Intensive Workshops and Retreats Versus Gradual Growth
By Remez Sasson
Do you think that inner skills and powers can be attained almost overnight? Do you sometimes read about certain techniques, workshops or books, which if followed, can improve your life, almost instantaneously? Were you led to believe that concentration, self-discipline or peace of mind can be attained fast? Were you told that all you need to do is just do certain simple things a few minutes a day, and in a short time you will completely transform our life?
Can you learn to speak a foreign language fluently within two weeks? Can you be a sports championship after only a few weeks of little training? Can you become an engineer, a pilot or a medical doctor within a few days or weeks? Can you be a skilled carpenter, sculptor or painter only through reading or participating in a workshop? This is of course not possible.
A few days of intensive of training can introduce you to certain subjects, but will not make you an expert. A few days of intensive workshop will not solve all of your problems and make you a new person, nor will intensive meditation retreat bring you enlightenment and spiritual awakening. Things, more than often happen in gradual way. An average untrained person cannot lift one hundred pounds, but after proper and gradual training, one might be able to do so. So it is with inner development.
True and lasting inner development cannot be attained through drugs, pills, or forcing the mind to be quiet, through artifical or external means. There must be a gradual transformation. Everything in nature works in this way.
People are different from one another in their mental and emotional makeup, so that what is good and beneficial for one person is not necessarily good for another. What might work for one, might not work for another. What might take for one to accomplish in three months, might take for another three years.
Often, people who are not emotionally and mentally ready, participate in intensive retreats or workshop and suffer as a result. This brings a bad name for personal and spiritual growth, causing people to regard them with contempt. But these methods do work, but they have to be applied correctly and gradually, and tailored a bit differently for each person.
Would you consider lifting 100 pounds if you did not train in weightlifting first, sail a boat alone, without learning and training yourself first, or climb the Everest Mountain, before getting enough physical training and mountain climbing practice? What would happen if you attempt any of these activities, without being trained first? It would be disastrous. The same goes for participating in intensive inner development programs, without getting ready first.
Let's take an example of a silence retreat. Can the average person sit quietly, without much thinking, more than one minute? Can such a person plunge into such silence and inactivity for a whole week or more? Of course not! A few might learn to be calm, though it is not certain that what they get in just a few days will stay with them, because such results are usually only temporary. Others, in such a situation, might only aggravate matters, experience disturbing thoughts and emotions, and bring on uncontrolled awakening of dormant and repressed thoughts, emotions and fears.
I am not speaking against participating in such programs, but such things have to be attempted gradually, without instigating undue pressure on the body, the conscious mind and the subconscious mind.
It is advisable to learn to sit in silence first, without movements, and while attempting not to think of anything in particular, while alone at home. Attempt to do so for only 5 minute a day, for a week or two, and then extent the time to 10 minutes and so on. Believe me, it is not that easy to do so.
The truth is that if you can manage to reach 20 or 30 minutes of such meditation, even if it takes you months, that's a great accomplishment. Even then, participating in a silence retreat for a week or more might be a great toll or your nerves, but you will certainly be more prepared for it, and more in control of what might happen to you. In the long run, you will get more, by practicing for a short time each day, then practicing intensively for one week.
Please note that I have used the example of a meditation retreat, but the same applies to every other method of inner practice.
Real results are attained if you practice daily, not intensively for a few days, and away from your familiar life and circumstances. Sudden emotional and mental elation, sudden rise of inner strength, courage, happiness or inner peace, don't mean that they are going to stay. You have train yourself daily, in your usual and daily situations and circumstances, in order to have lasting results.
The purpose of the article is not to discourage you, but to encourage you to use more common sense and judgment, to understand that real and lasting results need time, effort and practice. Open your eyes and mind to new ideas, techniques and methods, and don't reject the new. On the other hand, do not accept everything without thinking and learning the facts and details.
Many retreats and workshops are helpful and useful. Many of them introduce you to certain subjects, teach you methods and techniques, give you useful tools, and teach you how deal with certain situations. It is only when you decide to participate in an intensive retreat or workshop, where you are supposed to plunge deeply into an unfamiliar situation, and practice certain methods in an intensive manner, bringing out the contents of your subconscious mind, without the supervision of expert and professional people that you should be very careful and wary.
The subconscious mind often stores too many repressed memories, thoughts and emotions, which can hurt you, if let them out in an uncontrolled manner. Gradual release, not too much intensively is better, and can lead to stable and real inner growth, enabling you to deal more comfortably with all of these repressions, clear them away, and gain real inner strength and peace.