Finding a Retreat
Winter is a good time for formal practice. The days are short; the nights are long. The weather is cold and encourages us to find cozy spaces to settle in. There is a natural momentum towards long sits in dark rooms, or finding ourselves getting up at odd hours and being wide awake. Traditionally, meditators have found this time to be a fantastic for formal practice.
We’ll naturally find ourselves in a quiet mood. Every time we sit by a windowsill or curl up on the couch might be cause for an hour to fly by in reverie. But we can also be more intentional with our practice. The rhythms we set up early can support us throughout the long winter and keep our resolve from weakening before spring arrives. And doing a formal retreat is a great way to set rhythms.
Few places have as many options for doing structured meditation retreat as the Pioneer Valley. In terms of institutions, Dhammadhara in Shelburne and the Insight Meditation Society in Barre are known internationally and are some of the oldest such centers in the West (at dhamma.org and dharma.org respectively, they CLEARLY got in the game early). The former offers heavily structured 10 day meditation courses completely free of charge, while the latter has three facilities offering a diverse array of programs at a range of costs. You can go for a weekend or a year.
Both of these organizations are in high demand, and booking as far in advance as possible is a good idea. But there are also many groups posting events on more short notice. Insight Western Mass in Easthampton and Vermont Insight in Brattleboro are smaller branches of the insight tradition that are constantly running programs. Our friend Mark Hart with Bodhisara has also been leading meditations and retreats in the area for decades, with many online and now in-person retreats through the pandemic. His latest upcoming posting is for a retreat the weekend of January 7th.
Our final option is to set aside time to practice and just go for it. If you’re taking this option, it’s best to be as clear as possible if we want solid results. Set a schedule and try to keep to it. Give yourself the best chance you can to be free of distractions. Actually turn the phone off. If you can gather a group for the same program, or if there is an online program you can follow, it can help to have accountability with other meditators. If at all possible, book a chat with a trusted teacher or mentor for mid-retreat to help clarify the questions that are likely to come up.
Tahn Pamutto’s time in NYC has already been very busy. Communities there were pretty sleepy during the height of lockdowns but there is a lot of enthusiasm for gathering and growth. After New Year, he returns to Shelburne, where a new space is waiting for living and offering practice opportunities. Until then, Happy Holidays!