What is Retreat?
In our busy modern life we lack the calm and stillness conducive to maintaining a happy and peaceful state of mind. To regain a balance people are drawn to peaceful and quiet places where they can withdraw for a short time and renew their energy – in short, they go on retreat. On retreat we devote our time to meditation and contemplation – it is a time to acquaint our minds with positive and meaningful thoughts.
“On retreat we stop all forms of business and extraneous activities so as to emphasize a particular spiritual practice. There are three kinds of retreat: physical, verbal and mental. We engage in physical retreat when with a spiritual motivation we isolate ourself from other people, activities and noise, and disengage from extraneous and meaningless actions. We engage in verbal retreat when with a spiritual motivation we refrain from meaningless talk and periodically keep silence. We engage in mental retreat by preventing distractions and strong delusions such as attachment, anger, jealousy and strong self-grasping from arising, and by maintaining mindfulness and conscientiousness.
If we remain in physical and verbal retreat but fail to observe mental retreat, our retreat will have little power. Such a retreat may be relaxing, but if we do not prevent strong delusions from arising, our mind will not be at peace, even on retreat. However, keeping physical and verbal retreat will help us to keep mental retreat, and for this reason Shantideva, in Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, praises the first two kinds of retreat.”
Excerpt From: The New Guide to Dakini Land – Geshe Kelsang Gyatso