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Meditation Retreats

Author Jennifer    Category Fitness     Tags , , , ,

Meditation retreats are a popular form or component of traditional spiritual retreats, which involve isolation from the everyday stresses of the wider community for the purposes of solitude, contemplation and spiritual relief.  They are organized all over the world and commonly take place at remote locations outside urban centers.


Known to have been in practice over 5,000 years ago, meditation in its many forms is based on a studied individual concentration promoting awareness and realization of the spiritual self. Virtually all organized religions and religious belief systems encourage forms of meditation, but the meditation retreat model is most frequently used by practitioners of Buddhism and Christianity, along with more secular or New Age adjuncts of Hinduism, the first faith to promote and practice meditation.


A popular form of meditation retreat in North America and Europe is the satsang, an all-inclusive retreat involving both community and solitary activity. Individuals taking part in a satsang are assisted in their meditation exercises towards overall goals of enlightenment. The teacher, or leader of the satsang, encourages a silent association with one’s “inner truth” but engages in dialogue with the student where necessary to seek out meditative techniques suitable for the individual.


Though satsang retreats are usually non-sectarian, retreat teachers will vary in their spiritual approaches to meditation. A common model is the advaita (“oneness”) school of the Vedanta branch of Hindu philosophy. Satsang retreats are currently in practice at over 400 locations around the world.


Christian religions have struggled to find adaptable forms of meditation and many now employ the term to indicate a form of deep prayer. In this sense, Christian retreats and youth camps across North America are founded on forms of meditation. Catholic retreats in North America include COR (Christ in Others), a three-day youth retreat, and Cursillo, a similar retreat for adults.


In recent years Cursillo retreats were adopted by Protestant denominations and now include the Methodist Tres Dies and Emmaus Walk, the Lutheran Via De Cristo and the ecumenical Agape. In addition to a divergence in meditative approach, Christian retreats are also unique in their policy that upon completion, attendees are discouraged from discussing details of the retreat to outsiders. This policy may be instituted in the hope that resulting curiosity will increase future enrolment.


Meditation is so pivotal to the Buddhist faith, and so central to an understanding of the faith, that many of its adherents spend a great part of their lives in a state or condition of meditative retreat. This is evident at Buddhist schools in Japan, Korea and other Asian centers where meditation is an indispensable component of the curricula.

As meditation becomes more and more accessible in North America, there are many avenues for the beginner to choose from. Retreats are a natural step in the learning process and can be easily investigated to suit the needs of the individual.


Zen Meditation for Spiritual Wellness

Zen Meditation is a very common spiritual practice that was originally based on Mahavana Buddhism. It is also known called Dhyana in India. It is practiced at least twice daily by billions of people in the Far East and millions of other people across the world that have adopted the practice as a way of maintaining physical, spiritual and psychological equilibrium and health.


Zen is deeply rooted in both the teachings of the Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama who is the creator of Mahāyāna Buddhist thought. The Mahayana is very broad collection of Buddhist scriptures that have been around since the first century BCE that are teachings about how to achieve enlightenment through meditation.


The aim of the Mahavana school of Buddhism is of course enlightenment but in a very personal and practical sense. The metaphor used is usually that of “awakening from delusion.” The goal of Zen meditation is similar to the Platonic idea of “know thyself.” There is wisdom of recognizing the truth of one’s own nature and then acting accordingly. The idea is that error and sorrow come into the picture when you do things and make choices that are against your own nature.


Zen meditation is one of the more populist forms of meditation as it less based on theory and the study of religious texts and is more in favor of direct and individual experience.  However the practice still incorporates the Buddha’s fundamental teachings—among them the Eightfold Path, the Four Noble Truths, the idea of dependent origination, the five precepts, the five aggregates, and the three marks of existence.  It also draws from the oldest form of Buddhism known as “The Way of The Elders” that is also known as Theraveda Buddhist thought.  Most of the practices have the end goal of stripping away delusion so you can live a life that is true to your convictions.


The Zen school of meditation came into existence in China about the seventh century.  By the early 19th century it had spread to Vietnam, Korea and Japan.  By the early twentieth century it was introduced as a discipline into Europe and North America. While “Zen” is the name most commonly known worldwide, it is also known as Chán in China, Seon in Korea, and Thiền in Vietnam.


The very basic tenet behind Zen meditation is the practice of a seated posture known as zazen.  The purpose of zazen is to recall the posture in which the Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhi Gaya. Adopting the same posture as the Buddha helps bestow he blessings of mindfulness and concentration upon the meditator.