We made a short 8 days retreat in a Buddhist temple. We were in the international department, so everything was in English. The center was very nice and teachers not too strict. Indeed, we were free to follow or not the rules.
Standard day schedule:
4.00am - theoretical wake up (not for Seb)
6.00am - breakfast (noodles soup or rice with veggies...)
9.00am - meditation teaching course
11.00am - lunch (last meal of the day), with rice and veggies for vegetarians, or rice and veggies for non-vegetarians but the difference is that in the second case, the veggies are cooked with few pieces of meat ... ;-)
Indeed there are 8 precepts to follow and 1 of them is: do not hurt or kill any kind of life (people or animals). This is why, there are a lot of vegetarians, however the center is "non vegetarian welcome" anyway!
Otherwise, the rest of the time during the day is dedicated to a personal meditation. We did some exercises with an increasing difficulty and duration. Exercises were half walking half sitting. The point is always to be "mindfulness" all the time: when we do things, when we think, when we feel something. Before to do it, we were concern to be obliged to practice any kind of religious ritual or ceremonial, but on the contrary we didn’t see any kind of hint to any religion at all. In fact, the only rituals practiced in this meditation center are rituals associated with Buddhist philosophy. For example, before each meal, we read a text to keep in mind that “we do not eat for fattening, nor intoxication, nor for beautification, but only to keep the body healthy”. To give another example, at the end of the meditation session we made a wish. Life in the community is also governed by 8 precepts (or rules of life). So we tried to undertake the precepts to refrain from: destroying living creatures, taking that which is not given, sexual activity, incorrect speech, intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness, eating after midday, singing or dancing and finally lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place.
We were well installed. It was forbidden (except for Seb) to use computer, phone and any electronic equipment in general, to not interfere with meditation. Same for chatting, it was advised to not speak, except during the teaching course. Bedrooms are individual and very basically furnished. As you can see on the picture, there is a blanket on the floor as a mattress, a chair, a fan and toilet. The point is to provide an environment favorable to meditation.
Benefits of Meditation:
There are hundreds of scientific researches (many available online) about this subject quite mysterious.
There are a wide range of benefits, but they depend on the person and the type of meditation practiced. However, for examples, meditation can help about: hypertension, pain (which allows a reduction of medication in case of serious illness), migraine, headache, depression, diet, concentration, stress … In fact about everything could do (or not do) with a stronger mind. But meditation has significant effects if practiced over a long period.
There are a lot of information if you want to know more on Wikipedia website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation
In conclusion, we enjoyed this center and this type of meditation. With theses 8 days initiation, we didn’t see everything about meditation (normal initiation is 21 days) but we discovered this interesting concept. First it seemed very basic, but it is actually more complex that it appeared to be. It is a good way to make your mind stronger and to limit or avoid all kind of suffering.