Message Boards Message Boards

Retreat Centers

Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?

Toggle
Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Katz Videos 9/10/19 10:50 PM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Jason Massie 9/11/19 6:54 AM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Katz Videos 9/11/19 8:35 AM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Jason Massie 9/11/19 10:11 AM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Paul 9/11/19 9:36 AM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Katz Videos 9/16/19 7:52 PM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Paul 9/18/19 7:46 AM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Kim Katami 9/11/19 12:02 PM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Jigme Sengye 9/12/19 2:17 PM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Katz Videos 9/15/19 5:27 PM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Jigme Sengye 9/17/19 12:45 PM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Max L 9/18/19 7:03 PM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Katz Videos 9/23/19 10:17 PM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Max L 9/19/19 10:26 PM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Katz Videos 9/23/19 9:36 PM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? agnostic 9/23/19 10:04 AM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Paul 9/23/19 10:39 AM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? agnostic 9/23/19 12:43 PM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? Katz Videos 9/23/19 9:42 PM
RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats? agnostic 9/24/19 11:18 AM
I've seen posts on this forum and others of people who go on retreats that are 3+ months long. Has anyone here been able to do that without being independently wealthy or a student? Do you think there's some way to do longer retreats without destroying your career? I'd love to be able to, say, work 9 months out of the year for 75% of my current salary but it doesn't seem like society offers that as an option. I'm afraid quiting my job to go on retreat would make it impossible to find another job when I got back.

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/11/19 6:54 AM as a reply to Katz Videos.
I am not able to take off long amounts of time so what I did this year was about 2.5 months of "virtual retreat". I would meditate about 8 hours a day and all day on the weekends. I would maintain as much mindfulness as possible at work or when with family. At the end of the 2.5 months, I did a two week solo retreat. I had life setup so I could continue the virtual retreat if needed after the formal retreat. It worked out well for me.

Of course, there are some obstacles like distractions, family, stress, dark night bleed through etc but just make it all part of the meditation.

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/11/19 8:35 AM as a reply to Jason Massie.
Interesting. What technique were you using? How much were you sleeping and how did you manage to get things like cooking, cleaning, and other errands done?

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/11/19 9:36 AM as a reply to Katz Videos.
Hi Katz, interesting question. As a (very) long-term retreatant, I can only say it’s a matter of priorities. You express the fear of not finding a job when you return. On the other hand, I fear not attaining the highest level of realisation this conglomeration of cells can achieve in this fleeting lifetime. I’d much prefer some lower income or less stuff in the long term than to procrastinate til I’m no longer physically or mentally able to succeed at the training. So I’m afraid I can’t really offer the magic solution that it sounds like you’re seeking - that is, to have a solid financial base AND achieve all your meditation goals. As for how, I have a couple of very modest income sources from past work, which generate enough $ to stay in donation-only monasteries in Asia, and fly from country to country 3 or so times a year (due to visa duration limitations), and then do the occasional shopping trip (in a cheap city like Bangkok) to stock up on clothes, toiletries, etc.

I managed to set up those trickles of income from a mere life of sporadic freelance work over many years, so I’m gonna guess that anyone who stays put in a steady job for quite a few years could easily set up more income-generation than that. Such as a house that you can rent out while overseas. Or a fund that generates some dividends each year. Or a share in a company that spins off a bit of profit from time to time. It doesn’t have to be much. Life in a monastery/meditation centre could be as little as $100/month (donation), add in airfares, some visa fees, some unforeseen incidentals like medical matters, and it all still adds up to a surprisingly low amount.  

Another suggestion is to take, say, a year off, leave your stuff in storage (a good chance to clear stuff out since what you hang on to will only cost you money to store), then do a 3-monther here, another there, etc, with a couple weeks break in between to go chill in a cheap seaside place where you can catch up on emails, business matters, exercise, etc, before diving into the next one. Those breaks help to re-orient you to why you’re working on this. You’ll see (and feel) the suffering of the outside world and realise how important the training is, which energises you to dive into the next retreat.

A handy website for details on such places is at https://placestomeditate.wordpress.com/

All the best in finding a way to do it!

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/11/19 10:11 AM as a reply to Katz Videos.
Katz Videos:
Interesting. What technique were you using? How much were you sleeping and how did you manage to get things like cooking, cleaning, and other errands done?
I would do insight focused fire kasina up to the 3rd vipassana jhana and then bare inclusive awareness of the auditory, tactile, and visual fields. The technique is not that important as long as it works. If you need a direction or a teacher or and enforced schedule, it would be better to go to a center. If you do intense practice leading up to a retreat at a center, I would do the same technique that you will be doing at the center. 

