The Power of Retreats – Meditation

When it comes to changing habits, particularly those related to our health, nothing is more motivating or inspiring than going on a retreat. Whether it be a weekend, or week long, retreats have all the components us humans need to change or improve on things we are currently doing. You are transposed away from your day to day living (no cooking, cleaning or working!), learning new information, watching and practising new techniques, being among those who have a similar interest and taking in different perspectives. Nothing else to do but concentrate on the topic at hand!


I have just returned from the Yarra Valley in Victoria 5 days with Ian Gawler, who has decades of meditation behind him, renown for his recovery from cancer through lifestyle changes which particular focused around meditation. I have also been on retreats through Skilfull Mind run by Peter Radcliffe. There are many types of retreats and whilst my particular interest is in meditation as this is the area I want to keep improving on, you will find retreats that focus on yoga, nutrition and health retreats (the pampering ones:)) that will do the job in upgrading your current health habits. There is something very motivating about hearing and seeing people put things into action.


I would like to share some of the things I bought back from my time with Ian Gawler. Whilst I can sit and meditate for 20 minutes per day at home (minus holidays or any disruption to my usual routine!), 5 hours (1.5 hrs max at a time) of meditation a day was a real challenge for me on this retreat. But I have to say, that I now feel, well equipt to move to “my” next level.

So here are a few interesting things I learnt on retreat:

INTENTION Get clear on what you want to get out of it, is it stress reduction, improve a chronic illness or increased awareness – this will guide you in setting the amount of time per day that you need to set aside – stress reduction may be as little as 10 minutes per day, whereas chronic illness may need 40 minutes two to three times per day. Most serious traditions aim for 40 minutes.

THE TWO ASPECTS OF THE MINDEveryone has two aspects of their mind, the still mind and the active mind. The active or thinking mind, thinks, feels and gets things done, required for our survival, and can be likened to the “clouds”. The still mind is ever present, represents our inner confidence, is content with life in general, just as it is, and can be likened to the “sky” – so its always there but may be difficult to see because of the clouds.

MEDITATION – Is a way of training to get to the still mind, if your thinking your not meditating but there is no need to devalue your active mind – patience does it, a combination of learning, practising and commitment.

POSTURE – Posture is crucial and requires you to be symmetrical, have a sense of balance, spine upright (unless back pain is present), the body must be relaxed. If you are too comfortable you might fall asleep, if you are too uncomfortable you wont be able to meditate. As time goes on and you get used to your position their can be merit in moving to a more challenging posture – just like you would in the gym.

PATIENCE – Its normal for thoughts to show up so be patient, don’t fight your thoughts just notice them and then begin to notice the gaps between your thoughts. We need to train our thinking mind to work for us.

AWARENESS – To expand awareness we need to go into the deep stillness of the mind.

“If we are not careful we can get wound up with life and take off like a spinning top not knowing where we’ll end up –MEDITATION GIVES STABILITY TO THE MIND”  Ian Gawler 

Maria 🙂

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