How is retreating beneficial or meaningful?
To retreat is to withdraw from opposing forces, an act of moving back or changing one's position. It is a pulling back, finding a new ground to stand on or reestablishing a place of safety or refuge.
When you go on a meditation retreat, what you are retreating from is ordinary dualistic mind with all of its attendant factors- ordinary thoughts, emotions, perceptions, bias, plans, expectations. We spend our days immersed in the swing of emotions and cycles of thought patterns. Every day we are in the trenches, battling our negative habits and tendencies, trying to make headway towards our goals and aspirations. We always seem right on the precipice of a final breakthrough or a final defeat.
A retreat from ordinary, everyday mental states doesn't even seem like an option, does it. Did you know you don't need to spend your days and weeks in constant battle? Did you know that you do not need to force your way through negative emotions, or endure the long tenure of negative mental states? You can pull back from everyday plans and expectations. You can retreat from ordinary judgement and bias. You can find new ground, connect with a source of peace and health.
Where do you retreat to? You move from the preoccupation of thoughts and emotions to a state of presence and openness. You retreat from ordinary mind and mental states to a mindful, fresh awareness. You pull back from ingrained tendencies and assumptions to a place of witnessing and attention. You move from anxiousness and restlessness to a state of peace and contentment.
None of this requires that you go on retreat. It simply requires a daily commitment to connect with the ground of your being. Checking in daily, even for a brief moment, shifts our posture and how we act in the world. Every day becomes a fresh start, a chance to begin again.