I would sleep as the body needed it. Usually 6 or 7 hours a day but more if called for.

I worked from home so no commute. The wife was working a night shift. Life was really conducive. That said, most people with more hectic lives could still get 4-6 hours a day. Like Paul said, it is about priorities.

I would do errands, and cooking etc very mindfully after a few hours of formal practice.

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/11/19 12:02 PM as a reply to Katz Videos.
Katz Videos:
I've seen posts on this forum and others of people who go on retreats that are 3+ months long. Has anyone here been able to do that without being independently wealthy or a student? Do you think there's some way to do longer retreats without destroying your career? I'd love to be able to, say, work 9 months out of the year for 75% of my current salary but it doesn't seem like society offers that as an option. I'm afraid quiting my job to go on retreat would make it impossible to find another job when I got back.

Hi Katz,

I know a guy from Canada who practiced 8 hours a day for many years while working 8 hour days as an accountant. I also know Japanese lady who mothered 4 children and after that worked full hours never missing 4 hours of daily sitting for 30 years.

Many (lay) people I've met have great interest to practice but somehow don't understand that in order to do training in a non-monastic/non-residential setting they actually have to change things in their daily life to make it happen.

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/12/19 2:17 PM as a reply to Katz Videos.
I'll say the obvious thing that no one has mentioned, but you've probably already thought of. At the last retreat I was at, a surprising number of people were programmers. One of them had quit their job to do a three month retreat and didn't seem too concerned about finding a new one. If retraining as a developper is an option, there's a ton of contract work out there. If finding that work is a problem, there are headhunters who'll happily find it for you, for a fee. You can then do retreats in between contracts.

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/15/19 5:27 PM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
I am a programmer, so that's encouraging to hear! Were any of the people you met young or in the first year or two of their career?

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/16/19 7:52 PM as a reply to Paul.
Paul, do you have any advice for how I could start planning the year off thing you talked about? I looked at the site you linked to as well as a few others and it's overwelming how many monestaries and centers there are, as well as all the visa rules, unforseen costs, etc. It might help to hear how you got started doing what you're doing.

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/17/19 12:45 PM as a reply to Katz Videos.
Katz Videos:
I am a programmer, so that's encouraging to hear! Were any of the people you met young or in the first year or two of their career?

No, all of them had been at it for longer, despite mostly being youngish (late 20s, early 30s). Except for that one guy, they were just taking a short retreat on vacation time. Still, you're basically in the career most suited to taking breaks from work.

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/18/19 7:46 AM as a reply to Katz Videos.
Katz, there’s plenty of info on those websites to help you get started. You can narrow it down by meditation method, and country you’re interested to spend time in. Visas are easy. As for cost, it’s all a pittance compared to western countries.

I didn’t really get started. I’ve been living in Asian countries all my adult life. I can’t stay still so I move around, living where the conditions are right (work, climate, visa durations). Like anything, you just have to dive in and learn as you go. All the best! 

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/18/19 7:03 PM as a reply to Katz Videos.
Hi Katz. I'm a programmer and I've done a couple of longish retreats mid career (early-mid 30s at the time). Granted they weren't three months— one was two months and one was one month— but I think I could have tacked on an extra month to the longer one and had things work out the same.

When I did the two month retreat, I had already moved from full time employment to contract work. I had a decent enough network that I was able to get offered projects without really doing anything. That might be an area of preparation you can work on before you do anything else. Presumably you know people in companies that require your skills, and if so you can start asking if they're open to hiring contractors. If you really want to play it safe, you could set up a consulting gig of decent length and scope (maybe a few months of work if you can get it), then quit your job, and wait until you're established as a consultant, then schedule the retreat. That's basically what I did the first time around.

I will say that there was some stress during the lead up to that retreat, because although I had warned the client before I even took the job that I would be off the grid for two months later that year, the project scope kept increasing, and it was really tough to deliver before I left. Then there was tension when I got back, because the client had wanted to continue iterating on the project during that time, but had failed to find someone who could take over while I was gone (I don't think they tried at all). I ended up getting semi-blamed for their business issues because they "lost two months", but nothing I did was a surprise to them, so it's really their mistake for expecting anything other than what I offered them from the beginning. Despite that tension they continued to give me work after I returned.

