This post is by Paige, a passage meditator living in Davis, California. Paige shares how she creates a "personal retreat" to help her focus and strengthen her practice of the eight points from her own home.
I am very fortunate to live only a couple of hours from the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation (BMCM) and have been able to attend three retreats in Tomales since beginning my practice in earnest in early 2014. It’s such a gift to be able to take a break from my busy life, really focus on Easwaran’s teachings with no distractions, learn from people more experienced than I am—especially those who learned from Easwaran himself, and have a good solid dose of spiritual companionship in a beautiful setting!
Alas, it’s not practical to go to Tomales every week—my goal is to get there twice a year! But what I can do is have my own “personal retreat”—a day where I choose to put the chaos of everyday life aside and refocus my attention on the eight-point program.
Even though I live alone, my weeks are busy with work, household chores, and other activities, and though I do get my daily mediation in, I often struggle to weave the other seven points consistently into my life. I come back from a BMCM retreat energized and with lots of ideas for improvement, but daily life takes over again and I find myself needing a spiritual break!
(Left) Taking a mantram walk with my dog, Smitti! (Right) My meditation corner.
This month, I did a one-day personal retreat, and I thought I would share how I planned it and how it went.
My first step was to set an intention for the day, and to create a schedule from there to support it. It can be tempting for me to try and fit too much in, so I was careful to keep a narrow focus. This time, I chose one-pointed attention as my theme—an area that I continue to struggle with at home and at work. I looked over my one-pointed attention worksheet and goals from my weeklong retreat last fall, and made up a schedule that would allow me to put one-pointed attention on one-pointed attention! Of course most of the other points were included as well—meditation, mantram, slowing down, and training the senses.
“If we are to free ourselves from this tyrannical, many-pointed mind, we must develop some voluntary control over our attention. We must know how to put it where we want.”
(Eknath Easwaran, Passage Meditation, p. 123)
I included many activities familiar from BMCM retreats—two meditation sessions (morning and evening), spiritual reading, and a mantram walk. But although this was a “retreat,” I wanted to practice one-pointed attention with the things I want or need to get done on a normal weekend. I also chose a small (but important) project that I have been putting off—making a bracelet for my sister.
This was my schedule for the day:
- 5:00 Coffee and reading--Chapter 4 from Passage Meditation
- 6:00 Meditation
- 7:15 Mantram walk with my dog
- 8:00 Breakfast and cleanup
- 9:00 Household chores—start laundry
- 9:30 Yoga and back strengthening exercises
- 10:00 Work on bracelet (after putting laundry in the dryer)
- 11:30 Fold laundry
- 12:00 Lunch and cleanup
- 1:00 Passage memorization work
- 1:30 Yard work (with mantram) and throw ball for the dog
- 3:00 Banjo practice
- 3:30 Prepare dinner and extra food for the work week
- 5:00 Dinner and cleanup
- 6:00 Meditation
- 6:30 Play with dog, shower
- 7:00 Reading from The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living
- 8:00 Lights out
Throughout the day I focused on doing everything one-pointedly—preparing food, doing laundry, playing with my dog, doing dishes, etc. At the same time I could not help but slow down, which helped me with the training the senses. And my meditation was deeper as well!
(Left) Making some potato salad as part of my weekly meal prep. (Right) Mantram art.
As Easwaran says…
“Developing a one-pointed mind as suggested here will enrich your life moment by moment. You will find that your senses are keener, your emotions more stable, your intellect more lucid, your sensitivity to the needs of others heightened. Whatever you do, you will be there more fully.” (Passage Meditation, p. 138)
My retreat day really helped me to get the feel of putting my full attention on everything I do. It didn’t magically make me perfect, but I think working these mini-retreats in periodically will be beneficial to my spiritual practice. Next time I think it would be nice to get away, slow down, and have a camping retreat!