The Benefits of a Zen Retreat

Village Zendo is holding their year-end meditation retreat at the Garrison Institute on December 26- January 1

By Elena (Yuuka) Taurke

It’s winter, cold and dark. You think nothing would be better than to lie on the beach day after day, soaking up the sun and drinking things with cute toppings. Before you go too far, let me remind you of the return rebound—the dread that can only be relieved by the agony of beginning work again. A Zen retreat turns that around. You spend a few days practicing Zen meditation and ritual in community—tasting delicious food in silence, greeting a few demons, walking a little, and sitting a lot. And when you return to your ordinary life, it reveals itself as a miracle!  

The schedule is rigorous, with sitting meditation interspersed with walking, chanting, eating, dharma talks, and interview with teachers, and also luxurious, with time for naps and contemplation. Everyone is doing the same thing without being able to talk about it. Like exercising in a gym, the company of others strengthens resolve, which is helpful when your mind wants to go off in its gazillion little fantasies that seem preferable to real life.  

Here are some of the practices and benefits that accrue:

  • You get to give up control. The schedule and assignments are in control. You are given a job and you do it, whether you know how to do it or not, and whether you like it or not. No decisions! The executive function and the worker function of the brain get to take a break from each other, making it possible to really focus on what you are doing.
  • You get to survive a lot of mistakes. You will likely be assigned a little job that you haven’t done before, so you get to mess up and truly realize that it is ok, and then the moment is gone.  
  • You get to realize that you can do without things you thought you needed. Do you remember the experience of life without jumping up and checking something every five minutes?  
  • Because there is nothing else going on, you become acutely aware of tiny variations in lived experience. A bead of sweat rolls down the neck, tickles a little, and then the fan whooshes by and cools it. A hot flash comes and goes. A thought about performance runs its course, from humiliation to rage to hilarity.  

How does this all benefit everyday life? In 10,000 ways. Here are some of the cool things that upon re-entry suddenly seem so easy:

  • Switching attention completely, letting go.  
  • Seeing people as they are.  
  • Being clear about spheres of influence.
  • Enjoying the taste of food.
  • Making decisions.

Not to mention the pleasure. Come join us for the Village Zendo Year-End Meditation Retreat on December 26 – January 1!

Elena (Yuuka) Taurke is an actor and clinical psychologist interested in improvisational inquiry into intimidating questions. This year she is the (student) practice leader for the Village Zendo Winter Retreat. Check out her blog at, where this post was originally published.

| News |