Silence, breath & gratitude: Meditation retreat reflection

By Doyeon Park

Recently I was at the Won Dharma Center leading the Young People’s Retreat along with my fellow Won Buddhist teachers. There were about 40 practitioners both new and experienced gathered together for a silent weekend retreat. As a long time Won Buddhist, it’s obvious that meditation retreats are essential for my spiritual growth and wellbeing. But for most people who are new to Buddhist practice, a meditation retreat is unknown and they ask me what it is about. Well… I would say, “Meditation retreats allow us to step out of the complexity of everyday life, focus on spiritual practice and find inner peace and happiness.” But this time I asked retreat participants to share their experiences:

The Young People’s retreat at the Won Dharma Center provides a space and time to experience the powers of self-exploration and compassion through meditation practice and meaningful discussions about life. This year was my second time at the retreat. The noble silence is one of the most memorable and powerful aspects of the retreat and I was looking forward to it this time. Having the noble silence creates a space where people are practicing meditation together, but also only with one’s self. Then, when noble silence ends during dharma talks and at the closing, there is a sense of closeness between everyone taking part. People’s words appear to be more carefully chosen and are often very powerful and insightful. I would recommend a meditation retreat to anyone, it is a moment to place a mirror in front of one’s self and total existence and breathe in the true awesomeness that is life! - Eric Lebowitz

meditation retreat1

While practicing noble silence, I had to rely on the essential kindness of strangers. When I say essential, I mean that their kindness that did not rely on likability, common interests, or even common language. Without the opportunity to present myself through words, my identity began to dissolve. I was no longer defined by a list of characteristics. Though silence allowed me to dive deeper within myself, it also allowed me to expand in the presence of others. The narrowness of individual identity gave way to the vastness of a shared spiritual space. The sense of common purpose that existed in this space supported and deepened my own meditation practice, and helped me to understand the wordless, nameless nature of true compassion. - Hannah Leffingwell

meditation retreat2

I would recommend this retreat to anyone willing to better his or her self. It was full of multicultural, diverse individuals born in the millennial generation. I mention millennials because of the negative stereotype we are stigmatized by due to our fixation on vanity and materialism. The focus is egotistical and wanting instant gratification causing us to lose touch with intrinsic values. Of course, I am generalizing, but the love for one's self, community involvement, and compassion are all lacking. My intention for the retreat was to learn to be more mindful. I was able to work on that goal throughout the weekend with the aid of the spiritual teachers and peers, who were inspiring and so helpful. The noble silence aspect made me realize how obsessed I am with talking about nonsense and practicing meditation helps push out those intrusive negative thoughts and to be aware of the now. Mindfulness allows us to be in the moment, attentive to our present feelings and not to project on the future creating anxieties and fears. Our source nature is to love. The retreat reminded me that and provided me a new perspective on how to operate in my personal life utilizing what I learned.  - Megan O'Sullivan

meditation retreat3

My intention for this retreat was to reflect on the past 10 years of my life, since I just recently turned 30. After the first night I realized how much I just needed to give space for non-doing. Even allowing myself not to do anything is a tough one. Since this was a silent meditation retreat, I was pondering the question; what is silence? Sounds weird to think about this, but in the end I could not answer to this question. The quieter I was, the more noise there was. Try it. Book a 3hour-slot on Sunday, embrace the silence and try to answer that question.
The past couple years of more intensive meditation practice have told me a lot about my energetic relationship to the world and how much I can gain insights about life with it. Meditation has thought me how to be proactive in the world rather than reactive, like an inner compass. It is a personal practice, but the value of community is huge. Reflecting with others made this weekend memorable. - Markus Karjalainen