Meditation Retreats are Powerful

If we go on retreat with the genuine intention to see life more clearly, and relate more honestly & open-heartedly with ourselves and others, then we're more or less prepared. But let us keep in mind the fact that meditation retreats are powerful experiential 'boot camps' for our entire being - heart-mind-body. We may discover strikingly unfamiliar aspects of ourselves!

"Remember at all times, we are ordinary - albeit ordinary people trying to do something extraordinary. It is the activity that is extraordinary, not us. And don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

Without this accurate vision of ourselves, we might skip practices we consider 'too basic.' As a result, we would lack the required foundation for later practice and reach a dead end. Then it is easy to get discouraged, believing meditation isn't the solution to suffering that we thought it was. We fault the practice, when in fact the real problem is how we are practicing. It's a bit like trying to graduate from college before learning how to read, then blaming the college for our failure.

A lack of humility can also lead to severe mental and physical illness. Meditative retreat is perilous. A set of practices that can transform ordinary mind and body into the mind and body of a Buddha is a powerful thing. Practitioners who have enormous egos but little preparation and experience often end up mentally destabilized or physically ill. I have seen practitioners develop problems ranging from severe wind diseases to actual psychoses. You might have severe bodily pains, you might not sleep well or at all, or you might lack focus or feel distraught, angry, or miserable. It can become difficult for you to be around other people. Once ill in this way, it takes a long time to recover. Not only does retreat then become impossible, but even ordinary living becomes a burden. No wonder we are urged to remain close to our teachers, who never seem to tire of reminding us how ordinary we are!"

Christine Skarda. "Consider This Before You Go." Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly. Winter 2016

More about 'adverse effects':

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