Meditation Retreats - Are They Worth It And What To Expect
“In a world addicted to speed, slowness is a superpower.” — Carl Honore
There is no right or wrong way to meditate — meditation is formless and based on your preference. For some, meditation is a daily practice that can be done independently with little guidance. Others need guidance to maintain focus and to help deepen their practice.
Before you book a retreat, familiarize yourself with the different formats and varieties of meditation retreats to make the most of your experience.
What Is A Meditation Retreat?
A meditation retreat is a getaway from your everyday life to explore yourself mentally and spiritually through meditation. There isn’t much to do at a meditation retreat, but on the contrary, there will be quite a bit of work to be done.
A lot of meditation retreats are similar to one another. Still, there are subtle differences depending on why you are attending. Tibetian Buddhist or Zen Buddhist-focused retreats are more popular because of how deeply rooted the lineages are. You will learn Buddhist practices on contemplation and receive dharma talks on the teachings of Buddha.
Some retreats offer meditation and yoga, focusing on meditation techniques from the yoga lineage. Or you may find yourself at a retreat with time set aside for walking meditations to get the body moving or more expressive sessions, such as chanting, song circles, or dancing.
Retreats can be a weekend trip or be ten or more days. During this time, you meditate and keep to yourself in “isolation,” where you will be surrounded by people when you eat, sleep, or meditate but direct eye contact and talking are usually prohibited.
That may sound crazy, but it is for your benefit and the others around you. You join a meditation retreat to learn or get a more profound sense of self and clarity without distractions — even all electronic devices must be turned off upon arrival.
Again, this may sound outlandish, but science can back it up.
The Scientific Benefits Of Attending A Meditation Retreat
Attending a meditation retreat can provide a plethora of wellness benefits, such as:
- spiritual growth
- mental clarity
- a feeling of refresh in the mind-body-spirit
- reflection on your relationships and You
- Learning new meditation techniques and philosophies
- & much more
Science has taken it a step further by studying the positive effects of attending meditation retreats and the benefits of attending different formats of meditation retreats.
In 2016, out of a research center in Spain, scientists discovered the benefits of attending different formats of meditation retreats.
- Intensive retreats lasting one week may improve task-based function and attention.
- Yoga and meditation retreats lasting three months may improve sensory function.
- Meditation retreats lasting three months may increase mindfulness and decrease cortisol.
- Metta meditation retreats lasting one week may improve compassion and resilience.
Then, in 2021, a study proposed that the positive effects of meditation retreats can last up to 10 weeks, which is longer than leisure trips without meditation practices.
The results from the study include:
- increased mindfulness
- lower levels of fatigue
- higher levels of overall well-being
As science continues to deepen the study of the brain and body of humans meditating, the results are astounding. As valuable as it is for us to meditate, something as simple as setting an intention can take your health to a new level.
Be Clear With Intentions
Before meditating, you may set the intention by asking yourself or your spirit guides a question, or you may set the intention to feel a certain way after your meditation. Your intention can be as simple as focusing on your breath.
Setting the intention when booking a meditation retreat is just as important.
Think about where you want to go — do you want to go to another state, or do you want to further your adventurous soul and go to the jungles of Indonesia?
As each retreat has its own unique identity, think about if you want to focus on meditation and your spiritual growth or if you would prefer some luxurious activities such as a retreat with a spa, tai chi lessons, or hiking.
Using science-backed information on setting intentions can help elevate your experiences at a meditation retreat
What To Expect In A Day At A Meditation Retreat?
Yes, you will be spending a lot of your time meditating. You will meditate, eat, sleep, and repeat at some retreats, such as Vipassana (silent retreats). We spoke to someone who attended a 10-day Vipassana retreat, and she told us:
“It was challenging for me in the beginning. You don’t talk to or look at anyone while you’re there, so it was hard for me to connect to anyone but my inner self. In the first couple of days, I spoke to one of the support staff about leaving. He told me I was allowed to leave but suggested I try it for one more full day and surrender to any feelings I may have. I did that by setting the intention from that moment. Though it was still difficult to sit and meditate all day, it was such a profound and enlightening experience at the end of it.”
She mentioned that her day started at 6 am with a light breakfast and tea. Then, it was a 90-minute meditation followed by an hour of walking meditation around the compound that was surrounded by nature.
After that hour, it was snacks and tea, then another meditation, except you were “alone” meditating in your dorm. To end the evening was another meditation session.
During the retreat, she mentioned that the host would speak once a day about a meditation technique or would guide them in a group meditation.
Others types of meditation retreats may include:
- Yoga sessions
- Meditating in nature at a waterfall or cliff
- Learning about the local culture
We hope this blog encourages you or assures you to try a meditation retreat. You can even find local ones that are for the day or weekend. Find one that feels good to you and fits your needs. We wish you many blessings on your spiritual journey.
With Love & Light!