I came across a blog post a few days ago. In the post the author described his experiment of living as a recluse for 10 days. As someone who goes on retreat for 8 days roughly every year or so I was interested to see what he had discovered.
He locked himself into his basement for 10 days. He allowed himself access to email, social media and the internet but chose not to make any response.
Well – it was clear from his post that he won’t be repeating any time soon.He had clearly not bothered to explore any of the spiritual traditions which support periods of isolation. I wonder how different his experience would have been if he had found an isolated cabin and cut himself off from all internet access.
I suspect with sunlight, fresh air and the ability to exercise his experience may have been more positive.
The other crucially important aspect of a silent retreat is cutting oneself off from mental stimuli – no reading, no internet, no conversations or other contact with anyone other than your spiritual director.
This environment fosters a useful space where I can sort my thoughts out. Over the days I can slowly discern what is truly important. The experience is always powerful and occasionally it can be truly transformative.
I have no doubt though, that if I were simply to shut myself in a basement with no possibility of real exercise, with no sunlight, and with a continual stream of external stimuli that the experience would be rather on the more soul destroying end of the spectrum.
But it got me thinking – Do I pick up and run with ideas before really understanding what is meant or intended? When I try something and it fails miserably, is it always because the idea is a bad one – or is it sometimes because I failed to research sufficiently to understand the essence.
And in another way, what of the growing popularity of meditation practices? There is a strong movement at the moment some business communities to encourage mediation as a practice which will enhance productivity. Given that most meditation practices are formed in order to aid one towards detachment or freedom or indifference, I can’t help but wonder where this fad is going.
I hope that the meditation does eventually achieve the end for which it was developed. If the highly flying world of business becomes slightly more detached, non-violent and compassionate through the practice of meditation there may just be hope for our world after all!