Why go on a meditation retreat?
My mind used to be like a crowded town square, an overwhelming milieu of thoughts, worries, doubts, and complaints, constantly tripping on memories and regrets.
While exploring ways to silence the constant chatter, the value of keeping the mind in the present moment kept coming up. I was ready to try anything to silence this constant mental chatter. For once, I wanted to experience real peace where my mind did not bother me, even if it was for a few seconds. I knew some people had felt and experienced that state. I craved it too.
In my first attempt at meditating without guidance, I sat by myself and kept repeating my affirmation: I am in the present moment. I AM IN THE NOW. I am here. Before I knew it, my mind was sneaking out to various places across space and time—a romantic evening date, thinking of a clever comeback for a comment my coworker made a day earlier, or deciding what I wanted to have for dinner. And there went my meditation.
The more I tried to meditate, the more my mind drifted and rebelled. I tried to focus on a candle or picture myself at the beach. I tried to focus on some light at the center of my forehead, in the process squeezing and twitching all my facial muscles. None of it seemed to work for me.
What I thought was unique to me, it turns out, was a common tendency of the human mind. You cannot control your mind from the level of the mind. It is like someone asking you not to think of chocolate cake. What is the first thing you are likely to think about? Yes, chocolate cake. I needed something more powerful than my mind to intervene.
My First Tryst with the Meditation Retreat
In 2011, my friend told me about a technique taught in the Art of Living’s meditation programs called the Sahaj Samadhi. The name loosely translates to ‘effortless bliss,’ or an effortless state of equanimity (more on that later). Was it really possible to experience a state of thoughtlessness? Can it be achieved without effort? What is the trick? I jumped at the idea of finally fulfilling my wish for a quiet mind and immediately booked a meditation retreat—I had so many questions!
The retreat was a three-day program. After the first session, I was in love! I arrived 10 minutes before my teacher each session, as excited as a child at Christmas to jump into the depth of my being.
This retreat was really the first time my mind truly became quiet and clear like water in the lake, with mild ripples of thoughts rising and falling—doing so with less and less frequency each day that I practiced the technique. The wonderful thing about the practice was that while my mind was calmer and more relaxed, I also felt a gush of joyous energy flowing through me, which culminated naturally into a smile on my face.
Usually, when I felt too excited or high about an experience, it would invariably cloud my mind, and I’d get into a tizzy. But here, I experienced a calm and energized mind for the first time.
The Secret Sauce
By this point, you’re probably wondering what is the secret sauce? What is the technique?
In Sanskrit, Sahaj means effortless. Samadhi is meditation—a natural state beyond waking, sleeping, and dreaming that is an unlimited reservoir of energy, intelligence, and creative power and a place of infinite peace and tranquility. The practice of Sahaj Samadhi meditation brings these qualities of increased energy, clarity, joy, and deep inner peace into our daily experience.
The technique involves a personalized, soundless mantra that is unique and your own. Once you sit down to meditate, after doing a few rounds of pranayama or breathing techniques to balance the energy channels, you simply take your mantra in your mind a few times at a particular frequency taught by the teacher.
A few minutes into the practice, you find the magic unfolding. The mind begins to quiet down, the frequency of thoughts begins to reduce, and you experience longer spaces of silence between those thoughts. You find even the few thoughts that come and go no longer bother you.
Here are a few things I’d like to share about my daily practice and why I’m encouraging you to go on a meditation retreat to start—or restart—your own practice.
1. Meditation lowers stress. Just the act of dissolving unnecessary impressions that we tend to collect from our daily interactions and activities by meditating twice daily for 20 minutes effectively lowers our stress levels. As time goes by, situations and dominant worries do not wield the same power on your mind as they used to in the past. You also become more resilient to daily stressors. You discover more clarity, control over your emotions, and even compassion.
2. You can do it anywhere. The technique can be practiced anywhere, on the top of a cliff, in an airplane, and, believe it or not, even at a rock concert. That’s how powerful it is! When practiced properly, the technique works in a way that no unwanted external sensory triggers can distract you. (You can still quickly respond to an emergency situation!)
3. It’s the best way to unwind. After coming home from a long day of work, if you can take out 20 minutes and meditate, it helps you offload all the worries and stress from the day, lets you sleep better, gives you the energy to spend quality time with your family, clears up your mind, and makes you happy.
Regular practice of meditation is known to release cortisol-regulating neurochemicals that calm the mind. It also increases the alpha wave activity in the brain, which signals the resting phase in the body. This is the time when your heart rate eases and your blood pressure normalizes.
4. Anyone can do it. This is not just to offer an empty encouragement, but a sincere observation from having taught meditation to a few hundred students now—ANYONE can meditate when you have the right instructor and technique to work with. I have had students healing from severe traumatic distress, anxiety, hyperactivity, and depression who said they could not close their eyes or sit still. Yet, to their own surprise, they have been able to learn and practice this effortless technique and benefit immensely from it. All it takes is 20 minutes!
5. Connect to the source. Finally, a spiritual secret that is of immense importance for the fast-paced and task-heavy lives we live is- to access an unlimited reservoir of life energy or prana, find endless enthusiasm, and get more done in less time, we need to connect to our source, and recharge our spiritual jetpacks. This can only happen by practicing meditation regularly.
Beyond the physiological benefits, committing 20 minutes to yourself twice will bring you peace and clarity, increase your charm, make you more loving, and your personality exudes a glow reflecting the light within.
Starting all of this at a meditation retreat gives you the tools and builds a community of like-minded people to connect and find support.