“Retreats are the best way to deepen practice and clear away the dust,” a Tricycle reader tells us. “‘Retreat’ isn’t the right word,” another writes. “When I go to the monastery, I’m not retreating from anything, but rather deliberately going toward something—that opening that lets me devote myself full time to the matter at hand. I think it’s hilarious that when I tell friends that I’m going on a Buddhist retreat, they invariably say, ‘Oh, that’s lovely—it sounds so relaxing!’ as if I were going to a spa instead of to a place where I’ll sleep in a bunk bed, sit motionless on a cushion for hours a day, scrub floors, and eat oatmeal.”
To learn about your retreat experiences, Tricycle surveyed nearly 400 readers to find out which centers are your favorites and what kinds of retreats you prefer. The topic respondents were most vocal about was, surprisingly, silence. Nearly 90 percent favor “near silence” or “many silent periods” while on retreat.
“Most powerful and productive retreats have involved silence,” one respondent explains. “I always have too much to say, so it’s good to shut up and hear what I really mean. 😉 OX.”
Others complain about a lack of silence: “Many retreats are advertised as ‘silent,’ but, in fact, retreatants engage in quite a bit of unnecessary talking.” Another reader agrees, describing the average retreat as having “too much chatter and not enough time to be silent and look within.”
Weekend retreats are the most popular, being preferred for their convenience and cost by close to half of those polled. As one person puts it, “I find it financially difficult to go on anything longer than a weekend retreat.” Another reader prefers the shorter period out of consideration for her two young children, but notes that these retreats “tend to be for those newer to retreat, so they don’t always meet my needs.” Over 40 percent of respondents report a preference for retreats that last a week or longer. “When working a full-time job,” one reader says, “I find I need at least ten days for my body to fully relax.”
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