Pre Retreat Fears

I was touched by the candor expressed in this email, and felt others might be touched too.

Hi Rev Mugo

I was due to attend the introductory retreat this weekend but canceled Friday at 11-15am. It filled me with sadness to do that but realised that I was really dreading it. Even though I could see it was just thoughts and that it is only two nights I just could not give my self up to it. Shared sleeping (accommodation), the fixed regimen, no space to escape and all unknown and new in long days after a week at work. I’ve always struggled with ‘joining-in’, and 3 of the 4 I would have been ok with but not all 4. It’s not the sitting I feared (I sit at home for 30mins each day).

Sadness because I would like to deepen practice but also at having realised, and had to let go of, attachment to ideas of how I feel towards letting go of my ego’s demands. So I am sitting with not knowing…

Being at home this weekend will give me time to be with friends and family and help out there; they have had a tough time of late and I am thankful to have been able to help. I should remember to be who I am and not chase after who I feel I should be. How many times have I forgotten that.

I’ll sit with my difficulty with formal religion and might be able to draw on the no doubt rich experience that the community has to offer one day…

In gassho

My reply follows here:

Dear Friend,
You know your story is probably a very common one. However your willingness to share it so frankly is unusual. It’s rather easy to write about the bright and light side of life less so for times when one’s inner life is less than one might wish of oneself. You plainly recognized that the retreat was just going to be too much at that particular point in time. Things change and no doubt you have changed perspective too since writing.

What you have expressed, as I said already, is probably what a lot of people go through around attending a retreat. I know many people sign up and then cancel in the end. I’m wondering if you would be willing for me to publish your letter on ‘jade’ along with an edited version of this reply? It might help others in a similar predicament to know they are not the only one in the world to cancel out on a meditation retreat, or visit to a priory or monastery. Often there is more at stake (when taking those initial steps) than anybody could realize at the time, and that can be deeply scary without really knowing why.
In gassho,

May the merit of this posting be offered to the friends and family of my correspondent.

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2 thoughts on “Pre Retreat Fears”

  1. I understand all too well the feelings expressed & agree it is refreshing to hear the honesty. What I can offer is that there is some space to “escape” – the grounds are large & beautiful & there is the opportunity to walk during breaks. Sometimes the accommodation allows privacy, sometimes not. And the struggle about joining in is shared by many.

  2. I would echo Angie’s comments to your friend- and add that it took me a couple of years before I was willing and able to attend my first retreat at Throssel – you are certainly not alone.

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