Retreats and Community for Meditation

You've now learned some of the basics of meditation. You can continue to practice these techniques at home. Daily meditation is good for the body and brain, and can be achieved by anyone.

If you feel ready to take the next step, then joining a community meditation group or even going to a retreat could be an excellent choice.

Community meditations centers are often very supportive and encouraging of the meditative journey. It's an opportunity to meet likeminded people, pick up tips, speak to members who are further along on their journey, or even help brand new beginners find the right pose or meditation style. The center may offer guided meditations, where one person leads a group. This is not something that can be achieved at home when it's just you on your own. Sound meditations such as gong therapy is also something that requires a second person. Is is also the perfect place to learn more advanced methods, such as walking meditations or meditative yoga.

If there is nothing like this nearby, a good idea could be to form a small meditation circle yourself with a number of friends, neighbors and locals. In order to do this, arrange a large space within your home, decluttering surrounding areas and covering intrusive images or objects. Cushions should scattered across the floor, preferably there should be a variety of colors. Remember what we learned about color influences in the previous chapters? Some attendees may wish to sit on a specific colored cushion to enhance their experience. Decide amongst yourselves if you'd prefer guided or individual silent meditation. If guided meditation is preferable, one person can lead, or a mindfulness cd can be played.

If you work long hours in an office, why not suggest setting up a small room out of the way for you and your colleagues to have short meditation sessions at lunch? Your boss may be pleasantly surprised at how much more productive the afternoons become.

A retreat is usually a more extended and focused way of experiencing the power of meditation. It can be host to many members for anywhere between a day and several months. Meditations will be structured throughout the day, from early in the morning to sunset, with no pressure to commit to a minimum number of sittings. Each retreat has a set of rules which should be read before making a booking. Some may offer weekend packages, or intensive full days. If you do not have any commitments at home, you may even prefer to engage in a few weeks to advance tremendously, both spiritually and physically.

A retreat is often silent or very quiet, and could also offer workshops and opportunities to attend sessions with seasoned practitioners and monks. The quietness of the room is nurturing and wholesome, such a welcome relief from a world full of televisions and mobile phones. Even the meals are normally experienced in a purely mindful way, with full attention applied to the process of tasting and swallowing, flavors and colors.

If you want to begin mixing up your meditation experience, why not take a blanket and cushion to a spacious outdoor area, away from crowds, and attempt an outdoor session? This will differ profoundly to your home context, with new and unusual sounds, smells and sensations. Practice mindfulness to immerse yourself in the way the wind feels on your cheeks, how the birds sing to one another, how the flowers smell, what the grass feels like underneath your legs. Does the air feel different when you breathe it in? Is it colder? Fresher?

Lastly, begin to cultivate the skill of meditating anywhere. Start small, such as a park bench in a dog walking area, so that passers by are present but not necessarily disruptive. The beach makes for a wonderful sensory experience and also tests the limits of concentration. Remember that meditating isn't about buying tools and instruments, or needing ‘things’, it is something that you carry around inside of you –an ability– that can be used and enjoyed at any time, anywhere.