Retreats are absolutely essential to deepening our practice. The importance of attending retreats can not be emphasized enough – there is nothing more powerful and expedient in its ability to transform suffering and improve our ability to live in the present moment. Retreats with very experienced practitioners (such as monastics or lay dharma teachers) are the most effective.
Retreats give us a chance to see the practice in action. It is difficult to truly understand mindfulness practice until we have been on a retreat. While we get a glimpse of what it means to be mindful at the weekly sittings, the short time we spend together each week is not enough time to allow our minds to calm down completely. On a retreat, we practice every moment of every day for a number of days. We allow our minds to relax, to calm down, and truly come into the present moment. By being around senior practitioners who have been practicing a long time, we receive their energy of peace, stability, and joy. We do not have to do very much, just be open and put forth an honest effort. The “Dharma rain” falls on us and we receive the benefits.
One seven-day retreat is equal to an entire year of practice of coming to the weekly sittings. Imagine the effects of an entire year's practice squeezed into one week!
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