Meditation Retreats

What spiritual retreats can teach us about the challenges of lockdown

In 2005 a documentary entitled Into Great Silence was released, which depicts life in a monastery in the French Alps. The director Philip Groening lived with the monks for months, where he developed a new consciousness after a few weeks of silence and solitude.

The silence and inactivity of the monastic way of life had an awakening effect on him. He began to live entirely in the present, and seemingly worldly objects became intensely real and beautiful.

At the moment we may not live like monks during the lockdown, but we certainly live a restricted life. Some of us may find the lack of hustle and bustle worrying. We’re so used to white background noise that we may feel uncomfortable when it stops.

Calm and loneliness can also expose us to discord in our thoughts, which begin to babble and create a sense of disturbance. Negative thoughts and feelings arise – especially during uncertain times when there are urgent and real concerns about job security, family members, and financial stability.

But, as I show in my book Back To Sanity, once we get used to living more slowly, rest can be strangely therapeutic at times, and it can help us cope with difficult moments.

The positive aspects of the restriction

And while many of us understandably find our current situation extremely challenging, I believe there is something we can learn from withdrawal techniques that may help.

Of course, this may not be possible for everyone. People who live in isolated, overcrowded conditions, or are in turbulent relationships can find it much more difficult. In part, it’s also a question of temperament. People who are naturally introverted and withdrawn will have an easier time dealing with the bans than people who are more extroverted.

However, there are certain practices we can follow that will help us learn from the retreat how to better cope with the changed lives we lead. Here are five tips:

  1. Adoption. Keeping thinking about how great your life was before the lockdown and how terrible it is now will leave you feeling frustrated and unhappy. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard is, “If you can’t change a situation, stop fighting it. Just accept it. “So tell yourself that things are like that, that this is your life for the time being. Don’t fight the situation – accept it and accept it.

  2. Live in the present. Don’t think too much about the past or the future. Just live from moment to moment and take each day as it comes. Pay attention to your experiences from moment to moment. Be attentive. Look out your window or go into your yard (if you have one) and slowly look around, paying attention to anything that comes within your sight. Do the same when shopping or exercising and when eating.

  3. Appreciate the little things. This is the time to appreciate the things in our life that we are usually too busy to notice. It is time to appreciate the food and drink, the natural world around us, the sky, the stars, and the people who are close to us. Most of all, we should say thank you for life itself.

  4. Trust yourself. One thing my psychological research has taught me is that people are much stronger than we think. We have reserves of resilience that we only become aware of when we are challenged or encounter difficulties. Even if you think you cannot handle a situation, you will be surprised that you can.

  5. Update the situation. It won’t be forever, and it can be a long time before something like this happens again. Don’t see the lockdown as incarceration, but as a spiritual retreat. Some people take meditation retreats or yoga vacations to feel rejuvenated. Now many of us are on a forced withdrawal from our normal hectic, stressful lives.

Mindful minor.
Shutterstock / LeManna

In my role as a psychologist, I became aware of the therapeutic power of these practices. At the end of this withdrawal period, we may return to our normal lives and feel more human. We may be more focused on the present and less focused on the future. We may become more aware of the beauty of our surroundings rather than focusing our full attention on tasks and activities.

Instead of getting lost in our roles and responsibilities, we can adjust to our authentic selves. And instead of looking for happiness outside of us by buying and doing things, we can find that simple satisfaction comes naturally only from being.

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