This past weekend, I finally did something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time:
I went on a meditation retreat.
For about a year, I’ve received daily positive quotations via email from a group called Peace Village. I’m not sure how I even found them. I do, however, vividly remember what our lives were like back then:
We were one stressed-out family a year ago. My father-in-law had just died, we still hadn’t quite finished moving into our house, I couldn’t find a job, my mom-in-law was selling everything she owned and moving to Maine, my daughter was struggling with anxiety…
Let’s just say it was not a very easy time in our lives.
I signed up for a few emailed positive quotation services to help me cope with the chaos. Peace Village was one of them.
Along with the emails came monthly notices of their upcoming weekend workshop retreats. I always looked at them with longing, but since I believed that I couldn’t afford anything as “extravagant” as a weekend retreat, I usually sighed, deleted the email, and went on with my
This past May, I received yet another email from Peace Village, and this time, for some reason, I read a lot more closely. There was one weekend retreat in particular that looked too good to pass up: “Inner Peace – Inner Power”. The description couldn’t have been better tailored to fit me:
Learn Raja Yoga, a practical and simple form of meditation and spiritual understanding that sets the foundation for ongoing spiritual development. It is about discovering, exploring and understanding one’s inner world of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, values, and intentions and developing the spiritual skills / inner strength to face the realities of the outer world. It is the art of bringing inner and outer realities into balance starting from the inside out. Becoming more aware of your internal environment enables you to check, choose and change. You will start to develop a sense of mastery as you recognize the inner resources that you have and your ability and responsibility to use them to create a better quality of life.
Meditation? I definitely needed it. I suffered from “brain chatter” for so long, I began to believe I would never be able to shut off that constant stream of thought that has driven me nuts for the last couple of years.
I looked more seriously into the retreat. Inner peace sounded wonderful. I explained to my husband what I wanted to do, and he told me to go for it. So I registered. Then I emailed my dear friend, Anne, and asked her if she wanted to come. She happily signed up as well.
The funny thing is that Anne and I, like many others we met at this retreat, went into this totally blind. We knew nothing about Peace Village, and we certainly went without any grand expectations. We knew we would be learning “Raja Yoga”, which was apparently a type of meditation. Toward that end, we packed our comfiest exercise clothes. However, unlike some of the others, we didn’t go so far as to bring a yoga mat, mostly because it wasn’t on the packing list!
When Friday finally arrived, and we were on the turnpike heading to New York, I was still thinking that, even if the weekend was a bust, at least I’d have had a Girls’ Weekend Out/Road trip with Anne.
I needn’t have worried, because the retreat was fantastic.
Anne and I were happily surprised by the beauty of the surroundings, and the facilities themselves. Located in the Catskill Mountains of New York state, Peace Village is a meditation/retreat center set on 300 beautiful wooded acres. The facilities are still fairly new, as Peace Village opened in 1999, and they are kept in great shape by the many wonderful and kind volunteers who make up the staff.
Peace Village is run by the Brahma Kumaris, a worldwide spiritual “non-governmental” organization founded in 1936. Their mission is to teach others about the power of transformation through meditation and positive thinking. While they teach that God is a the highest power, they are not a church, nor a religion; instead, they see God as the supreme being, the primary source of energy and light.
I was happy to learn that they do not believe God is an angry, vengeful, or punitive being, but rather one that is loving, tolerant, and kind. They believe that God helps us aspire to be and do good, and to live a positive, peaceful life. Since I wasn’t raised to believe in a wrathful God, this was a relief.
From their website:
The Brahma Kumaris seeks to help individuals re-discover and strengthen their inherent worth by encouraging and facilitating a process of spiritual awakening. This leads to an awareness of the importance of thoughts and feelings as the seeds of actions. The development of virtues and values-based attitudes creates a practical spirituality which enhances personal effectiveness in the workplace and in family life.
The weekend was busy from one end to the other–we arrived at 6 p.m., had our first class at 7:30, and were on the go until 9:30 at night. Saturday started at 7 a.m. and didn’t end until 9:15; the last day, Sunday, began at 7 a.m. and ran until we departed after breakfast, around 10 a.m.
Practically every single minute was filled with classes, workshops, training, and information, all of which came together Sunday morning in a final meditation that was so peaceful, and so joyful, I’m not sure I’ll be able to accurately describe it without sounding totally insane.
As it turns out, Raja Yoga meditation has nothing to do with Yoga positions such as “Downward Dog” or “Warrior”, but is instead a meditation based upon the concept of Yoga (“Unity”) with the “Raja” (King, or supreme one). This is done by bringing ourselves into “supreme union” or “highest connection” with the “Supreme Source” of energy and consciousness, who the Brahma Kumaris believe is God. Through that supreme union, we remember that we are not bodies, but are rather souls, and can transform our lives and come to a place of peace, and clarity. The minds still, the thoughts calm, and the chatter in our brains becomes quiet.
As you can see, yoga mats were definitely not needed.
Suffice it to say, for now, that the experience was truly transformative. It felt like I couldn’t possibly cram as much into my brain as they were asking, but somehow I did and, as I already mentioned, the full meditation we did Sunday morning was life-altering. I am still glowing from the final meditation experience.
There was so much to the weekend, that I can’t cover it all in one post. It was an amazing experience, and I will give further details later this week on what I learned and the things we did.
In the meantime, your Monday Challenge is this:
Take some time this week to look over the websites linked above, and find out more about meditation, and how it can positively affect your life. Although some people are quick to dismiss meditation as namby-pamby new-age gobbledygook, meditation is actually shown to have positive health benefits for those who practice it.
If Peace Village and the Brahma Kumaris sound a little too “far out” for you, then at least do a google search for meditation practices, or how meditation can help you. I’m sure you will, at the very least, find the information intriguing enough for a second look.
Om shanti, and aloha.