Common steps and sub-activities

Staying in a retreat

The term retreat has several related meanings, however in this context the retreat used these days is a place of safety where a person can temporarily remove themselves from their usual environment and use activities such as sensory deprivation without interference.  It is intended to help promote spiritual experience.

Ideally, the retreat enables each person to enjoy a time of total  solitude in silence.  This is made easier by the fact that these sorts of retreats are often to be found in rural or remote locations.  The person needs to be isolated and in a room by themselves with no sensory stimulation.  No speaking, no noise, and occasionally light fasting or better Dietary moderation, to reduce the senses of taste and smell.  Being uncomfortable with cold draughts and uncomfy beds or being hungry, however, is not the objective – in fact the opposite conditions may apply.  If you are looking for a retreat, the warmer, the more comfy and the more at peace and safe you feel, the likelier the retreat will be effective.

Some retreats for advanced practitioners may be undertaken in darkness, a form of retreat that is common as an advanced Dzogchen practice in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Retreats are considered essential in Buddhism, having been a common practice since the Vassa, or rainy season retreat, was established by the founder of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha. In Zen Buddhism retreats are known as sesshin.

Meditative retreats are also an important practice in Sufism.  The literal meaning of khalwa is seclusion or retreat, but it can have another and different meaning in Sufi terminology: It can be the act of “total self-abandonment in desire for the Divine Presence”. In complete seclusion, the Sufi “continously repeats the name of God as a highest form of dhikr ”.  So in this case chanting and the retreat are combined.

Observations

For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.