Surprisingly, yes, but not always. We have had total beginners enjoy attending this retreat, but not everybody had a positive experience. Normally, people would not attend a week-long retreat as their first step in learning meditation. Ideally, one would do a few day-long or weekend retreats first, building up to something longer. However, our retreat on Star Island is designed to be a bit gentler than many traditional meditation retreats, making it more manageable for beginners who want to dive straight into the deep end.
Here are some key points for beginners to consider before registering:
- Formality — We sit still, quiet and upright together in formal sessions, following guidelines borrowed from Zen Buddhism. When you sit by yourself, you can start and stop at will; but when you sit in a group, everybody starts and stops at a predetermined time. And in a formal group there is a certain “peer pressure” to support one another by staying put for the entire period. That can be challenging if you aren’t used to it – especially if you tend to be fidgety. See our schedule.
- Group Practice — A spirit of mutual support and cooperation is key to making it a successful retreat for everybody. See our group sitting page for more.
- Discomfort — Retreats push you through periods of discomfort in a way that usually only happens on retreat. At some point, you will probably want to quit, and then you will have to go through a process of finding a spirit of endurance — like a long distance runner.
- Posture issues — Many imperfect postures can suffice when you are only meditating for an hour or two. On retreat, however, subtle imbalances in your posture gradually break down, and you need to learn on-the-fly how to adjust and optimize.
In general it’s important to realize that meditation retreats aren’t all peaceful and mellow. At times, everybody in the group will go through difficult stretches. But don’t let that scare you away! Part of what makes retreats so powerful is the way they take you into new areas — sometimes pushing you, sometimes carrying you.
Retreat leader David Scheuneman and the rest of the group are there to help you along the way.
If you are unsure about whether this retreat would be right for you, let us know and we can start a conversation.
For some valuable orientation, see the recommended reading on our links page.