Preparing for Retreat

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Steve Katona, modified 9 Years ago.

Preparing for Retreat

Posts: 51 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
My current practice is Mahasi style noting with equal time walking and sitting. My average is 3 hours/day. I usually miss one day a week. In a little over 2 months I plan on a 30 day retreat at a meditation center with 2 Burmese monks doing Dhamma talks and interviews. I want to maximize the potential to attain stream entry during the retreat. I believe that diligence, desire to make best use of my time, and discipline to stick to a rigorous schedule without slacking are all available to me.

I would appreciate suggestions regarding practicing between now and then, increasing daily practice, increasing frequency, etc. I would appreciate hearing how other yogis prepared themselves for a 30 day retreat and, naturally with the hind-a-scope, if they would have done it differently.

There is no next thing appeared as a mind object this morning.
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Florian Weps, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Preparing for Retreat

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Steve,

Can''t really offer you any specific advice since I never did such an intensive retreat. I did a few one-day, and one two-day, self-led retreats.

That said, do read Tarin's "Reformed Slacker's Guide to Stream Entry" (if you haven't already), as that was helpful to me and many others.

The hind-a-scope for me revealed that I was chasing exotic experiences way too much, and not noticing that with sufficient clarity.

I hope others will chime in,

Cheers,
Florian
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Jacob Henry St. Onge Casavant, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Preparing for Retreat

Posts: 698 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
Wow! That's great you've got the time and inclination for such a long retreat, Steve! I've never gone on a retreat that was longer than a week, but I gather from those experiences that one of the key things is a healthy balance to the daily round. You know, making sure you're body stays healthy, a nice balance of sitting and walking, and so on.

Anything you can do to condition yourself to be comfortable during longer hours of sitting would be a big help ;-)
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Abingdon ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Preparing for Retreat

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Not to hijack Steve's thread, but I've just signed up for a week-long at the end of May. This will be my first retreat. Any additional advice for a noob?

Cheers!
Sean Lindsay, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Preparing for Retreat

Posts: 46 Join Date: 11/3/09 Recent Posts
Steve,

You've described the external aspects of your current practice, which is helpful. It sounds like you've got the discipline thing nailed. Can you tell us something about your current practice from the inside -- what your experience with meditation is, to the extent you can discern where you are along the path, that sort of thing? Knowing more about that may allow us to comment more usefully about what you can expect next and how you might shape your practice to address those conditions as they arise.
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Steve Katona, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Preparing for Retreat

Posts: 51 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
Sean Lindsay:
Steve,

You've described the external aspects of your current practice, which is helpful. It sounds like you've got the discipline thing nailed. Can you tell us something about your current practice from the inside -- what your experience with meditation is, to the extent you can discern where you are along the path, that sort of thing? Knowing more about that may allow us to comment more usefully about what you can expect next and how you might shape your practice to address those conditions as they arise.


This is difficult for me to say. I know what follows is heavily descriptive of the external aspects of my current practice. Please credit this to a lack of skillful facility in response. I read, and reread, MCTB in an effort to understand the map. I am not a beginner but I recognize no 'events' that I can point to and say A&P or whatever. The primary sitting meditation object is the rising and falling of the abdomen. I do noting practice catching sound, smell, bodily sensations (discomfort, itching, contact, warm, etc.). I catch thoughts almost immediately, acknowledge them however and return to the most prominent sense object or the abdomen. I look for beginnings, middles, and ends of any phenomena. I can maintain this for the 50 mins with minimal 'wanderings.' Walking is about 50% of the practice with lift/push/place as slow as possible. I recognize grasping, aversion, anticipating, boredom when those feelings are behind a thought or some 'feeling' that interrupts the noting.

Clearly this is somewhat idealized but does that address the question(s) raised? Thanks for comments.
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Dauphin Supple Chirp, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Preparing for Retreat

Posts: 154 Join Date: 3/15/11 Recent Posts
Hi Steve,

This may not apply to your experience, but I noticed you didn't mention any visual sensations at all. In my personal practice, those were a large portion of the overall experience in the beginning, until more and more mental sensations arose. I still note a lot of "seeing." When your eyes are closed, you obviously see nothing at all. Or do you? Even if your field of vision is filled with perfect and pure blackness, the moment you become aware of the blackness is a moment of "seeing." When I close my eyes right now, I don't actually see pure blackness. I see a little bit of an afterimage, then patterns that would be hard to describe or even draw, but still they are there. Some people get visions or see bright lights when they become more concentrated. It happens to me only rarely, and the sensations are rather weak, but they exist, and I label them as "seeing." Then there is the kind of thought that seems to be visual. In my personal experience, there is really almost a continuum between "seeing" and "thinking." I have never explored the details, but rather decided not to worry about which label ("seeing" or "thinking") was appropriate. I have also not read much about the Abhidhamma, which could probably bring some clarity to the details.

