What to do on solitary retreat
Modern living involves so much input. Why not chose to spend some time without emails, text messages, internet surfing, television, news, music, other people's opinions and requests ... a few days of input minimization.
Our lives can be so complex. Spending some time with the basics of living can be deeply enjoyable and nourishing. Bring some good food, fall asleep when you are tired, wake up when you are rested, and spend time in nature. Pretty simple.
Spend time with nature
Sudarshanaloka is surrounded by beautiful bush and we have many open trails around the propery. You can just sit on the deck and watch the sunrise/clouds/sunset? Or take a hike through the bush? There will be a map of our walking trails in each of our solitary cabins. As a safety measure, please leave a note in your cabin as to where you are going for your hike.
Be still, meditate
Solitary retreats are great conditions for practicing meditation. Even simpler still, without any formal meditation practise, they offer an opportunity to be still, watch, listen, and attend to the flooding of life around you. However, if you do choose to meditate, solitary retreats are ideal conditions to explore your practise. If you don't know how to meditate, take a course at your local Triratna Buddhist Centre or download some online resources.
Reflect on meaningful questions
Dharma is the Buddhist word for the teachings of the Buddha, but it is also a word which can mean the nature of Reality and the path leading to a more meaningful life. When you have quiet time alone in the bush, these are ideal conditions for reflecting on the bigger questions in our lives.
Read the writings of great people
We can learn from other people's lives, and many people have lived amazing lives. Reading about these can be supportive, inspiring and insightful. Take some time to read the musings of great people on living life meaningfully. As Buddhists, there is no lack of Dharma material like this available to us.
Read some poetry
Sometimes prose can be too dense, too tight, and too demanding particularly after a week of solitary retreat. Think about bringing something which is meaningful and serious but more spacious and light. Many people like to bring their favorite poetry along on solitary retreat. Some people like to write their own.
Exploring and giving space to our creative side, in whatever way this might manifest for you, is a great way to spend some time. Writing, drawing, water colours, collage ... it is not about the outcome, more about the process.
Explore what it means to be you
When you go on solitary, it is just you with yourself. After a few days, after we arrive and settle in, we get a chance to meet ourselves in a way we seldom do in everyday life. Watch your thoughts, explore your feelings, and get in touch with bodily sensation. If you are really adventurous, see if you can find anything in your experience that stays the same through time? Are there any two moments exactly the same?
When things get stale, do something different
Getting out into nature, switching from seated to walking meditation, or doing a ritual to pay your respect to the land around you ... stay creative with your daily program and allow yourself to try something different if needed. You can ask yourself ... what should I do next? what's my next step? then stay quiet long enough to hear any answers that echo back to you.
Set aside some time for doing nothing. And when the inevitable boredom and restless arises, keep 'doing nothing' long enough to find out what sits on the 'other side' of this restless boredom.