Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Million Reasons To Not Go On Retreat

A year ago exactly, I was getting ready for a one week retreat with Jon Kabat-Zinn. I came home so jazzed up, I promised myself it would not be long before I would go again. Ruth Denison's Spring Retreat was only a few months away, and I called to save a spot. Then came a new work assignment that was simply too good to ignore, and the retreat with Ruth had to go. Same thing happened in the Fall with Gil Fronsdal's retreat. All my good intentions vanished with yet more work that could not wait. That's it, I swore, no more letting other worldly concerns get in the way. 

Next opportunity was the end-of-year retreat with Ruth. I had planned to go after our family Christmas. As time came near, a string of emails from Ruth's sangha sisters made it clear that the conditions for the retreat would not be optimal. Plus, I had not gone away with my husband for more than a year, and we were overdue for a trip, just the two of us. Off, I went with him to Hawaii. 

A whole year has passed, without any retreat. A few weeks ago, I took the bold step of signing up for a 13-day retreat with Leigh Brasington at Cloud Mountain. To solidify my commitment, I even paid the whole nine hundred some dollars. This time, there is no way, I am going to cancel! 

It is good that I am so determined. My resolution has already been tested twice. My husband is making some noise and wondering, why do you need to go on such a long retreat, and in Oregon? The kids will be all home at that time . . . Then there is the new work opportunity that just came up, that would require me to miss the first day of the retreat.  Such an exciting project!

The point is, there will never be a good time for a retreat. And yet, I also know the opportunity to dedicate an extended period of time to intensive mindfulness practice is one of life's most precious gifts, not just to oneself, but also the world around us.

How do you make the time for retreats? What are some of the challenges? Please share.


  1. I feel for you with a job and family, but they can't they see the difference when you do go? Anyway, I will do a 10-day silent vipassana upon returning, and I will bring you to mind. Yes, there is no GOOD time to go. It is another part of dhamma to work in.

  2. Thank you Albert. The real obstacle is not the job or my family, but rather me . . . Same part that sometimes forgoes sitting. The mind is convinced only up to a point, and recognizing what is is the first step. Not pretending otherwise.

  3. I work a traditional American-style job so getting time off for a retreat of any considerable length is next to impossible. I'm also Mom to a dog who does not like strangers at all so finding a caregiver is challenging. I am due for a two week retreat this summer and came real close to having to reschedule it due to said job and a project on which I'm the technical lead. But the retreat cabin reservation is made and the deposit check handed in. Work's given their OK so I'm going to make darned sure we all stick to that.

  4. Good for you, Pam! And yes the deposit check goes a long way towards helping with commitment :)

  5. I admire you for finding the time that you do. Would that I had your determination. Last weekend, I could only survive one day out of two! my excuse? A cold... Thanks for reminding me that I need to make time, rather than wait for it to come around.

  6. What has helped me is the memory of the benefits from practice, particularly extended practice such as during retreat.

  7. Life and the mind will never stop colluding to maintain in you a state of distraction. It does take a decisive leap. Silently declaring your intention as deeply as possible. Doing so, sets in motion unseen forces that give a momentum to your practice and its fruitions. Your Buddha-Nature hears the call, and shines forth from within.

    I love retreat. <3

  8. Yes. The depth of one's intention, and faith.