Since time immemorial, mystics have been taking retreats in order to commune with higher consciousness and evolve spiritually. In India, the combination of Yoga, Ayurveda and meditation has given rise to a sub-culture where body, mind and soul are regarded as one organic unity.
In the mainstream flow of religion, there are such observances as 40 days of Lent, (for Catholics) or Ramadan, (for people of Islam) or the Shabbat, (for people of the Jewish faith.) These practices are all designed to support people in connecting with spirit through observing abstinence. In the Buddhist tradition, Meditation Retreats, of 3, 6 or 10 days at a time are considered to be of paramount importance for the continued well being of any spiritually minded person. Longer retreats are organized for monks or would be monks.
In our modern world, where religious norms are falling apart, and new quests for spiritual re-connection are being explored, new ways of experiencing retreats are also being born. Detox and fasting retreats are big business in various parts of the world, as are darkness retreats, holistic holidays, meditation retreats of many kinds, Shamanic initiations involving solitude and survival in nature, the list goes on…..
I would like to explore the basic reason why retreats (of various kinds) are important for every human being no matter what their religious persuasion. We are spiritual beings in a physical body. Or, we are bodies with spiritual attributes. There is a deep thirst in every human being to find that place of well being, when body, mind and soul are all in tune with each other. In a sense, we are like instruments, which need regular tuning. Sometimes, it is our bodies that need to detox, and sometimes it is our mind that needs to simply unplug from daily routine, and sometimes it is our soul that needs to open it’s wings and fly into the furthest reaches of our spirit essence.
Life is a constant tuning and balance between the musical notes of body, mind, soul and spirit. When our ‘musical scale’ is tuned properly, we hear the exquisite music of a life well lived, resonating in our being.
When I look around at people, I notice that many people have not realized the simple fact that life is in need of continuous balance. I see that people tend to go towards an extreme in one direction, and forget that other elements of their being are equally important. Sadly, many times, people die early, because of this.
For example, someone may be into exploring raising their consciousness, and do extreme practices of meditation and personal development, but pay no attention what so ever to their physical well being or nutritional health. If we raise our consciousness, it is essential to then take time to help the body to catch up with the step, which has been taken in consciousness. If the gap is too big between body and soul, the body will freak out and will become ill. In general, the body needs more time to catch up with what the mind or soul has achieved. This means, a good detox retreat with plenty of fresh air and health-giving exercise should always be part of, or follow, a consciousness raising experience.
The contrary is also true. Some people are gung-ho into a raw food optimal health diet, but pay no attention to the need to detox their mind and emotional aspects, or to explore deep meditation and the communion with the soul. This is also a big mistake, which can lead to mental and emotional imbalance.
A trend that is increasingly popular and also can bring destruction in its wake, is the ‘addiction’ to using plant medicine, i.e., African Iboga or South American Ayahuasca. If this is your only way to do consciousness raising and physical detox it can easily fall into a downward spiral. Some people of course, use these plants in a mature and correct manner, with proper ritual, taken on rare occasions, and with an experienced Shaman as a guide. When used like this, these plants can be very beneficial. But some people are treating these plants almost like recreational drugs, to their detriment.
If you take an Ayahuasca trip, it does not replace doing your homework of emotional release, breathwork, meditation and a healthy detox and diet. Just remember the general rule; if you raise consciousness in any way, this needs to be integrated on the levels of body, mind and soul before you go on another such adventure. The visions that you experienced on your Ayahuasca trip need to be integrated as reality in your daily life, before you take another such trip. Integrating a quantum leap in consciousness, can take years of working on body mind and emotions, before you will be ready for another such quantum leap.
I have seen very sad individuals who completely fried their brain and body by overdoing plant medicine. One was completely possessed by entities, had hallucinations and had taken to self-harm. Another had entirely lost his ability to experience orgasm. He could ejaculate, but experienced no pleasure from this.
I have also seen a very silly trend, among the fasting community. A person may do a profound 10-day fast, where they purge their body of all manner of harmful substances they have ingested. Directly after the fast, they are seen gorging on ice cream, pizza and what have you.
This kind of extreme behaviour will certainly confuse your body and lead to ill health.
Where I am going with all this information is to explore a phenomenon, which is quite challenging to find in the world. This is, a retreat, which combines detox and physical well-being practices together with meditation. Vipassana Retreats are very popular, and people will often take 10 days to dive into these masterfully guided and precious groups, letting go of the old and opening to a new level of awareness. However, I have heard that the quality of food in the main centre in India for these retreats, is extremely unhealthy, with sugar and greasy food being prevalent.
