7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Brandon Dayton, modified 4 Months ago.

7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

Posts: 480 Join Date: 9/24/19 Recent Posts
So it looks likely that I'll be going on retreat at the Monastic Academy, probably middle of April. I thought I might have to wait until June, but I just got an appointment for the J&J Vaccine for next Thursday the 25th, which means I should be able to fly directly to Vermont without quarantine in time for the retreat. I've already had an application interview where I was like, "I dunno if I'm gonna get vaccinated in time..." and they were like, "let's just plan on you coming for now." Sounds like a pretty rigorous retreat schedule akin to Goenka -- early mornings and two vegetarian meals a day. The interviewer was pretty clear that you basically have no choice but to either be concentrated or miserable. I'm excited but more than a bit intimidated. Feels like the right level of challenge at this point, and I really dig their approach to practice within community.

Looking for any thoughts, advice, recommendations (encouragment?). Any one else got experience at MAPLE? Thinking of prepping in the spirit of the legenedary "Going for Stream Entry at a 10 Day Vipassana Course" curtosy of the Hamilton Project: increasing sitting time to get the momentum going, maybe waking up early to get a feel for the suck, making that resolution for Stream Entry and then just dialing up the acceptance to 300K.

Here's the schedule:
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Niels Lyngsø, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Congratulations, Brandon! That's wonderful!

The preparation you mention sounds like a good idea. And resolutions before and diligence throughout is great. Also remember to be nice to yourself, though. It's okay – and maybe sometimes even necessary – to push oneself. But it is counterproductive to push too hard. I'm speaking from experience. I completely blew my fuses one time at a Goenka retreat. So: Be diligent, work hard, but
- Don't skip breaks to practice more.
- Rest when you need to.
- Do powerwalk or something similar if you need grounding.
- In general: Listen to the signals from your mind and body. Don't let striving sidetrack your practice.

Think of it this way: This is just one retreat. You will probably have many more. The path is long. Be patient. Definitely go for it and do your best, but at the same time, take care of your self. The middle way, you know.

And most importantly: Enjoy it! Really! Retreats are wonderful, magic. Find an attitude of childlike wonder and curiosity, of gratitude and joy. That counteracts the striving (again: from my own experience).

Looking forward to hearing how it goes! emoticon
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Brandon Dayton, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Really great advice Niels. My natural responses to potential stress have always been in the extremes. It's either "run" or "take no prisoners". "Be there" and "accept" takes a bit more balance. 
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Oatmilk, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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I cannot stress that enough, put an emphasis on relaxation and fun. No need to rush this, the goal should be to be mindful all the time, so don't burn yourself out on the first few day's. 
The mind will do the rest for you as long as you allow for it, so no striving needed. 
Enjoy the experience & keep it very slowemoticon 
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David Matte, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Dear Brandon

I'm really liking your prep ideas you have already.

I'll mention 3 suggestions to you off the cuff:

Don't hold any expectations for the retreat. With even the subtlest expectation, you set yourself up for striving and disappointment. 

Try not to overeat at meals. The meals prepared on retreat can be quite tasty and different than our usual taste palate but can also be a cause for regret later you feel like taking a nap all afternoon because you overfilled your belly! Enjoy the food but a middle way in eating is key as well.

Maintain continuous mindfulness. I think you already know this and this should go without saying but still is too important to not mention again. This one moment. Try to keep keen awareness of this moment from sun rise to sunset. Be vigilant of your experience. That is the name of the game you are playing on a retreat.

Let us know how it went! Have fun!
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Sam Gentile, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Wow, Brandon a live in-person retreat! I didn't think anyone was doing those yet. Seems like you picked an intense one. Your ideas are good and you have gotten good advice from people already so I wish you success.

P.S. I just got a full scholarshipp to IMS virtual retreat Awakening: An Insight Retreat for Experienced Practioners from April 24-28th
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Brandon Dayton, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Thanks fellas. Gonna be thinking carefully about all of this.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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I would say 1-10 sensations noted, packaged and shipped within 1 second for the duration of the whole 7 days! 

emoticon emoticon LOL just kidding! 

