No Need to Suffer a Retreat
A few years ago I spent several days in a group program in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The place is called Shambhala Mountain Center. It’s a beautiful place to spend some time. I met a man who built the center’s stupa, a monument with a large Buddha statue inside it. A long time ago, Buddha instructed his students to cremate his body and place his remains in a stupa. People could then come anytime to Buddha's shrine to venerate and worship it, and renew their connection to the Buddha’s teachings. This stupa is open from 10 am to 6 pm.
I went there to experience what my friends and many others have shared with me about being there. They described their days of solitude, quietness, meditation, bowing, ringing bowls, being off-grid, and restricting their diet in transformative terms. They made claims of increase peacefulness and happiness. Sounded great. So, I went.
I found the experience of focused-walking, sitting, yoga’ing, and meditating among the beauty of the trees, birds, flowers, and the enormous statue of a golden Buddha, contemplating my existence in the mystery of the cosmos to be a source of great misery. Yep. Could barely stand it. I took notes during my experience there, and instead the filling pages with great insight and revelation, I wrote psalms to my wife about how much I missed her and the delicious foods I desired to cook and eat with my daughters after coming home.
So I was a bit amused when everyone else in my group at the end of a recent retreat described their experience in wonderful, positive, life-changing terms. How could anyone enjoy themselves so much in such conditions, where sources of pleasure, entertainment, distraction, good food and drink are removed? How can enjoyment increase when pleasure is decreased? Why would anyone willingly put himself or herself through this? I wondered.
And then, I realized something clearly. Our minds are everything. How I experience life is determined mostly by how I think about it. My mind directs the way in which I experience my life. Every experience that we had in the past, have presently, or will have in the future will be shaped by our thoughts.
This is a truth that might not be obvious to everyone, especially when life seems wonderful. And it’s a truth that does not require anyone to spend days in a solitude wilderness retreat uncomfortably sitting or, God-forbid, bowing in front of a 30-foot golden Buddha.
Truths about the mind and its practical application to life are universal and immediately accessible to everyone. You don’t need to be a Yogi, a worshiper of Buddha, bang a drum or a bowl, or alone in the woods for days in order to tap into the amazing power of your mind, your heart, and your spirit. During my retreat, I was guided into the woods, where we repeated a strange language over and over while walking around in circles amongst the trees. Oye, I thought to myself. What a long way to get to a spiritual destination and mental awareness. I knew that there must be a more immediate and just effective, fulfilling way.
In 1 John 4:13 it says, "This we know, that we dwell in God (the Spirit), and God in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit." Well there's the answer. This is how immediate our access to Spirit is. I'm dwelling in Spirit.
As Sam Harris writes in his book, Waking Up, “Each of us is looking for a path back to the present. We are trying to find good enough reasons to be satisfied now. Acknowledging that this is the structure of the game we are playing allows us to play it differently.” The level to which we understand how immediate the access to power and abundance is will shape the life we experience and determine how satisfied we are with it right now.
I agree. There are two truths that I’d like to share:
The King’s Guide is written to help readers investigate for themselves certain spiritual truths that can be practically applied to life. The Buddha taught that what you think, you become. True. Descartes taught that everything exists because you think. Yes. I encourage you to investigate certain truths for yourself and learn how to be mindful about what you're thinking, regardless of what you are doing.
Hanging out at Shambhala with some friends was nice, but the experience taught me that to live a more than abundant life, there exists a mental connection to Spirit that is both effective and immediate.
I encourage you to continue in your studies and read how Mindfulness Enables Men to Be Powerful.
Tips for Men to Be Better Men, Wonderful Husbands, and Loving Fathers