On Wednesday I returned from a two-week solitary retreat in a cottage near Snowdonia. The final few hundred yards access is by foot up a steep hillside and there are views across to Snowdonia. It was just me, and the birds and the sheep. So quiet and peaceful.
I had decided before I went that I wanted to use the time for reflection, to make a practice of sitting down with a notebook and a Dharma-related subject in mind and write down my reflections on it. This is not something I normally do and I wanted to see if I would find it helpful.
Reflection, in Buddhism, traditionally consists of three stages (1) hearing (or reading) the Dharma (2) thinking, or reflecting, on what one has heard/read and (3) silent contemplation, which is letting go of thinking and allowing one’s reflections sink in, as it were.
My experience of doing this as a formal practice over the last two weeks has made me want to pursue it further. Not only did I feel that I gained a deeper understanding of the subjects I reflected on, but spending time each day in reflection seemed to condition my mind to settle more readily when I sat to meditate, though of course the conditions I was in were very conducive to meditation.
If you are interested in the subject of reflection I can recommend a book called The Art of Reflection by Ratnaguna and published by Windhorse Publications, a copy of which was fortuitously at the cottage!