The best environment for meditation is one that is peaceful, sedative, relaxing, soothing and surrounded by raw nature.
And it really felt like I had driven into the country. When I arrived just after 9am Sunday morning there was certainly the smell of 'country' in the air and I was loudly greeted by the chooks who were making a right racket right next to our retreat room :) .. possibly eager for breakfast, or maybe just reminding us who in fact ruled the roost and tempting us to imagine how we might rise above the noise while contemplating the breath!
This was a full day workshop, the Melbourne Insight Meditation group also holds regular meetings at Ceres on Monday nights. I honestly didn't know much about the group, could find little on the internet, nor had an opportunity to find out much more on the day. But I am very familiar with the Insight Meditation Society in the US (Barre, Massachusetts) and Tara Brachs and Sharon Salzberg are two of my favourite online teachers.
I believe the teachings are led by lay practitioners, apparently there are many different style of Insight meditation, and teachers with different approaches. There is some reference made to Vipassana teachings (Theravada tradition) but this is not I understand a buddhist group. The common thread seems to be the focus on settling the mind, developing clarity, and looking carefully at one's experience. So being open to a full day of just meditating, I joined a group of about 30 people and we simply observed through the practice of sitting and walking meditation; we were also graciously served a lovely dahl lunch .. shared under the cool of the grape vines.
It is important that we keep feeding our practice .. otherwise I think we become a little lazy and complacent .. and our awareness loses its sharpness. Certainly there are 'many roads up the mountain' .. so it is great to move outside our usual practice, meet others, explore new philosophies and expand our experiences.
My posterior is a little sore for sitting on my cushion most of the day, but I feel my own meditation has received a breath of fresh country air.
*Note : I have another blog Retreat Beat was in response to my being regularly asked for advice on where to experience a meditation retreat. It has just a few entries at the moment as my ability to attend retreats is limited .. but in time I hope to provide details of various meditation retreats around Melbourne (possibly Australia and beyond) .. if you have attended a retreat and would like to share your experience please let me know.