Enjoy that 7 days vacation family man emoticon 
Btw, we are expecting a baby any day now emoticon Trying to remember how to change the diapers and all that Dad stuff emoticon It's been 5 years since I e been covered in diapers! 

Best wishes from this part of town! 
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Brandon Dayton, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Thanks man.

Have fun with that new little one. Each one is an adventure. 
George S, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Hi Brandon,

I was watching this Ajahn Brahm talk and it made me think of your upcoming retreat:

https://youtu.be/nlB3uksRV8M

There's lots of good stuff in there about how to relax into a retreat and allow your mind to do what it wants, so that it comes to you naturally in silence instead of trying to escape into sleepiness or thinking.  emoticon

Cheers
George
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Brandon Dayton, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Ooh, thanks. That'll go in my queue.
shargrol, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Brandon, my classic advice for retreat is here:

https://shargrolpostscompilation.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html#fivenegativehabitsretreat
https://shargrolpostscompilation.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html#pacing-is-everything-on-a-long-retreat

In general, make the retreat more about settling in, becoming sensitive, and noticing subtle reactive patterns and the three poisons within mindfulness. Don't go on a seek and destroy mission, but rather allow the body/mind to do it's thing and LEARN about the body/mind. Trust that the act of being aware/mindful is enough. Hold any form of ill will with kindness within awareness and understand it as the confused compassion that it is. 

Basically, when we relax and allow our body/mind to simply be itself without repression or indulgence, that's when we get good data. When we get good data, the insights naturally happen. 

People who "try hard" are usually basically trying to avoid experiencing stuff that makes them uncomfortable. They come on retreat like a backpacker with waaaay to much gear in their pack because deep down they are afraid of the unknown. They bring too much, they're overprotected with too much clothes, and they barely experience the forest and instead hide out in heavy tents. And they burn out or become exhausted or disillusioned. Instead, I'm suggesting packing lightweight, walking more miles a day by walking lighter and easier, sleeping under a tarp, and becoming intimate with your experience.

Become intimate with the experience of being on retreat, simply, as it goes.
Edward, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Lots of great advice in this thread. Just a reminder of this excellent piece by Daniel:

​​​​​​​https://www.integrateddaniel.info/mapobsession-hindrances-in-sheeps-clothing
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Brandon Dayton, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Shargol and Edward,

Thanks, that's all fantastic stuff. Honestly most anxious about the lack of sleep. If I could fit a nap in though...
shargrol, modified 4 Months ago.

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I think you'll find, like many meditators before you, that if you're really tired, you'll nod off duing sits -- no big deal. emoticon Those sits after eating can kinda be like lucid dreaming...

You'll also find that when you take away the drama of normal life and IF you have the right perspective to simply sit and enjoy and appreciate retreat experience, it can actually be healing and kinda restful... and sleep demands go down.

Being on continuous retreat provides all the intensity that most people need. If you can relax and soften within this continuity of experience, then the subtle poisons are seen with such clarity that insight and healing and resting can co-occur.  If this is possible for you -- I highly recommend it. I don't recommend beating your head against the wall, but, hell, I had to learn the hard way. emoticon
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Brandon Dayton, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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 If you can relax and soften within this continuity of experience, then the subtle poisons are seen with such clarity that insight and healing and resting can co-occur.  If this is possible for you -- I highly recommend it.

That sounds nice. Hopefully I can find my way to that place. I guess that's the point of all this. Just got my vaccination this morning, so things are looking good.
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Pepe, modified 4 Months ago.

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Hey Brandon, looking forward to hearing how it goes! Much Metta!!
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Brandon Dayton, modified 4 Months ago.

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Thanks Pep!

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Papa Che Dusko, modified 4 Months ago.