On the one hand, I believe these details are not important, but on the other hand, if I try to imagine my practice without ever noting anything related to the sense of sight, I don't know if I would have made much progress.

Personally, while I never excluded the sense of sight from my noting, I used to fail to note "anxiety" and "frustration," which held me back at a certain point of my insight practice. Since "seeing" usually makes up a larger portion of my reality than "anxiety" and "frustration," I thought it possible you may benefit from the suggestion to take a fresh look at your visual sense. Find out what you are really seeing, not what you know you "should" be seeing when your eyes are closed (which is nothing).
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Steve Katona, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Preparing for Retreat

Posts: 51 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
Dauphine Supple Chirp

I have taken the suggestion about seeing and that has opened a new awareness. In today's meditation report, I have noted as well as I am able at this point the experience of seeing with closed eyes. Yes, there are many mental phenomenon seen. Thanks.
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Tony K, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Preparing for Retreat

Posts: 18 Join Date: 2/9/11 Recent Posts
Hello Steve,

I would appreciate suggestions regarding practicing between now and then, increasing daily practice, increasing frequency, etc. I would appreciate hearing how other yogis prepared themselves for a 30 day retreat and, naturally with the hind-a-scope, if they would have done it differently.


I am not an advanced meditator but I have been to a 30 day retreat with Sayadaw U Pandita and would like to share with you some of my expriences. First of all, if you are not a beginner meditator (I suppose you have been to the retreats in the past) who practices 3 hours a day on average, you will not encounter any significant problems.

Before I went to my 30 day retreat, I was meditating on average 2 hours a day but was forced to skip on weekends due to other obligations. I was lucky that I got 4 weeks vacation approved by my boss. When the retreat began, it took me maybe a day or two to get acclimated to the rigid retreat schedule, e.g., waking up at 4:20 am, two meals a day, approximately 14 hours of practice - alternating one hour of sitting and walking, etc.

What bothered me was the mental state that I was in before coming to the retreat - you see, I was quite unhappy with some events going on around me at the time and all the negative thoughts and emotions from such events began to surface as I began my 30 day retreat. And it created a myriad of distractions and wondering thoughts and bothered me considerably during my sitting meditation. Physically, I was going along with the rigid retreat program fine, but mentally, I was struggling quite a bit.

It took me almost a week for my mind to settle down and be able to concentrate. At the end of the retreat, I did have a good experience and my concentration definitely improved. But I felt that had I been more mindful in daily activities besides sitting/walking meditations before coming to the retreat, my practice would have gone much smoother. I think your preparation for the retreat is fine, but also try to note and be mindful of your feelings and emotions you encounter in your daily activities. Any past events that have agitated your mind will surely resurface during the intensive retreat and can bother you with all the negative feelings if they go on unnoticed (not noted properly) and forgotten.

The most important thing with maximizing your potential in retreat is, as those monks will tell you: note every moment as much as you can! From the moment you wake up in the morning till you fall asleep, note all your feelings, emotions, bodily movements, etc.This is very hard to do. Being mindful while sitting and/or walking meditation is walk in the park compare to noting all your mind and body while engaing in daily activities. So note continuously through out the day.

You may also experience fluctuating enthusiam and energy level as the retreat progresses. Mostly in the 1st or 2nd week, your energy level is high but toward the end, you may start slacking off due to boredom, homesickness from having to put up with inadequate facilities for so long, or whatever reasons. You may start counting the days that's left until the retreat is finally over. Your enthusiasm in the beginning of the retreat will be highly in contrast to say, in the middle of 3rd or 4th week. But to my relief, this happens to many other yogis, I was told. If this ever happens to you, I think the best remedy is to just stay in the moment. Just fully focus on what's going on right at this moment whether your sitting, walking, eating or showering. Don't let your mind wonder about how many days are left for the retreat is over or what are the first things you want to do when you get home, etc. That will make your retreat that much harder.

I don't really know your level and experience in meditation. What I wrote above may not apply to you if you're already an advanced meditator. But these are some of the experiences I had from my 30 day retreat, and if my limited experiences are somewhat of helpful to you, I would be very pleased.

Anyway, good luck with your retreat.
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Steve Katona, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Preparing for Retreat

Posts: 51 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
Tony K

Thanks for your long and informative note. I find much of what you say useful and relevant. I do believe also that mindfulness out of the formal practice situation is a real challenge. Silly as it sounds in isolation, my first activity chained to mindfulness was urinating. This has some great qualities: almost always alone; happens frequently; not subtle. I am slowly adding regular events--picking up and using keys--as well as declaring the next x minutes as mindfulness practice. I am holding the idea of noting which breath I awake on but have not gotten that once. What I have gotten in the last couple of weeks is left right for whatever foot hits the floor out of bed and trying to continue that level until formal practice starts about 15 minutes later. Best to you.

metta

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