Yoga Retreats and Meditation Retreats

Over the past few years, I've started to see a new phenomena: meditation retreats and yoga retreats in all sorts of exotic locations. When I lived in Hong Kong I'd always see the Fiji, Australia, and Bali yoga vacations being advertised. Now that I'm back in the US, I see Mexico, Hawaii, and Costa Rica yoga retreats advertised all the time.

Hmmm....are these things useful?

A vacation of any sort is a blessing is a blessing is a blessing. It's a way to shed your mind of worries for awhile, and if it's in an exotic location, even more reason to pack the bags and go. So that's my take on island resorts and yoga vacations.

Use whatever reasoning you need to restore your sanity, and whatever method works for you -- it's all a function of what Buddha calls skillful expedient means. Frankly, I'd spend my time windsurfing, scuba diving and everything else in places like this, but if you want to stretch then go for it. Whatever excuse you need to tear yourself away from the mundane mindset for awhile and give yourself a break is a prescription for healing in today's stressful world.

Now on the other hand, don't expect to make any great spiritual progress at these things. Great food, perfect weather, lots of exercise and fun, but spiritual progress? I doubt it.

An exception arises regarding a few places in the US (and in Asia) where you sit for hours every day doing vipassana meditation, and other types of prolonged, structured meditation retreats. At meditation centers, you're probably going to make some "spiritual progress" if that's what you're after. Grueling hours with your legs crossed, and a still mind is the result if you can make it past day three. It all comes down to LOTS of hours of practice, on a disciplined schedule...and if the place actually has a real spiritual master with samadhi, then it's EXTREMELY worthwhile.

Yoga retreats, however, are usually mostly for fun.

There's nothing wrong with fun. In fact, these retreats come with packages that are quite inexpensive and lots of fun. Check around and you'll see they can be more inexpensive than comparable vacations. You meet interesting people and get to see a new place in a quite different atmosphere than the "all commercial" resorts.

But for real progress, remember it all comes down to devoted meditation practice. The rule is: Disciplined Practice Effort + Practice Method + Time + Patience = Progress. That's what you have to remember. Of course if you can do that in a beautiful location, why not? There's nothing wrong with's all a matter of your finances. That's why people developed these things in the first place... because you need all sorts of skillful ways to attract people into the path.

So you have your choice of a local yoga center, local meditation workshop and the same thing in some far off location. Make sure you check out the teacher, because if you're looking for progress then that's what's extremely important. If a genuine master ever offers you a chance for a 7-day retreat, then go for it because they're rare and during that time, he can help you solve all sorts of problems through means I can't yet go into.

Other than that, if you can't take off a week, then sure, take a vacation for a day or so in some local vacation spot. Don't consider it spiritual progress, but mental healing from the stressful world. We work far too hard today, and it's sometimes what the doctor orders.



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