About a year later I did the one month retreat. Six months before the retreat, one of my clients offered me a full time position. I was wanting more stability in my work life at that time, so I decided to accept it, but I let them know that the retreat was on the calendar and that I was not willing to change my plans. They were cool with that so I took a month of unpaid absence to do the retreat. I don’t think they really missed me, and I picked things up when I returned without skipping a beat. Management later asked me to give a short talk at the company seminar series about what it's like to do meditation retreats.

As you can see, things worked out acceptably in both cases without a ton of extra planning. I think this is mainly due to the hiring market for programmers at this point in time. You didn't mention what location you're at, but here in California it's extremely slim pickings for companies wishing to hire. Pretty much everyone has a job and any candidates they do get in to interview will typically have multiple offers to choose from. My general sense is that, at least at my location, I could quit my job today, go on a retreat of basically any length, and be able to get a new job within a few weeks of returning. 

You might even be able to negotiate with your current employer to take unpaid time off. It costs them nothing, and they avoid the cost of hiring a replacement (which is pretty high when you consider paying the recruiter, all of the time spent interviewing candidates, travel, onboarding the new hire, etc, not to mention the risk that employee turnover naturally introduces). Of course it depends on the company culture, your role, your length of tenure at the company, and the hiring market in your area. I would present it as a generic sabbatical, no need to play up the fact that it is a meditation retreat.

Are you worried that future employers will look at the three month gap and think you're damaged goods, or want to punish you for it? This might be the case in some industries and locations, but it seems to me that people take extended time off all the time for various reasons. Whenever I travel I meet people of all ages who are taking a break from their careers, and I myself have quit jobs to travel for a few months. There are also people who get major illnesses or have to care for someone with one, people who do full time volunteer work for a while (another thing I've done without issues), and people who try starting their own companies but eventually return to regular employment. Yes, putting your career on pause for a few months is riskier than not doing that, but as other posters have pointed out, if practice is a priority for you, you might have to make some changes and accept a different level of risk in order to honor that priority. 

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/23/19 10:17 PM as a reply to Max L.
Thanks this is super helpful!
Max L:
Are you worried that future employers will look at the three month gap and think you're damaged goods, or want to punish you for it?
Yeah, that was basically my fear.

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/19/19 10:26 PM as a reply to Katz Videos.
Katz Videos:
Thanks this is super helpful!
Max L:
Are you worried that future employers will look at the three month gap and think you're damaged goods, or want to punish you for it?
Yeah, that was basically my fear. Also, for what it's worth, I'm in South Florida, but I'd be willing to relocate afterwards (I'd actually prefer relocating)

Gotcha. It's understandable, and I think you're right about the ambient social message, I just don't think it applies to skilled tech workers in areas with high demand. Maybe it will be a different story when the next recession hits, although then we'll all have plenty of time for retreats. I've never lived away from the west coast so I can't compare, but if you were to relocate to an area with a lot of growth in the software industry (Bay/LA/NY/Seattle/Austin etc) I am confident that no one will care about a few months' gap if you have the skills they are looking for. At my current company it typically takes us six months to fill openings for mid level and senior engineers, so the job you'd be applying for may have been open since before you even left your previous job to go on retreat. 

I would recommend mentioning in your cover letter, or when you talk to the recruiter, that you took a few months for "travel and independent study" or something, and that you left your last job voluntarily, on good terms. That's all they need to hear. 

Good luck with all this. 

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/23/19 10:04 AM as a reply to Katz Videos.
Hi Katz,

I recommend you ask yourself why you want to go on retreat so much. From my point of view, the point of spiritual practice is to wear yourself out enough so that you give up seeking and accept what is. In the words of Adyashanti:

The role of the spiritual practice is basically to exhaust the seeker. If the practice does what it’s supposed to do, it exhausts our energy for seeking, and then reality has a chance to present itself. In that sense, spiritual practices can help lead to awakening. But that’s different from saying that the practice produces the awakening.

The spiritual practitioner is like someone who’s running and is really tired and wants to rest. You could say, “Well, just stop, then.” But they have this idea that they have to cross a finish line before they can stop. If you can convince them that they can just stop, they’ll be amazed. They’ll say, “I didn’t know I could stop and rest.” Or maybe they won’t hear what you’re telling them, and they’ll have to go all the way to their finish line. And after they cross it, then they’ll stop and say, “Wow! It feels really good to rest.” So awakening can come after you cross the finish line in the future, but it’s also possible to find it at any point along the way if you stop for just a moment.

https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/384/who-hears-this-sound

I've never been on retreat, I sort of created a home retreat situation over the last 8 months by cutting back on work. But then I'm 45, already had a career and my wife is the breadwinner (I look after the kids). Clearly your situation is different and not everyone has the flexibility to do what I did, but it seems to me that going on retreats runs the risk of creating a split in you between the retreat you and the rest of your life you. You may have all sorts of deep insights and experiences on retreat and then create the problem of how to integrate it all back into your "real" life. Whereas if you can possibly integrate your practice and your work from the get go then you won't create that problem. Easier said than done. What I noticed in my practice is that when I took over the childcare I had much less time for meditating but the depth and speed of (apparent) progression increased dramatically.

