By Jason Reagan
“Wow, this was so much fun, so light hearted, so humorous, yet profoundly deep and practically inspiring.” These were my thoughts at the end of the 3-Day Samadhi Silent Retreat in Athens, TX. With my history of attending two Vipassana 10-day silent retreats I have a unique perspective of how each benefited me and how they compare. I can say with full conviction that both styles have powerfully affected me, my first Vipassana being the catalyst for the most major life change ever thus far. That said, the Samadhi retreat delivered more value in less time and with more tangible benefits. I would gleefully choose to do another Samadhi retreat, which I cannot say the same for Vipassana.
The most notable standout from my experience was how much freaking fun it was! During the first evening discourse David Browning, founder and instructor of the Samadhi Retreat & Meditation Center, made the statement that indeed enlightenment can be a blast, which is a far cry from most orthodox silent retreats throughout history. The remainder of the retreat proved he wasn’t kidding. It was a jubilant time for me, and I suspect the others as well.
There was so much laughter! This was such a pleasant surprise for me, as my background is only one of rigid, silent retreats who take themselves very seriously. So often I would catch David beaming a smile as he explained the philosophies of what we were doing. It’s so obvious to me that he ‘gets it’ because of his light heartedness. I don’t believe a person with actual Source experiences in their lifetime could be anything but jovial, and joviality is David’s nature (although he would argue that his nature is everything).
The emphasis on comfortability was another big deal for me. So often meditation practices encourage pain as a focal point or to be driven through, but not here. Instead, they insist we be as comfortable as possible so that we may concentrate on the goal: Silencing Our Mind, which is difficult when thinking “ouch, ouch ouch”. We were allowed to sit however we wanted, or even to lay down the entire time. I really believe one of the reasons I had so many mind blowing experiences was because I was constantly comfortable and able to concentrate fully.
Autonomy is very valuable to me and I’m pleased to say I didn’t have to give it up during the 3 day retreat. Once again, compared to the Vipassana retreats, I didn’t have restrictions on what I could do with my time. Many of us sipped tea between the meditations and if anything occurred we could get up and leave the room freely. Being able to do what pleased me during personal time was even better. I did daily calisthenics and yoga in the sunshine, and then explored the forest at my leisure.
The evening Bhajan concerts alone were worth it! In case you are wondering how a concert fits into a “silent” retreat, remember the aim is silence of the mind, and singing in unison with mesmerizing, transcendental music fit the bill perfectly. Also, it was a blast! Enlightenment has never been this fun for me, and glimpsing enlightenment was only the beginning as we journeyed beyond enlightenment in the truest sense.
Naturally my deep, personal experiences with what I call God source was the only real reason for attending. I can graphically recall a couple that I’ve never encountered until now. The first was using a Koan (paradoxical question with no answer) and venturing out into the forest awaiting an enlightened perspective. It occurred to me more than once I’m pleased to report and in mere minutes. The wisdom I gleaned from it stays with me today and helps me in my daily life. The most powerful experience I had was literally indescribable but I’ll do my best. During one of the chanting practices something snuck up and hit me, which felt like an instant shot of euphoria more powerful than any opiate. I was immersed in a feeling of total bliss and cosmic unity, and this happened a total of 15 times (!) during that one session. It’s the kind of experience that makes you feel like life is complete and you can go now.
The whole weekend was an adventure of self-discovery. If more people knew how pleasing the process can be, on top of the indescribable after effect benefits, I believe the masses would agreeably adopt these types of practices. There is no fear to be had. It is benefit atop benefit. The Samadhi retreat in particular was all win for me. It was hilariously fun, comfortably pleasant, and so richly diverse in its activities that I received more from the 3 days there than all 20 of the combined days of my former retreats.