Overcoming Obstacles To Meditation
Meditation Retreat Tips
(Anmol: In part 2 of this series on Free Guide to Meditation Retreats, guest author Axel goes deeper into the challenges and obstacles of a silent meditation retreat. The tips and insights he offers are invaluable not only if you are planning a meditation retreat, but also invaluable for those moving deeper into meditation and spiritual practice.
Axel, who was an actual Buddhist Monk, now shares his wisdom, knowledge and expertise with you on his great, free meditation website Axel G (http://axelg.com/). Do check it out.
If you would like to be a guest author on Master of Meditation and Yoga, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Meditation Retreats – Tips, Challenges and Progress (Part 2)
Here is a link to part 1 of this series called Free Guide to Meditation Retreats – Part 1.
In this post we’ll take a look at the most common challenges meditators face during meditation retreats. Moreover, you’ll learn how to measure progress in your meditation practice.
Challenges In Meditation
Physical discomfort is one of the biggest challenges for meditators. Not many have sat through a whole retreat without struggling with physical pain.
With experience, you’ll learn to accept a certain amount of physical discomfort. The key is to sit comfortably and stretch regularly. It’s best to do the gymnastics in the privacy of your room.
If you’re not comfortable sitting on the floor, ask the facilitators for a stool or chair.
Walking meditation is a great relief when it comes to easing physical discomfort. You can also try using Tiger Balm. Just make sure the smell won’t disturb anyone.
It’s natural to be concerned about only having two meals a day. At home, most of us put something in the mouth the moment we get hungry, to escape the unpleasant sensations. There is a lot of fear associated with hunger.
By eating a large breakfast and lunch, you’ll get tired while digesting the food. It also leads to more physical discomfort when the stomach gets smaller, in the afternoon. You’re better off eating a bit less than normal during retreats, which is easy to say but hard to do.
There are two major forces at work here, the fear of hunger and desire for food. To make things even worse, if you have paid for the retreat you want to get your money’s worth…
My best advice is to avoid overeating and to gradually let go of your craving for food, which may take some time. It’s highly individual, so find out what it’s like for you…
Thinking Instead Of Meditating
It can be monotonous to meditate all day long, therefore, most of us tend to get stuck in thinking at one point or another. It may be planning for the future or dwelling on the past.
Look at the retreat as a golden opportunity to practice, that may help you overcome the boredom. Never actively engage in thinking, since it may ruin the entire retreat; once you’ve started, it’s almost impossible to stop.
Another trap is doubt. As mentioned in part 1, it’s vital that you talk to your meditation teacher about any difficulties that arise during the retreat. That way you won’t waste days pondering on them.
Some meditators get obsessed with other retreatants. They simply can’t stop thinking about them. Don’t look for a partner while in retreat. Again, it’s usually a way to escape boredom.
Laziness naturally surfaces during retreats. Often times it’s actually a combination of negative emotions and laziness. I recommend viewing the retreat as a golden opportunity to make progress. Don’t give in to resistance!
Talk to your teacher about your concerns for encouragement.
How do you measure progress in meditation?
That’s an excellent question. There are a number of ways to gauge progress is meditation. Let’s take a look at the most common approaches:
– Observe how you react to challenging situations in everyday life. Perhaps you used to react with anger or frustration. If you are able to maintain your cool, it’s a sign of increased awareness.
– How steadfast is your concentration and mindfulness?
– Can you be mindful while working, eating and walking?
– Are you able to meditate even though there are distractions around you?
– If you’re able to feel your metal energy, how much energy is generated when you give relaxed attention to your meditation object?
– How often do you experience rapture in meditation?
It’s quite easy to measure progress in meditation by comparing your present performance to how you did in the past.
How much progress should I expect from a retreat?
Don’t have any expectations. It’s better to focus wholeheartedly on the meditation practice. Retreats generally lead to accelerated progress thanks to the combination of intensive practice and group energy.
One of the beauties of meditation retreats is the build up of mental energy. The group energy is uplifting and supports concentration.
When I was younger, I would sit as close as possible to the teacher to soak in the mental energy he emitted.
Good luck with your meditation practice!
Axel Gjertsen is a former Buddhist monk and lives in Thailand. He runs axel g which is a personal development site with a focus on meditation. Visit his website to learn more about meditation retreats.