Is Going on Retreat Worth It?

By Katharine Kaufman

Have you ever attended a retreat? You know when you’ve been indoors for a long time and walk outside and the wind comes up gently and you look up. Although you know about wind and you’ve experienced this many times, it’s new. The moment—it gives itself.

The bustle stops. The buzz stills. The commotion, argue, the race. The day is simple with spaces around the edges of things on purpose. You get to unravel and be yourself for yourself. The Zen folks call it, “Way Seeking Mind.” The mind seeks its own way.

You arrive at the practice space frazzled or disillusioned, mildly distracted, revved up, and you go along. Nothing has been built really or progressed. Some time in the late morning, maybe after Yoga while you write a note to yourself, you notice you’re really there. Maybe you’re briefly satisfied. Jois de vivre.

Retreat is kind of underneath. Always going on. Impossible to find just by saying so.

Not much happens. You move, stop, write, eat, walk, sit, drift off, join in. Like that. Other people are beside you, doing similar things. It’s not always easy. You take a break. Pour some tea. Look at the mountains. A tear comes as you realize something, how fickle the moment is, maybe. Whatever you’ve been holding off comes brimming over the lip of your cup. Here, you have the space and support to relate to whatever it is. You glance around and others are there supporting your practice.

When the retreat concludes, you bring back with you a newfound sense of thickness and flexibility in your being. As you re-enter the familiar space of your kitchen, the sunlight dancing on the countertop strikes you as particularly beautiful. This moment of beauty is not just because you are human and appreciate the aesthetics of light, but perhaps it’s also a reflection of a subtle self-forgiveness you’ve started to feel. Experiences and thoughts gently sift through your consciousness, and you find comfort in the physical forms around you, feeling a sense of grace enveloping you. In this tranquil environment, your body and mind gradually begin to reorganize and realign, finding a new harmony after the retreat.

You could try something now to go on a mini, ten second retreat:

Sit. Extend your spine a little. Close your eyes. Go to the bottom of your next exhale and stay there until the inhale must rise on its own (feel this).

Letting go or freedom or joy—doesn’t come all at once. That’s the beauty, the nature. This unfolds during the days after, in small migratory insights.

I wonder how you’ll describe your version of it? I encourage you to join if you can, or think about the possibility. In some future day, come along.

Retreat with Katharine:


About Katharine Kaufman

Katharine Kaufman teaches Yoga, meditation, writing workshops, and contemplative dance in Boulder County, at Drala Mountain Center in Colorado and online.   She studied Yoga in Mysore, South India, and taught for many years at The Yoga Workshop and Studio Be in Boulder. Katharine is an adjunct professor at Naropa University. She holds MFAs in Performance/Choreography and Writing/Poetics. Katharine is priest ordained in the Soto Zen lineage of Kobun Chino and Vanja Palmers, Roshis.

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