Intensive Workshops and Retreats Versus Gradual Growth
By Remez Sasson
Do you believe that inner skills and powers can be attained almost overnight?
Do you sometimes, read about certain techniques, workshops or books, which promise you instant improvement of your life?
Were you led to believe that the ability to focus the mind, self-discipline or peace of mind, can be attained fast and with no effort at all?
Were you told that all you need to do is a few simple things, a few minutes a day, and in a short time, you will completely transform our life?
Anything worth having requires some worl and effort.
You don't learn to speak a foreign language fluently within two weeks.
You don't become a sports championship after only a few weeks of little training?
You don't become an engineer, a pilot or a medical doctor within a few days or weeks.
You don't become a skilled carpenter, sculptor or painter only through reading or participating in a workshop.
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 retreats 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, he 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 artificial 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 with weight lifting first, sail a boat alone, without learning and training 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 training? 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 this ability would stay with them. The results might be only temporary. With others, this situation might only aggravate matters, creating disturbing thoughts and emotions, and bringing on uncontrolled awakening of dormant and repressed thoughts, emotions and fears.
I am not speaking against participating in such programs, but these things need to be attempted gradually, without instigating undue pressure on the body, the conscious mind and the subconscious mind.
Meditation and Silence Retreats
Meditation and silence retreats have become quite popular. If you participate in them, it is advisable that you first learn to sit quietely at home, without movements, attempting not to think of anything in particular. Without this prior training, it would be more difficult.
The truth is that if you can manage to reach 20 or 30 minutes of such meditation, at home, even if it takes you months, that's a great accomplishment. That is gradual progress, and that's better than an intensive workshop.
Participating in a silence retreat for a week or more, without being ready for it, might be a great toll or your nerves. 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 training.
Real results are attained if you practice daily, not intensively for a few days, 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.
However, you need to be careful, if you decide to participate in intensive retreats or workshops, where you are supposed to plunge deeply into unfamiliar situations, and practice certain methods in an intensive manner. This might bring out the hidden contents of your subconscious mind, without the supervision of expert and professional people.
The subconscious mind stores too many repressed memories, thoughts and emotions, which can hurt you, if let them out in an uncontrolled manner. Gradual release is much better. It 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.