Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Training Wheels

Before you learned how to ride a bike, you probably used training wheels. Training wheels helped you get the feel for riding a bike. You could learn to pedal, to stop, and to turn the wheel. And you could do so without fear of falling (or at least without as much fear).

Meditation retreats are like training wheels.

Think of what you do when you go to a meditation retreat. You go away, to a quiet room, away from distractions. The people are generally nice and kind (not like the ones back at work!). There is no computer or phone nearby. And in that quiet undistracted space you sit and breathe, for a day, or a week, or a year.

Like riding a bicycle, the most important practice in contemplative life might just be balance. And, just like training wheels, meditation retreats offer training in just about everything except balance.

The question that I always hear at retreats is "how do I take this home?" And the simple answer is you can't, because a retreat is, by design, a safe space. You are protected from the very things that are problems at home. (And even at a retreat, mediation is difficult!)

But just like training wheels, retreats have incredible value. While you might struggle a bit when you get home, the line between when you are meditating and when you are not will become more and more difficult to find.

Training wheels are usually cast aside. We don't generally do that with retreats. But we might just find we need them a lot less.


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