A retreat provides good conditions in which you can use the full potential of your mind. What we input into our minds has more of an effect that we realise. A retreat allows us a chance to meditate with less distraction and more stillness helping to cultivate peacefulness. Being surrounded by nature adds a restorative quality. If receptive to this, the mind becomes more aware, energised and emotionally positive. On the basis of this one can look into the depths of our true nature and cultivate more of a sense of who we are, what we need to do in our lives and ultimately more freedom.
Why choose a solitary retreat?
There are many retreats available to choose from. It's recommended however that a significant solitary retreat should be part of your yearly retreat program. This is because being on one's own frees one from having to conform to any particular group, which we do naturally without realising it. It provides a chance to go forth from needing to socialise or relying on other people for our own happiness. Solitude may bring up fears and feelings we would rather not have such as loneliness. Although this is precisely why we need to experience them so that we can work with our deeper darker forces and transform them for the good.
Often people report feeling a greater sense of love for their friends and family as the retreat goes on, sometimes in greater connection with them. On return one often experiences being a better more genuine friend as a result being on one's own. In order to be able to be with others we have to be able to be with ourselves and a solitary retreat is where you can experience that for yourself.
How long should I go for?
We recommend if you are new to meditation and retreats that a one week retreat is a good length of time to start with. If you have been meditating longer and have been on weekend or other retreats before, then two weeks should prove fruitful. It often takes longer than one thinks to settle into a retreat after leading a busy life and recovering from the travel there. For example on the first few days you may just want to get familiar with your retreat venue, nap and rest, so that a longer retreat allows more time for this. On retreat everything starts to slow down so that the more space you have to do this the better. More experienced practitioners often book three or four week retreats once a year.
What should I do on a solitary retreat?
It's up to you it's your solitary retreat! Often good preparation helps with starting the retreat well. If you can finish all work before retreat then that means once you arrive you can turn your phone off and get straight into the retreat. On arrival it will take a few days to settle in and in this period we would advise taking it easy, having lots of naps and getting familiar with the surroundings. Having a loose program helps with focus. For example a double meditation first thing, a mid morning meditation, a chance for a walk in the afternoon, a meditation before dinner and an evening ritual, is a well tried and tested format. People sometimes spend time doing refined body movement like yoga or walking meditation in the garden. Often a sense of creativity emerges out of a more refined mind so drawing, painting or writing are ways of channelling this.
What's important is that you have periods of doing nothing so that in between any formal practice you can just sit and take in the atmosphere and stillness. People often bring dharma and poetry books with them which can help to go deeper. There is a small collection of dharma and poetry books at Mokshavana.
On solitary retreat everything slows down and you becomes more aware so that even simple tasks like preparing a meal, doing the washing up, cleaning around the cottage becomes part of your practice and awareness.
What happens if I need to be contactable for friends and family?
We would highly recommend turning your phone and gadgets off so that there are less distractions for you. Every time you get a message or look at a phone you have given up a piece of your awareness to the device and hence it takes away from the potential of the retreat. As the retreat deepens there will also be a level of sensitivity that can be disturbed in an unhelpful way from the outside world so it works better to be incommunicado.
At Mokshavana there is an emergency land line number you can give to friends and family who may need to get hold of you urgently. The number is provided in the welcome pack and you're free to give it out to as many people as you need. There is wifi at the cottage if you need to let people know you've arrived safely and for organising admin, food and travel etc. We would recommend you use this at the start and end of the retreat, as best you can.
Can I do exercise or go for walks?
Yes you can. We would recommend gentle exercise and going for mindful walks. With the exercise try to keep it mindful and maybe not as vigorous as you are used to to preserve your mental states. With walks try to stay as solitary as possible. At Mokshavana you can go for circular walks in the forest opposite, without seeing anyone. If you use the main tracks you will occasionally see some dog walkers and hikers and it's fine to say hello!
What will come up for me on retreat?
Anything is possible! Sometimes people can have strong, deeply pleasurable and positive experiences in meditation. During periods of more concentration the mind naturally quietens down and with it comes a general sense of wellbeing and meaning. Feelings of intense positivity and energy along with a rich dream life are common.
Along with positive experience, usually there will be periods of distraction, craving, aversion, anxiety or generally being in negative mental states. These can come up sometimes in the middle of a retreat, sometimes at any time. This doesn't mean the retreat is going badly or isn't working, it can often be a sign of going deeper. Be prepared to work with your mental states whatever they might be, there will be positive consequences in doing so and it will have a beneficial effect if we turn towards our experience, in the end transforming it.
Whatever happens on retreat tends to lead to periods of self-reflection so that by the end you will hopefully feel like you have learnt something more about yourself, your mind and the world.
What shall I bring?
Yourself! Mokshavana is well equipped so you mostly just need to bring yourself, some food and some warm / waterproof clothes for living in rural Snowdonia, including walking shoes (the paths can be wet and muddy). All meditation and yoga gear is provided along with a small selection of books although you may want to bring your own or a kindle device.
Shall I plan the retreat before hand?
We would advise, especially if you are new to solitary retreats, to discuss your readiness and retreat plan with a more experienced practitioner such as an Order Member.
What happens if things go wrong during the retreat?
Hopefully you're retreat will go smoothly but if you do need to talk to anyone during the retreat from either a practical or spiritual perspective then the hosts Dayanatha and Paramabandhu will be happy to help, their contact details are provided in the welcome pack.
Who can I contact to ask more questions?
Feel free to email us with any questions we will be happy to help (click contact from the main menu above).
We wish you an enjoyable and fruitful retreat.