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If it gets tough and rough think of all the people who practiced Dhamma in the past and are practicing Dhamma right now with you and those who will practice Dhamma long after we are gone emoticon 

Imagine all those people longing for same thing as you; happiness and peace emoticon and we all skydive into this mind to find out how. And we all get the taste of pleasant, taste of unpleasant, taste of neutral. 

Sorry for blabbing emoticon All I want to say is Best Wishes to you emoticon 
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Brandon Dayton, modified 4 Months ago.

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That's a very comforting thought. I sometimes need to remember that all awakened beings are human.

If that is what you call blabbing then blabb on sir!
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Dissapointed to report that I'm back early from retreat. I should have been a bit more wary about my abilities to hack a 6 hour sleep schedule. The sleep deprivation and its side effects were too much for me and I tapped out.

Still making sense of things. I felt a strong compulsion to do this retreat and many things seemed to open up to make it possible. I had no anxiety going into retreat, but I did remark to my wife that there was a somber feeling going into the experience. There was interest, and curiosity -- something pulling me, but no excitement.

The whole thing was fascinating and compelling. The two days I was there were preparatory days where I was still abiding by the sleep schedule and participating in morning and evening meditation, dharma talks and doing my own sits during my free time. I was already starting to have waves of panic and claustrophobia. Soryu Forall (the head teacher) gave a talk on dependent origination Thursday night that was rousing and terrifying.  He invited those that weren't prepared for the experience to leave the next morning. There was a clear sense that for me, the retreat was going to be a heavy one, where I had to face some grim truths, but I also had a keen sense for the prize of paying that price. 

That night, the quality of my sleep was poor. The next morning I rose from bed with a raw feeling of claustrophobia. As I made my way to the zendo it was snowing and there was a returning sense of panic and misery. I fortunately stayed long enough to have an interview with Soryu which was good. That might have been the entire reason for going. Oddly enough, all of the meditation felt strong. Working throught the sleepiness and nausea was a challenge, but I was holding it together and even getting some decent concentration regardless. It was just everying off-cushion. After the meditation session that morning I collapsed in my bed and tried to sleep. I had these horrific feelings of having to sacrifice my family,  like a real Abraham and Isaac type of a thing.

I got out of bed for breakfast and just knew I was done. The community there was great about it. They were actually appreciative that was honest enough with myself to make the decision before retreat offically started. 

There was no shame in making the decision, but there was tremendous feelings of dissapointment. Dissapointment is what I was going to be losing out out, but also dissapointment in my own fragility. I know I've developed better equanimity over the course of my practice, but this made it very clear that I still have a long way to go.

Felt very similar to an experience I had when I was a young artist. I went to San Diego Comic Con and showed my sketchbook to a bunch of master artists. There were some encouraging words, but it was mostly clear that there was a massive gap between where I was and where I wanted to be, that I couldn't have understood with out being there in person and testing myself directly. It gave me an amazing sense of clarity and drive.

At the conclusion of my interview with Soryu he left me with an assignment to be clear about my aspirations. This assignment has weighed heavily on me. Ever since being thrust into the world of contemplative practice, I feel like I've been frantically trying to make sense this new way of understanding life. The concept of the POI and Stream Entry were crucial to helping me gain a clear idea of what lay ahead of me and where to go next, but its clear to me now that I need a something more direct and relevant to myself as an aim. I think I have an idea of what that might be, but I want to spend some time with it to be sure. I think it has to do with developing the courage to live a life without compromise.

So, a bit bummed right now, but I think it's coming with a greater sense of clarity, purpose and resolve with the practice. Hoping I can make it back again to MAPLE at some point.

 
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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You may have missed this interview, https://www.guruviking.com/ep91-anna-lutkajtis-dark-side-of-the-dharma/ 
There's a comment that Steve makes about practice that may give you a new perspective. I hope it helps.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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Do you remember roughly where the comment is or should I listen to the whole thing?
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 3 Months ago.

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Brandon Dayton
Do you remember roughly where the comment is or should I listen to the whole thing?

