Meditation Retreat: is it worth it?

*First published in the ‘Resonance’ magazine, winter 2019

In November 2018, I was blessed (possibly a strong word but I do feel like it) with the opportunity to be part of a five-day meditation retreat in Northern Thailand (at Pa Pae Meditation Centre).

For a long time I’ve been thinking about going on a Vipassana retreat: with centres all around the world they offer ten-day long silence meditation programmes focused solely on meditation and allowing no distractions (no writing, no reading, no drawing, no talking). So many restrictions feel overwhelming, and I am still not sure if I am brave and strong enough to immerse myself into that despite many finding Vipassana a hugely positive and beneficial experience.

So, when I accidentally caught sight of a poster reading ‘three day meditation retreat in Pa Pae’ I knew it was a chance not to be missed. Upon further research it transpired that this centre normally offers three-and four-day long retreats with one day to be spent in silence, and time split between meditating for four hours each day, lectures on different types of meditation and teachings on Buddhism (delivered in English by a Thai scholar monk, trained as a medical doctor and having experience of living both in the East and the West). With meals and accommodation provided, the centre offers an excellent opportunity to spend time in the jungle away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives and concentrate on what is most important – oneself.

However, at the end of November they run a special longer retreat to celebrate the New Year and arrange their own Full Moon Lantern Festival to support international peace by meditating and releasing hundreds of beautiful paper lanterns into the night sky. So I, and a cohort of ten others from around the world, happened to stay in Pa Pae for five days and, alongside learning about meditation and Buddhism, help prepare the festival – a treat and honour in its own right.

For me personally, this retreat was important in three aspects: I desperately needed ‘a reboot’; I wanted to learn more about Buddhism, as that is where I believe the origin of Reiki and its’ precepts lie; and I hoped to find new ways to meditate which would be easy to incorporate in my life and teach my coaching and Reiki clients about.

I learnt a lot and had time to reflect on my perception of the world during these five days and I am yet to process my thoughts and ideas properly. However, here is a summary of my main findings:

  1. Walking meditation is to be done slowly, mindfully, observing and feeling every step, every motion of every step, so that a 50 metre walk might take 20 minutes.
  2. Less is more: this principle is relevant in life, work, meditation, relationships, possessions and – I dare say – Reiki. Less effort, less overthinking, less formalisation will bring more freedom, more calmness, more positive results, more wealth, more health and harmony.
  3. The Five Reiki principles are deeply rooted in five Buddhist precepts and I hope to write about these separately.
  4. Simplicity is key: simple meditation can be more powerful than those sophisticated ones available on apps or YouTube; simple and possibly spontaneous Reiki sessions can deliver wonderful results; simple meals can be healthy.
  5. Being away from gadgets life becomes so much more relaxing and simple, full of quietness and joy and the mind experiences more clarity. Personally, I hope to incorporate more of such gadget detox programmes throughout the year.
  6. Even though I didn’t do any self-Reiki during the retreat, I found meditating on Reiki symbols a very powerful experience and felt like they had more meaning to me and thus my connection with them has become more intuitive and instantaneous.

We all know how important it is to restart computers completely from time to time and not just send them into sleep mode. I feel that meditation retreats (possibly combined with some Reiki self-treatments) offer us, humans, this opportunity to reboot our whole systems.

Lifestyle and health coach. Cancer coach. Reiki Master Practitioner. Harborne, Birmingham, UK.

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