When I was searching throughout the world for a place to do a 21-day, spiritual fast, with fasting, silence and intensive meditation practice, there was literally nowhere I could find, which combined all of these. I wanted the professional guidance of a holistic doctor; combined with a beautiful milieu and enough quiet that I could be in silence and just go in….
Finally, I settled on the Hawaii Naturopathic Retreat Centre, with Dr. Maya Baylac, as being the most balanced option. It was not ideal because the other people who were in the retreat centre were speaking, but Dr. Baylac was very supportive of me being in my own personal retreat space, and she did everything to make sure I had an optimal experience. My experience doing a spiritual fast was so powerfully life transforming, that I began thinking how important it is to offer retreats where body, mind and soul are equally nourished.
Recently, I had the great blessing of being in a gathering of friends at the Shambhala Centre in North Thailand. We did a Meditation Retreat to usher in the New Dawn, 21st December 2012. We were in silence for the three days leading up to the 21st, and doing various active or silent meditations all day long. Our mainstay was Satsang Meditation each morning at the crack of dawn, (done Osho style) with live music and silence alternating. On the 21st at precisely the time of the portal opening into the New Dawn, (according to the Mayan Calander) we took part in the worldwide simultaneous meditation practice which I had devised, called The New Dawn Meditation.
Our gathering continued all the way till New Years Eve, and it was such a beautiful experience that we want to repeat it every year. The time and place is to be decided, but this is something, which really touches me – a simple and celebrative meditation gathering of like-minded souls.
There are many ways of doing retreats and I would like to list a few of them here below. The retreats mentioned are based on my own experience, or recommended by friends, so if your retreat is not listed, please don’t take offence. You are welcome to write into our newsletter if you know of some special retreat centre, which has a balanced approach to body, mind and soul.
- Osho Nisarga in Dharamsala India, offers various retreats, such as a 21 day in silence and isolation, meditation retreat / A Satori Retreat, (a branch of the Enlightenment Intensive technique) / The 21 day Mystic Rose (which includes laughter, crying and silent sitting) and the Tantra Meditation Retreat (which I teach each year in November together with my team).
- The Tree of Life; in Patagonia Arizona, founded by Dr. Gabriel Cousens, offers fasting and raw food detox, physical evaluation and diagnostics, Ayurveda Pancha Karma and other helpful practices. Dr. Cousens also offers his retreats in Israel.
- Hawaii Naturopathic Retreat Centre with Dr. Maya Baylac, offering fasting and live food detox, with a wide range of supportive health methods.
- The Spa Resort, Koh Samui Thailand; For fasting and detox. They have one location at the beach, which is a bit hectic for my taste, and another centre in the jungle, which is really lovely and quiet.
- The Sanctuary; Thailand: Is a place like no other I have come across. It is an eclectic blend of many elements; including detox retreats, groups, meditations, festivals, holidays, all taking place in a remote, paradise island setting.
- Awareness Academy; in Corfu, Greece, with Ganga. She leads meditation retreats using the method Kyol Che, (Korean Zen) and Satori. Both are highly recommended.
- Psychedelic, Shamanic, plant based medicine retreats: If you want to explore this, make sure you only go for the best: These sites are recommended: Warrior Poet and Iboga House.
- Natsukashi Retreat with Kohrogi Sensei: is about coming back home to your original face. I have been going to his retreat for the past 18 years, almost every year, and am always enriched beyond measure. There is one in April, in Japan and one in August in France, this year. Email Champaka to find out more.
- Your own retreat; It is possible to design your own retreat in your own home, or in a holiday location, with a physical cleanse, such as that offered by Blessed Herbs, and with silent meditation in a rhythm of your choice. It is also extraordinary to go into a silent retreat with a partner. In such a case you may be doing silent sittings all day long, or you may be doing a series of Tantra meditations together. I have done such retreats many times, and all of the options I have listed, are simply exquisite.
- Welcome Home Retreat: At Chateau Bellevue in France, facilitated by me and Nisarga, (he is expert in various forms of massage.) This retreat combines, detox healthy diet, yoga, meditation, massage and walks in nature (April 3—7, 2013).
- Retreat Journey: I am in the process of investigating a good Ayurvedic Centre in South India, as I plan on going to one in December 2013 with a group of friends. We will do the Tantra Meditation Retreat, in November, followed by a tour of Khajuraho, and then an Osho Meditation Camp in Nagpur (led by me) and finally a two-week Ayurvedic cleanse in South India. If you are interested in this Retreat Journey, stay tuned to the newsletter!