I am heading off to an eight day meditation intensive shortly. You can read a little about my journey of preparation here and here.
I am now at the point where I need to pack something.
Let me say up front .. I am a chronic over-packer. I dream of being that person who trusts that a sarong, thongs and sunglasses (and credit card) will do the trick, but I suspect I shall never be the traveller with carry-on luggage only.
I have found that I need to pack and re-pack and edit and re-pack a few times. Having a list and visually laying everything out helps. I have also watched a few online video's on the most effective way to pack .. roll, roll, roll your items!
Suitcase Packing Checklist
'Comfort over form’ is a phrase that I often use when guiding students to find a solid meditation posture. When the body is uncomfortable and fidgety .. the mind reflects those same traits. I know that our retreat meditation centre has an excellent understanding of how to regulate the temperature for long indoor sitting sessions. But getting to the centre I am going to need a good coat (waterproof), loads of warm socks for inside activities, yoga gear for movement classes and flexible, soft and breathable layers for meditation. Packing layers will ensure you have the ability to warm up or cool down when required regardless of the weather.
I have been told there will be one dinner to celebrate the end of the retreat, at a restaurant, so I have one outfit that is a little more appropriate.
I will definitely take my meditation shawl because I use it for EVERY morning meditation, so it holds the calming energy of years of practice, it can also be useful during the day if I get cold, while on the plane and at night.
Don't wear anything that makes your fiddle and adjust – equally consider those around you and avoid distracting colours, logo’s – same for perfume and sprays - don’t use them. I personally experience a heightened sense of smell and sensitivity when on retreat.
Our location is central to some of Earths most natural and breathtaking landscapes - people flock here for the natural beauty and the hiking - so I would be mad not to take some comfortable walking shoes for any moments that I can get outside and be adventurous. I do not need high heels.
After the retreat I am attending a Meditation Conference. I will be moving to a hotel with spa facilities. After sitting for many days, I know that the chance for a swim and massage will be enticing. Also, while it is Winter where I am going, the sun is also out most of the day and so it is still important to have some protection. I always gravitate towards sunshine so I have a small tube of sunscreen and sunglasses.
I really dislike the over-use of plastic water bottles. I am sure there will be some water provided on site, but I would prefer to use my own bottle so that I can have it at hand when needed, but also for my flight, hiking, and to give me a sense of connection with home.
I love to write about my experiences when away, and to reflect on my thoughts while immersed in such a special journey. On many retreats you may not be allowed to write (this is not unusual as we seek to let go of all ‘distractions’) but on this occasion I will have my evenings to journal. I wrote about the meditative qualities of writing a journal here, and as an activity for relaxation while on retreat you might even consider Colouring-In. Also pack some pen's .. these always go missing on retreat.
Again, depending on the type of meditation retreat you are attending, an inspirational book can be great tool and support. One book. Not ten books. Sometimes a special text will form part of your retreat, otherwise something that is positive and uplifting is best. Put your name on your book. This is what I will be reading on the plane.
Healthy Travel Snacks
I am flying across the globe for this retreat and I am Gluten Intolerant .. I have advised the airline of my food requirements (sometimes this works, often it doesn't) so I will make sure that I have some healthy snacks with me for part of the journey. Airports are also getting better at providing healthy options, so I will be looking closely for items when I land. Also remember that most countries do not allow food to be brought in/out.
I have had a situation where I needed to arrange for urgent medical supplies to be sent internationally after a family member forgot vital medication. It was complex and required a Doctors report and international couriers; all very stressful when required urgently. Make sure you have enough of what you need, with a little extra for unusual circumstances such as a delay in your trip (had this happen also).
Make sure you have your prescription or a note from your Doctor if this is required, and that you have emergency supplies in your hand luggage (because suitcases do go missing).
Personal hygiene is also important - avoid smelly stuff in consideration for others - and understand what is available 'on the ground' ie. is there safe running water? Should you take a small tube of washing solution for clothing? Also only pack the volume that you are going to need and consider the waste facilities.
Will the retreat provide sheeting, pillow, towels? not always .. so check first.
Consider what you might need before/after your retreat. Your telephone may need international roaming or a local supplier arrangement, a charger, an appropriate power adaptor. Your laptop and camera also need to recharge. Do you need wi-fi? Is there a land line option at the retreat for emergencies?
Passwords - the mind empties on retreat, so if you have important passwords for your devices or to access your banking records, find a way to store and access them when needed.
Traditional retreats will have a bell that wakes you for morning practice and to remind you of various retreat activities; otherwise you may need your own travel clock (or phone alarm). I have not worn a watch for ten plus years .. maybe I need to get it out again? Also keep in mind that you are just one participant in the retreat, so do not expect people to chase after you. A torch can also be useful.
There are many people that I want to thank for this opportunity, so I have wrapped a few small gift and will pack some thank you cards. I also have some business cards with all my contact details/website etc that I can share with those I meet along the way.
Now, I am off to start packing and I may remember more items for this checklist. Next post will be about how to mentally plan for your retreat.