The practice of cultivating the mind is often compared to a stream of water. It takes time for water to turn into a stream. Likeise, when we start meditating, it takes time before we experience the benefits of meditation. And when we do experience them, it’s crucial to keep the practice alive by being persistent in it. A little stream will nourish you much better then a huge waterfall. Regular daily practice enables us to be in touch with that peaceful inner landscape that presents itself to us through meditation practice.
Meditation retreats are the very core of the Chan practice. They give us an opportunity to extend the boundaries of our meditation experience and are often the only available occasion to truly face ourselves, to focus and get in touch with our body and feelings, as well as to release unnecessary tension and put our lives into a healthier and wiser perspective. They represent an intense form of practice that takes place under special circumstances and clear rules to help us calm our scattered, restless minds and “turn the light inward” in an effort to recognize our true nature.
A meditation retreat has several aspects: retreating from everyday life and shifting away from our usual habits, withdrawing from the immediate environment and its conditions, and finally, retreating from oneself. In other words, we retreat from thoughts related to the past and the future and place our mind into the reality of the present moment. It’s only in the present moment that we can experience and become acquainted with the deeper layers of our being that our everyday mind so successfully obscures. Being deeply transformative, the experience of Chan retreats is an indispensable prerequisite for the development of healing wisdom and understanding of ourselves and our surroundings.