I’m just back from a 5-day meditation retreat, feeling refreshed, focused and excited about the work I’ve got on my plate for this month. The experience reminded me how powerful the practice of mindfulness is and I wanted to share some of my renewed enthusiasm with you.
Mindfulness meditation simply means taking the time to focus on what’s happening in the present moment. A lot of top research shows that it is a powerful tool for increasing happiness, reducing stress and improving your focus. And you DON’T have to spend a lot of time in meditation to start feeling some of the benefits. Just two minutes a day of meditation done over 21 consecutive days can start you on the path. The key is to set up a regular time and just do it.
If you want a refresher on how to meditate, read this post which also contains links to other of my meditation posts that can further expand your knowledge and that dig deeper into the science and the benefits.
Mindfulness meditation is also one of six happiness habits that I feature in my book, “The 6 Happiness Habits; Increase Your Joy and Drive Your Success” (which you can download for free if you join my email list in the upper right corner of the page).
If you already have a regular practice or if you want to kickstart your practice, you might consider a multi-day meditation retreat. It allows you to have a concentrated meditation experience over a short period of time and really lock in a regular practice. To give you a sense of what you would be getting into, here’s a flavor of my retreat experiences.
Spirit Rock vs. Deer Park
I’ve attended two retreats through Spirit Rock, one of the first meditation centers in California. They were 10 day affairs, conducted almost completely in silence. The days consisted of an hour of sitting meditation followed by an hour of walking meditation repeated throughout the day with 3 silent meals and two periods of meditation instruction/Buddhist teaching. It is an intense experience of being with yourself, of looking inside and seeing what you find. Both retreats were incredibly powerful for me — helping me see it was time for a major career change, (now big deal, right?)
If you are interested in learning more, I lay out much of the detail in these posts:
The Deer Park Monastery 5-day retreat that I just attended was interesting in a very different way. Deer Park is a retreat center led by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Master who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr. It is located 40 minutes outside of San Diego and had many similarities to Spirit Rock — periods of silence, periods of sitting and walking meditation, silent meals and many meditation and Buddhist teachings.
However at Deer Park, conversation was encouraged for many hours of each day. We all joined sharing groups of 20 people where each participant talked about their experiences and feelings at the retreat. After each meal there was a social hour with casual conversation and there was a simultaneous program for children and teens, so whole families came to the retreat together. The biggest difference that stood out to me was all the laughter and singing I could hear throughout the retreat. The focus was much more social, helping to build a community of practitioners who can support one another. It was A lot more fun than Spirit Rock, and also less powerful from a self-growth perspective.
My advice: The Deer Park retreat is a great place for someone new to meditation who wants to find a community of support and learning. Spirit Rock is a great place to go deep into understanding yourself and who you are in the world. So if a retreat is something you are thinking about, know that there are very different options each with a different focus. Think carefully about what your goal for a retreat is, and do your homework before booking!