It's at 45:51, but if you have time listen to the whole talk, there's a context that's important. 
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

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I'll just do the whole thing.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

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"Military style meditation retreat" -- that about sums it up. Maybe it's just about what's the right fit for a particular personality and biorythm.
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: 7 Day Retreat at MAPLE (Monastic Academy)

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I wouldn't call that fragility at all - being very clear about your feelings, your family and your priorities - that's strength. Congratulations!
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

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I appreciate that. I felt good about the decision. I'm just acknowledging my limitations. We are all fragile to one degree or another. It's just a matter of what it takes to break us.
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Chris Marti, modified 3 Months ago.

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Soryu Forall (the head teacher) gave a talk on dependent origination Thursday night that was rousing and terrifying.  He invited those that weren't prepared for the experience to leave the next morning. There was a clear sense that for me, the retreat was going to be a heavy one, where I had to face some grim truths, but I also had a keen sense for the prize of paying that price. 

Brandon, what about this part of your story was so heavy and, dare I say, scary? Why did you feel you would be facing grim truths? 
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

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I can't be totaly sure. The talk certainly indicated that the retreat would be about facing difficult things. Soryu referenced Star Wars and how that's what the retreat would be, but for real, and I couldn't help but thing about Luke's decent into the cave in Dagobah at that part. He also referenced war and how those who go to war are actually looking for what we would be doing at retreat -- that it would be an adventure and heroic and a sacrifice. The explicit subject was also dependent origination and there was something about the topic that felt like it laid everything very bare. It was about stripping away ignorance in this very austere, stoic way. "The cause of death is birth" somehow got to me.

There was also just an intuitive sense about it. I don't know if it was just being away from my family, combined with the discomfort, but it brought up these feelings of grief for losing my family and for my own mortality. Maybe that is part of the point of the sleep deprivation, to get you to that place more quickly. That's my best recollection at the moment.
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

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Sometimes people take a tough line on things to convince themselves that they are not afraid. Making other people feel afraid is a way of controlling their own fear ...
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

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My experience was brief, so there's clearly a lot I may not be seeing. That being said, my impression is that Soryu is a pretty stoic, serious guy, and maybe a bit tough on students, but he strikes me as very much being the Real Deal.

I'd recommend checking out some of his talks on youtube to get a sense of him.
Martin, modified 3 Months ago.

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For what it is worth, had I heard a talk along these lines, I would have been out of there, too. War and heroism pretty well top my list of things to be avoided. Looking at the center's website, there is quite a bit of talk about leadership and force and power and change and so on, so I can see that they have a sort of overall energetic and purposeful approach to things, and that certainly works for some people at some times, but I personally would not like to sit for five days with that kind of energy. But that's just me, and my reactions. You will have had your own reactions based on different conditions. But at the end of the day, I can't see plunging into something that seems like it is going to be unpleasant unless one has a very clear idea of a specific goal that can be achieved by pushing through or, the unpleasantness seems like fun. If neither is the case, I think saying no thank you is a much wiser choice, especially when we are talking about activities that are likely to have a long-term impact on our minds. 

 
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

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I want to be clear not to misrepresent Soryu and I think I'm doing a poor job. His reference to war was in no way promoting or celebrating it, quite to the contrary. He was making the point that people seek heroism through war (tragically) rather than applying that courage to facing their own fear, sadness, pain ect. Really no different than what the POI is all about.

Not to put to fine a point on it, but a large part of his personal narrative was challenging the support of war attrocities by Japanese Zen Buddhism and his teaching is very focused on outward responsibility as an essential part of awakening. A large portion of the talk was about the massive suffering and death that is being proliferated by modern society and the urgent need to make a change (maybe that set some of the tone). 

I'd recommend anyone reading about this experience to listen to some of his talks before passing any judgement. He's hardcore about practice and ethics, for sure, but it's very much in the direction of desperately trying to save the world from self-destruction. A huge part of my distress was the mindset, experience and personal physiology that I brough to it. There was a lady in her seventies that was there for retreat too. This was her third or fourth time and she had a huge smile on her face the whole time.

