I recently returned from leading a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Sri Lanka. It was a powerful retreat for me as well as the others who were there.
My experience is that silent retreats include two distinct parts – the first is a breakthrough, the second is deep rest.
The instructions for meditation are simply to be content with the way things are.
So technically there is no need for a breakthrough – or to do anything at all – except that our habit of always assuming that there is something wrong is so strong that it takes a tremendous amount of concentrated focus to break it.
It takes about two or three days to break the habit of assuming there is something wrong, but when people do, it is like they discover the miracle that is always right in front of them.
There is nothing wrong!
At that point in the retreat people will say things like, “I don’t remember why I ever thought there was a problem.” Or, “It is so easy to be content, what is there to be discontent about.”
Now it’s time to enter into the deeper dimensions of meditation – this is when we learn to rest in perfect contentment in constant calm abidance.
We just sit, hour after hour, content with whatever is. Everything starts to slow down. We have fewer and fewer thoughts. The world around us becomes more vibrant and clearer. We start to see the deep inner workings of our mind. It all starts to make sense.
Eventually even our insights and realizations become less interesting. All we care about is the deep experience of being free. We rest there, for one or two or more days and we start to forget ourselves.
We can’t remember the person who had all the problems, and ambitions, and needs. We are truly content, and we don’t want to be any other way.
Now of course the retreat ends and we need to return to our lives – but we don’t come back the same person. There is more room inside us now. We are more content with life. We are more mesmerized by the mystery of life. We are different.
The opportunity to rest in existential contentment is profoundly valuable. I believe everyone should create that opportunity in their life at least once a year.