Browsing all articles tagged with North America
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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.

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About Meditation Classes

A popular tradition practice for over five millennia, meditation is based on deep concentration leading to awareness and development of the spiritual side of the individual. Meditation is a requirement of the leading faiths of the world and continues to grow in both religious and secular practice. As a result of the widespread and diverse nature of meditation for the student, meditation classes cover a very broad landscape of choice, from the full commitment of the religious temple to the online prerecorded audio guide.

 

The religious faith that involves meditation practice and takes meditation perhaps more seriously than any other is Buddhism. Since meditation is a central element of the Buddhist eightfold path of view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration, instruction can take a much more intensive form than other modes of meditation. In the US, for example, those wishing to learn Buddhist meditation without a clear commitment to the Buddhist faith can still have a choice of rich experiences at their disposal.

 

For a North American university-level experience, Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado is a “contemplative education” institution incorporating Buddhist meditative experience into a variety of degree programs. Naropa also offer a master’s program psychotherapy in which Buddhist meditative instruction plays a central role.

 

Some choices can be costly for the beginning student: the Shambhala Mountain Center, located high in the Colorado mountains, offers a full menu of meditation classes, including techniques of Shambhala and Tibetan Buddhism, regular meditation retreats, courses in contemplative theory, and many other programs. The mountain-air atmosphere is well chosen, but the student is well advised to look elsewhere for more affordable introductions to Buddhist 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.

 

Perhaps the most popular form of meditation in the western world is Transcendental Meditation (TM), derived from ancient Hindu tradition. The TM course is four days in length, after which the student is given a mantra, the keyword (usually Sanskrit) to act as the focal point for each meditation session. There is a $2500 charge for the introductory TM course, another cost consideration for the beginner. TM instructors teach the concentrative form of meditation, which is intended to free the mind to a point where the body is at rest but the mind is alert.

 

The exhaustively researched health benefits of meditation are by now well known and include stress reduction, decreased oxygen consumption, a sharp improvement in heart and respiratory rates, improved mood and heightened awareness. As a result, many hospitals in North America offer secular meditation courses for patients and the general public.