A normal conversation is 60-65dB. The dishwasher that’s running right now is at 75dB, and that “normal” noisy heavy city traffic is a staggering 85dB.
Lets not even talk about your lawnmower, power drill or that motorcycle that just passed by! (The motorcycle was 100dB, if you were interested!)
Today, it’s not uncommon to be in the car with our radio on, whilst chatting away on our hands-free, and with our windows down.
What’s uncommon is to sit in silence. We shift in our seats from unfamiliarity.
Step out of the concrete jungle, and into a real one with vast space, fresh air and cool breezes. And we’ll find that it’s quite extraordinary how much peace the sounds of nature can bring.
If we’re reading this blog, it’s probably safe to assume that you’re living in a well connected area. And we don’t mean socially!
The desk above is probably shy of a few gadgets that keeps us highly preoccupied throughout the day.
We’re constantly surrounded by technology. And our minds are constantly engaged.
A part of us know that this developed lifestyle has its fair share of negative effects. But what are they?
Just to name 5: a shortened attention span, poorer sleeping habits, increased stress related to fear of losing out, poorer social skills, and an increased risk of depression.
In the US, a survey conducted for the Vision Council found that approx. 70% of American adults say they’ve experienced symptoms of digital eye strain at some point in their lives. About 60% of respondents say they spend at least 6 hours looking at screens daily.
In the UK, a poll of 1,000 people sponsored by SecurEnvoy (a digital security company), revealed that about 66% of people are afraid of either losing or being separated from their phones.
Our attachments have increased, but our personal development hasn’t.
By engaging in a retreat without any technology, we reset our minds and bodies back to a state that’s without the need to endlessly search for WiFi or electrical plugs.
Green, For Miles
The constant stimuli of city life can be mentally exhausting. Pluck ourselves out of the wired world for just a moment, and step into a field of green. Disconnected from the hustle, and connected with ourselves.
Just 5 minutes of being immersed in nature can do our mind and body wonders. Imagine entering a retreat surrounded by greenery for a week, a month or even a year.
In 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recognized the positive effects of being surrounded by trees. Termed “shinrin-yoku” meaning “forest bathing,” the ministry encouraged their citizens to visit forests as an antidote to relieving stress and improving overall health.
The next time you’re stressed out and someone responds with, “Oh, take a walk in a park!”, they may just be on to something.
Relaxation and stress reduction are only two of the many significant benefits from being surrounded by greenery.
In a research led by the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt’s OPENspace research center, it was found that for every 1% increase in green space there was a corresponding decline in stress levels. This was measured through a hormone released in response to stress called cortisol.
If less than 30% of a surrounding area was green space, its population showed unhealthy levels of cortisol.
The University of Wisconsin conducted a survey that supports the above findings. Researchers found that people who lived on blocks with less than 10% tree canopy were more likely to report feeling stressed or down.
If you’re already stress-free, here are a few more benefits gained when surrounded by greenery: Improves our focus, boosts our immune system, lowers blood pressure, and improves our mood.
Mountains are often imbued with spiritual significance. In Buddhism, there are hundreds of mountains that are considered sacred places to both visit and engage in a retreat at.
To name a few are Wu Tai Shan, E Mei Shan, Ji Hua Shan, Pu Tuo Shan, Fan Jing Shan, Drok Riwo Mountain (where Gaden Monastery was built), Dzogchen Mountain caves, Gambo Utse mountain (where Drepung Monastery was built), Mount Kailash, and Mount Haburi.
There is also Mount Meru, a sacred mountain with five peaks. It is considered to be the center of all the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes, within Hindu, Jain and Buddhist cosmology.
For many highly incarnated Buddhist lamas, they express a sense of yearning to be in the mountains. And it’s not hard to see why.
Many Buddhist masters have gained incredible realizations whilst engaging in isolated mountain retreats. To name a few of the greats are Arya Asanga (famous Indian Buddhist saint), Milarepa (famous Tibetan yogi), HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, HH Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, Domo Geshe Rinpoche and Ribur Rinpoche.
The above may seem like ancient practices which have ceased to exist. But it is said that on the Zhong Nan Mountains in China there are 5,000 hermits living there today!
There’s even a high-ranking Buddhist lama by the name of Mingyur Rinpoche who is currently on an extended solitary retreat – wandering alone, without a fixed location, in valleys and remote mountain ranges.
Mountains provide all of the necessary environmental conditions to engage in a retreat: no distractions, surrounded by nature, and vast space as far as the eye can see – which is ideal for solitary retreats.
Factor #4 above is meant to serve as an inspiration – to show the incredible potential and benefits from engaging in a retreat.
However, if this is your first time, stop packing your bags, you’re probably not ready to move into a mountain cave. At least not yet!
If you’re looking at reducing your stress levels and attaining some level of inner peace – breathing and walking meditation would be ideal. Everyday, take the time out for 5 minutes, to sit in complete silence and concentrate on your breathing.
In time, benefits such as increased awareness and clarity of the mind will be developed.
There are various resources online that demonstrate the techniques related to breathing meditation. But we strongly recommend you to find a qualified teacher. After all, we don’t want our winds going off!
Nestled amongst the jungles of Pahang, there’s a sanctuary for city dwellers. Kechara Forest Retreat is a conscious community, which host retreats for beginners and for those more experienced.
If you need more information or have any questions about retreats, do contact the Kechara Pastors here.
Who are the Kechara Pastors? Click here to find out the list of amazing things that they do!
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