7 Life Lessons I Learnt From My First Ever Meditation Retreat In The Himalayas

In 2016, I went on my first ever meditation retreat. I didn't just learn meditation techniques but took home seven important life lessons too!

In 2016, I went on my first ever meditation retreat. I didn’t just learn meditation techniques but took home seven important life lessons too!

I went to my first ever meditation retreat with my husband and in-laws to Dharamshala in 2016. The quaint meditation centre is nestled in the Himalayas.

You are welcomed to the website and even the premises with these words: “The whole existence is a temple, the trees are continuously in worship, the clouds are in prayer and the mountains are in meditation.”

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To say that it was a life-changing experience for me would be an understatement. I was surrounded by grace, a very palpable form of sensitivity and love for life that made smiling easy. It made making decisions easy, and made me feel at peace while living a free flowing and easy life.

Yes, I learnt the meditation techniques through the daily meditation sessions facilitated by our instructor. But I also learnt much more over the course of four days at the centre. These lessons were not directly are a part of the program but just lessons I learnt.

Becoming an observer of your life helps

Distancing yourself from your negative thoughts, and emotions, with self-talk is a great service to yourself. I witnessed the positive effect this has on your relationships, and on the quality of your life, during this time.

If you’re too involved in a problem, and are unable to come to a solution, it is time you looked at it from the outside. Pull yourself out of the problem and look at it from a third person’s point of view.

Observing your emotionally charged representations from a distance can bring you a world of new insight about the situation or whatever is bothering you.

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You don’t need a lot to be happy or at peace

I wore the same two robes every day and had the same simple meals for lunch and dinner in my time at the centre. And I had simple heartfelt conversations with my family in the lap of nature.

We only had our phones with very limited access to the internet, but none of that felt like a punishment. The experience only put into perspective what was really important to me and what I need versus what I want.

Simple is beautiful, and life is simple. But if you complicate it, it is on you to catch yourself in the act and work on simplifying it. The starting point to un-complicate your life is by asking yourself the tough, uncomfortable questions that you’ve been avoiding.

Ask yourself, ‘Is this really what I want?’ ‘Do I really want to spend time with them?’ ‘Are my values being compromised?’

You may not know it but you need a break

You get so used to living in a certain way, with certain patterns and routines that the idea of living in a different way or the idea of taking a break isn’t natural to you. If you listen to it, your body, mind and soul will tell you when it’s time.

They will send signals to you when need rejuvenation and replenishment. All you need to do is to pay attention to all these signals and treat them with the reverence they are worthy of.

A break from your day to day life can be the cure for all your ‘over’ syndromes – overthinking, overworking, over-anxiety, overburdened. You will come back to your life with a lot more energy, more enthusiasm if you just allow yourself to unplug for sometime.

Make unplugging a part of your to-do list. Unplug from your gadgets, from social media, from your work, and if needed, even from your relationships to get that precious time for yourself.

You’re not alone

There were a lot of people in our meditation group. We all meditated together, ate our meals together and spent our time in between the sessions interacting with each other.

The youngest member of our group was 11 years old, and the oldest was about 65. No matter what you pursue, what your age is, you’ll always find people who’re working towards the same goal.

Learn from their mistakes, share your experiences, and let the synergy play out. There is a strong case to be made for the collective focused energy of a group, which is much more powerful than that of any individual’s.

The Now is powerful

This moment right now is all you really have – the past lies in your memory and the future is merely a projection. A lot of your tension stems from the haste, and your hurry – to achieve, to prepare for tomorrow. And the past that occupies you because you hurried through it.

Stop hurrying through life, stop bypassing the moments where you are living. Slow down, do everything consciously, and recognise the power of now.

You can create happiness by being in the present moment and recognising that you’ll never have it again. This present, your present, here and now, is your only reality.

There is no perfect place or condition to meditate

The pristine atmosphere at the centre is great to get you started on your practice of meditation. But you’re not always going to get that through your life. Don’t rely on a certain environment or a certain condition in life to be present and peaceful.

Being meditative is a state of mind, and not a state of the surroundings. Meditation is the pathway to living true to yourself and becoming skilled at the art of living.

You can be meditative anytime and anywhere. Learn to meditate in an ideal setting if you must. But carry the meditation with you even after you leave from there. The only prerequisite of meditation is your intention.

It takes as long as it takes

Be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself. Anything you begin with takes effort in the start, for it to become effortless eventually. Every individual has their own journey and no 2 journeys are the same.

You can’t rush your growth, you can’t push your way into alignment. I call this active submission – take the actions you need to take, while gently surrendering to the process. Just keep doing the work, in your own pace and in your own time, and trust the process. You’re right where you need to be.

If I were to condense all the learnings in two words, they would be, ‘Celebrate Life!’

If you meditate for an hour a day and you sleep walk through the rest of the 23 hours, your meditation is of no use. The true meaning of meditation lies in being present and living in wonderment of life every minute of every day.

Life doesn’t have to be a struggle, life isn’t something you just get by. If you choose to find joy in every moment, life is a celebration, every single moment.

A version of this was first published here.

Picture credits: Pexels

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