Also I remember being 20 and struggling to balance spiritual seeking with the need to establish a career. In my case I decided to put the spiritual quest on the back shelf and try to beat the world at its own game first. What ended up happening is that I had limited career success because I wasn't really committed to it and I ended up getting suicidely depressed due to the side effects of playing the material/career game. In retrospect I got just depressed enough to drop out without killing myself and made just enough money to do what I'm doing now. So yeah I could have saved myself and everyone around me a lot of brain damage by making the right choice in the first place, but life doesn't work like that, I was a masochist and had to bang my head against the wall enought first.

I would also recommend checking out Tony Parson's book The Open Secret and/or his video on Buddha At The Gas Pump. Yeah he's a crotchety old curmdudgeon with a habit of saying no to everyone and everything and trashing other teachers, but he's 100% honest about the futility of the spiritual quest and anything related to seeking which tends to reinforce the sense of yourself as a separate individual who needs to practice to have some sort of special experience in the future which will make you whole again.

I would say good luck, except there's no real free will (easier to see in retrospect) and probably your decision has already been made inside you somewhere, so try to find that place as soon as possible. All the best!

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/23/19 10:39 AM as a reply to agnostic.
Please everyone note the flaw inherent in the argument about stay-at-home practice being more beneficial than retreats which starts with “I’ve never been on a retreat...”

The benefits and awesome power of retreat-style immersion in practice would require an entire book to describe. I won’t even begin here. Suffice to say, if you’ve never been, may I respectfully suggest you give it a try. Then at least you’ll have something to contrast the stay-at-home practice with. 

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/23/19 12:43 PM as a reply to Paul.
Thanks Paul, you are right to point out the flaw in my argument. Clearly I can’t say that home practice is better than retreat, hever having been on a retreat. All I can speak about is my own experience. My assumption 8 months ago was that I would have to go on retreat to find optimal practice conditions, therefore I was quite surprised by how much “progress” I was able to make at home. Most of those adjustments were relatively small (less socializing, less travel, less sleep, no intoxicants) but I did have the flexibility to work less which in theory freed up as much as 4 hours at a time if I wanted. In practice I rarely sat for that long, most of the major “breakthroughs” came in 1-2 hour sits following some kind of significant off-the-mat experience (e.g. losing my temper or feeling depressed). It is frustrating at times, but I suspect that’s the point. There’s nothing like waking up at 3 in the morning to try for a fruition and then be called away by your sick child after 3 hours right when you feel like you’re on the threshold. You have to ask yourself, why exactly is this so important to me? The major breakthrough came once I really grokked no-self. At that point I realized that there was literally no point in doing anything special or different. Life makes its demands and demands appear to be met, what else is there to say. It’s kind of an amusing game now, watching myself going through all the same motions whilst being aware that there’s no one really in here. Retreat, no retreat, it’s all good. Wherever you are, life is what it is and there’s no escaping that.

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/23/19 9:36 PM as a reply to Max L.
Thanks a lot Max. That's really helpful.

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/23/19 9:42 PM as a reply to Paul.
Thanks Paul, the reason why I came to DhO with this question was to avoid the wishy-washy "there's no difference between retreats and daily life" attitude that's infected mainstream western buddhism. I can confirm that simply "stopping the search" does not lead to the type of insight that people like Daniel Ingram talk about. I have tried it multiple times. What it does do is give lazy practitioners an excuse to not put serious effort into practice because they figure, "they're already there anyway".

RE: Tips or strategies for getting more time for retreats?
Answer
9/24/19 11:18 AM as a reply to Katz Videos.
Thanks Katz, you reminded me that I have a monster protestant work ethic that just loves sinking its teeth into results-based practice! It's my last and biggest addiction :-) I'm really grateful to Daniel for showing me that it's practicable to develop strong concentration skills and generate deep insights into experiential reality. It’s natural to extrapolate that process and think that awakening will happen to *me* at some point in the *future* if I just practice hard enough. Stopping the search is actually pretty hard. Like you say, you've tried it multiple times without success! (I'm no better, I just started a practice log.)