Retreat Reflections

Here is a moment from our beautiful Joshua Tree weeklong retreat I co-hosted earlier this month with Beth Mulligan and Hugh O’Neill of Mindful-Way.com.

I’ll be co-hosting a retreat in the Lucerne Valley in April. If you’re curious, click here.

It’s been an exciting month! I had a wonderful time starting the new year in the best way possible–at a retreat. Beth Mulligan and Hugh O’neil from Mindful-Way invited me back to Joshua Tree for their New Year 6 Day Silent Retreat. We had over 65 courageous participants.

The group was very inspiring; from day one the sits were filled with stillness. Usually it takes a while for a group to settle in but the first night meditation felt like the third day in. As instructors we can usually “feel into” the energy of restlessness in the room. Sometimes the room will collectively be more agitated or dull. Groups also have a common feel to them, day in and day out.

Of course, the participants feel this too. Sitting in a group filled with committed stillness is obviously beneficial, as it allows us to sit in stillness with more ease.

My biggest takeaway from the retreat had to do with the piece of the human condition concerned with making our outside lives “better”. I see this in myself. I see it in my daily meditations and during longer retreats. Interacting with the meditators during interviews, I saw this front and center. People were looking to practice non-grasping mind but at the same time wanting the meditation to help with outer life. This manifests as “planning mind” and more thinking during the mediation sessions.

Mediation won’t make our life better. It only makes our reaction to life better (which is far more beneficial).  It is unwise to use meditation sessions to think of external ways to improve life. There is nothing “wrong” with thinking, of course. Yet always following whatever thought comes to mind does not give us the opportunity to practice liberating thoughts. Only by letting thoughts come and go do we realize that we are okay despite our thoughts and emotions.

The mind is a great servant but a horrible master. Meditation is taking back the governing of the mind instead of allowing ourselves to be led by it. “Life” is never the problem. The mind’s insistent resistance is. Furthermore, life will never be “perfect”, and if it looks that way, that too is fleeting.

My experience inspired a talk that I gave a couple weeks later titled Nature of the Mind, which you can listen to here:


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