a retreat must give you time to just 'be.'
Updated: Mar 11
A retreat is an opportunity to 'detox' from our noisy routines, besides practicing certain techniques and meditations that can help for this. When we decide to join a retreat, it's time to be more in silence and in this way, receptive to higher energies. In the west, i observed that most 'yoga retreats' are conceived 'to have fun, offer concerts and multi-room asana classes... and socialize... a lot.' - nothing wrong with that, but that is not why a retreat has in principle been conceived and if we go to socialize, it's just a loss of its purpose - socializing is available all the time! Some tips to make the most out of this precious time off, that we choose to gift ourselves. for love to our inner and outer beings.
In today's constantly connected world, finding solitude has become a lost art. In fact, western culture tends to equate a desire for solitude with people who are lonely, sad, or have antisocial tendencies. But seeking solitude can actually be quite healthy. In fact, there are many physical and psychological benefits to spending time alone.
According to many studies, there are many benefits in being alone, in solitude:
Solitude allows you to reboot your brain and unwind
Solitude helps to improve concentration and productivity
Solitude gives you an opportunity to discover yourself
Solitude provides time for introspection
Solitude helps you work through problems more effectively
Solitude can enhance the quality of relationships with others
Solitude can be a meditation in itself
One should ask oneself why one has such a hard time being with oneself. In our retreats, i observe the urge to talk, to socialize it very strong. Since i bring my workshops and music to some "yoga-retreats" i always observe how loud people are... they yoga session is over and the social noise takes over very soon. This means that the activities have not been able to create silence. And in the end, isn't it that the reason why we go to a retreat? In a retreat one should try to behave different from every day. Otherwise social vacations in cruises and group travels are also available. Before even booking a meditation retreat, one should commit with oneself that one will as much as possible try to be silent, passive. Then the results of those days off may accomplish a change, a revelation, a mind rejuvenation. But the reality that many people go to retreats and they end up socializing and making new friends... but not so much becoming more silent.
To start this process of going back to the silent self, ideally one should set aside some time each day – even if it is just 15 minutes - to unplug from the external world and choose to 'do nothing' – just be. This can be done getting up a little bit earlier each morning – for example half hour before needed to get ready. Go to the living room or a meditation place in the house (better not to sit on the bed) and just tune into the energy of the universe. Morning is great, specially just before sunrise, because the twilight hours' energy naturally support meditation and silence: the mind doesn’t get so distracted as in the middle of the day, there is a certain effortless silence.
Another great way to unwind is to plan a once or twice a year small escape, to a place where not many activities are available, so it can promote self contemplation and meditative activities of just 'beigness' as my teacher calls it. Such places can be lonely retreat-style spots somewhere outside the city where nature can support this period of “doing nothing.”
I remember in our silent retreats in India (20 days of silence) – my master would even order us not to take a book, not to write, not to get distracted from oneself and silence by anything. Because our mind is very “smart” – it will right away give ideas: to read something, to write, to listen to music, to do exercise, to cook, to take photos, etc, etc. In that way, mind will get very creative, proposing a thousand plans, in order to stay away from “doing nothing.” This is unconscious - meaning we will find hundreds of justifications to keep ourselves busy - because ego tends not to like solitude and doing-nothing so his push to “achieve something” is always there, it also doesn’t like to be “unproductive,” it will tell you, “you have to do something, look how you are wasting your time, etc.” In this process, it is important to stay aware and not be cheated by these 'monkey' voices.
So we don’t have to listen to the ego and its restlessness. We can simply observe its anxiety and continue with our passivity.
This is what I love the program in the retreats that my Teacher was conducting, to whom i accompanied during more than 20 years: he would have a few very well-thought meditation activities during the day, but between the activities, it was suggested to do nothing, to “just be” or at the most rest or sleep if the body was tired. And the power of just being can be amazing, it refreshes the whole system, it relaxes and it will prepare this body-mind organism to work more efficiently and to see more clear. It is clearly seen when we are involved in a problem that we cannot solve, or a situation in which we don't know what to do. If we leave it alone for a day or a few days, and don't thing anymore a solution, don't give energy to it, usually we see that we find the way after some days, the right action comes by itself. One may be sometimes under the impression that one is ‘loosing time’ by doing nothing, but it certainly pays off. How to find out? Just try! Always the best is experiencing things oneself.
So these breaks are needed for different reasons. Under the model that i learnt from my teachers from India, I am also conducting different programs mainly in Europe, where the goal is to bring the energy to the heart through music, and then to just "be." For this, i get the support of the music, the breath and some meditation techniques. But the most important, as I always tell the participants, is the silence that is generated afterwards. That’s why we always suggest the group to keep that silence, to forget about socializing and chit-chatting for a few days, to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity of having time for oneself, for silence, which has become so absent in the current world.
In our retreats, when there is no scheduled activity, we suggest to go outdoors and be with nature or to simply sit in the room and just do nothing. I know, it may be difficult and annoying sometimes, because we’re so used to “do” and the ego will scream loud to us. The mind is desperate to be occupied. Since we are little, everyone has told us to do, to accomplish, to bring results. If a child is doing nothing, he will often be called ‘lazy’ instead of seeing the beauty in it, and the creative power of doing nothing. In our society, passivity is seen sometimes as something negative – we are supposed to produce – and if there is nothing to do, at least we are supposed to read a book or watch a movie, but doing nothing is difficult.
But the time of doing-nothing has its benefits, it is like a seed that will sprout. It will refresh the whole system and rejuvenate the mind to function.
Doing nothing is not so easy. Doing nothing means allowing the whole to do things – allowing TAO to happen. Doing nothing is the greatest thing in the world. If a man can do nothing, then everything happens, then all is possible, because to do nothing means one becomes nothing, nobody, emptiness. And out of that emptiness arises all that is, all that is possible, all that is potential. Out of emptiness, the lotus of being opens. Osho
During the retreats, which have been inspired by wise ones from India, we provide certain tools – but not tools as excuses to fill up the time-schedule of a package-style-vacation. Our activities are easy and effective tools which had been devised by wise beings, which will help us to enhance the silence, to enhance our self-connection, to welcome the space of quietness. These tools will help the talkative mind to relax and allow things to flow. Maybe many things will also emerge, will come out, manifesting through crying, deep joy, laughing, sleepiness, anger, etc. and that is very good too! These are simple tools that everybody can practice, based on meditation, mudras, pranayam, asana, sound and music. We gift ourselves these tools and then we let the wonders of silence and passivity take over, and we “just be” letting the eternal wisdom of existence take over.
Om Sai Ram
Manish conducts retreats mainly in Switzerland to small groups for people who are truly interested in the real techniques of India to enhance meditative states and mantra as a tool for this purpose www.manishvyas.com/retreats