I’ve been Buddhist for almost four years now. A year into my practice I went to my first residential silent retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre California. The experience was so amazing that I made a commitment to myself that I would attend one retreat a year. Since then I’ve been very good at sticking to my commitment. I’m currently all set to attend my third retreat. My first was during December and it was in celebration of the Winter Solstice. My second was held in January in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. This June I will be attending a six-day retreat titled Essential Teachings of the Path of Awakening. The purpose of this retreat is to provide instruction on the basic principles of Buddhism. I found this topic very suitable for me. This will be the longest retreat I’ve ever been on so I need something very simple and basic. On top of that, I’ve slacked off a lot on my practice lately. I need something that will reaffirm my commitment to Buddhism.
Retreats are an essential part of my practice. It requires a lot of dedication (and time off and resources) to go away to meditate for several days at a time. What I love about retreats is that they keep me grounded in my spiritual practice. I always leave with new knowledge and a better understanding of what it means to me to be a practicing Buddhist. Meditating amongst a community is also pretty amazing. You meet so many different kinds of people at a retreat, all from different backgrounds. And yet everyone is coming together for the same purpose. That coming together offers support for your practice. I’ve learned just as much from the people attending retreats as I have from the dharma teacher’s leading them.
I am always grateful for the opportunity to be able to attend these retreats. Not everyone has the ability to fully explore their spiritual practice. I think what amazes me most is that this year my mother will be going with me. Two years ago I would have never thought that she would desire and agree to something like this. She was dead set against me converting to Buddhism. Not only did she not accept it, she gave me a very hard time about it. Now, she’s open enough to go with me. Her reasons are that she’s seen my example and how many positive changes Buddhism has instilled in me. Her words deeply humble me and confirm that the path I’ve chosen for myself is the right path.