Top five takeaways from my first meditation retreat
by guest blogger Olivia Schachtel
After my first meditation class at Chill, I spotted a flyer on the desk as I was leaving. It read “Spring Meditation Retreat” with a beautiful photo of two blue beach chairs overlooking Lake Michigan. This simple, serene picture sparked something within me. I passed the flyer over to my mom, and we both in unison said “Yes!” Three weeks later, we drove from Chicago to New Buffalo, Michigan for what would be my first meditation retreat.
Before the retreat, my meditation practice was pretty typical of a beginner. I had done my fair share of twenty-minute daily sessions, but sitting on a cushion for longer was intimidating. I am not a meditation guru, or some enlightened being who travels the world doing meditation retreats. I just consider myself a 22-year-old woman who wanted to find some freedom from the everyday stress -- something I know meditation offers. Luckily, going on this retreat was exactly the right call. I gained a deeper understanding into the never-ending roller coaster I call my thoughts. Here are the top 5 reasons why going on a meditation retreat should be on your radar:
It’s good for you
The benefits of meditation are endless. Really, just hop on Google and the amount of research will amaze you. From chronic pain to anxiety to depression, people are turning to meditation for major relief. A study from one of my favorite researchers, Richard Davidson, studied compassion and empathy in college students. He studied the brains of both meditators and non-meditators and found that the meditator’s brains showed higher emotional regulation, more focused attention, and more empathy than those who had not meditated. There is even evidence that it shrinks the fear center in the brain. Another piece of research found that adults who did an eight-week meditation course had greater immunity to the flu than those who had gotten the flu shot. The flu shot! So pretty much, meditation helps with it all. From health, to kindness, meditation delivers.
Finding time is hard
Everyone is busy. It can be hard to find the time to meditate even when you know you should. You wake up in the morning, check your emails, hop on social media, and your mind starts racing. You begin thinking of who to respond to, your never-ending to-do list, and if those dinner plans with your parents are this week or next. Now, are you going to sit on a cushion for 20 minutes in silence, or answer that email from your boss? We know we will have a clearer mind after meditation but finding the time to do it is challenging. On this retreat, time is already carved out for you. Waking up in the morning to a guided meditation, and going to bed after a gong bath were some of my only plans for the day. No noise. No responsibilities. Only being present in the moment, totally stress-free.
Your body will thank you
This retreat offered nourishing food, yoga classes, nutrition, and health talks. It was a total immersion into wellness. Even if yoga isn’t your thing, it doesn’t matter. The class varied from beginner level to the highly-experienced and there was no judgment. By the end of the retreat, my whole being felt rejuvenated. I was not aware I could feel that good. That’s why they call it a retreat, right? Because you keep getting treat after treat as the weekend goes on.
It will improve your most important relationship
Before I left for this retreat, I was a bit stuck. I didn’t know it at that moment, but I wasn’t spending enough time with myself, and I mean, really with myself. Being a millennial, I am glued to my phone and, specifically, social media. I may be by myself physically, but when I am looking at pictures of other people’s lives, I am experiencing their stories. I looked at my life and just saw lack. Why wasn’t I traveling? Why didn’t my relationships look like the ones in my friend’s photos? I felt lonely and lost, but I just wasn’t listening. My truth was within and until I could get quiet enough, I wouldn’t hear it. During the last guided meditation session of the weekend, all that I learned culminated into one “ah-ha” moment. There I was again, taking a seat on my cushion, connecting to my breath and my body, and slowly floating away into inner bliss. Thoughts came into my mind, which I understood was normal. I refocused my attention to my breath and the meditation practice continued. I decided to use my new technique of watching my thoughts pass by like a river. “Wow, I’m actually doing it!” I thought. I am not alone when I am connected to myself. I am so happy to have found this shift, and for cultivating this inner knowledge and awareness that I so deeply longed for. How could I ever ask for anything more?
You’ll meet some pretty cool people along the way
Finally, the fun part. The people I met became my community and were on a similar journey to mine. By the end, we all became very close and I am still in contact with them today. The laughter, insightful conversations and connection amongst the community could only come together in an environment like this. However, there was also time for solitude and reflection. How often do you get an opportunity to either socialize with awesome people or enjoy your own company?
Bottom line, this retreat was transformative for me. If you have the opportunity in the future -- go!
Registration is now open for our fall meditation + wellness retreat.