The way I see this is that MAPLE is just not a good fit for me at this time (maybe not ever). I'm not beating myself up about it and I'm also not blaming anyone there for inducing the experience. I got to see directly what they are all about, and I got to learn some things about myself. Both those things made it worth the price of admission.

This would be a good place to start to get a better sense of what he's about: https://anchor.fm/emerge/episodes/Soryu-Forall---Manufactured-Awakenings-ebfoho
Martin, modified 3 Months ago.

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What you describe here, by way of clarification, is basically the idea I got from the website. I didn't imagine that he would be in support of literal war, so there was nothing wrong, I don't think, with your description of it. I am sure Soryu is an ethical and loving guy.  It still would not be my cup of tea. 
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Chris Marti, modified 3 Months ago.

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 Soryu referenced Star Wars and how that's what the retreat would be, but for real, and I couldn't help but thing about Luke's decent into the cave in Dagobah at that part. He also referenced war and how those who go to war are actually looking for what we would be doing at retreat -- that it would be an adventure and heroic and a sacrifice. The explicit subject was also dependent origination and there was something about the topic that felt like it laid everything very bare. It was about stripping away ignorance in this very austere, stoic way. "The cause of death is birth" somehow got to me.

I have no context in regard to your narrative, this person, or the institution you were attending, so I'll reserve judgment.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

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Maybe in lieu of a judgement you can share your impression, with the caveat that it may lack context, and I will take it with the appropriate grain of salt.
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Pepe, modified 3 Months ago.

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Hi Brandon,

For what it is worth, as I work at home and cared after my son I had to wait literally for years until he entered school to have enough sleep and time to meditate. Your situation seem similar IIRC, yet you have been doing real progress lately. So please forget this retreat issue and keep on with what you where practicing, kudos to you! 

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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

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Thanks Pepe. Trying to use this as a learning opportunity and to move forward.
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Chris Marti, modified 3 Months ago.

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Maybe in lieu of a judgement you can share your impression, with the caveat that it may lack context, and I will take it with the appropriate grain of salt.

Brandon, I'd really prefer not to say anything - judgment-wise, that is.

This talk affected you deeply and seems to have turned your enthusiasm for this retreat into something that is essentially the opposite. What part of that change of heart is due to the message you received and how it was delivered, and what part is due to your feelings about being away from home and a desire not to face what you heard, is impossible for me to tease apart. I would hate to see this event affect your practice over the long term. I suspect this event leaves you with an opportunity to be introspective and examine what your reaction was, and why. This event may have hit a spot that could be a vein of pure gold for you and your practice. I hope you approach it that way.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

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This event may have hit a spot that could be a vein of pure gold for you and your practice. I hope you approach it that way.

This is how it's feeling currently. Time will tell what the long-term impact is.
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Siavash ', modified 3 Months ago.

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Brandon, thanks for writing your above comment about Soryu. I think it was a good introduction of him.

I like Soryu, but probably I wouldn't do a retreat with him at this point in my development if it was possible to do it, although I'd like to do it at some point, because I think I am not ready at this point.
​​​​​​​I think the responsibility that Soryu feels about morality and saving the world is huge, and he transmits that responsibility in a quite powerful way, and I don't think I'd want to carry that responsibility on my shoulders, at least not now.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

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​​​​​​​I think the responsibility that Soryu feels about morality and saving the world is huge, and he transmits that responsibility in a quite powerful way, and I don't think I'd want to carry that responsibility on my shoulders, at least not now.

Ha, ha. Yes. That's a good way to put it.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 3 Months ago.

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I second what Pepe say! Forget what has passed and focus on what matters instead emoticon right now = consistent daily practice emoticon 

It's tough as is, being a dad, the diaper man, and still we dig into the unknown alert, ardent and mindful. 

Btw, retreats are overrated. I've done only two solo retreats between 2009 to 2021. Most of it was daily practice and that's what matters!  

Best wishes to you mate! 
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

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Thanks man. It was a good experience to get me fired up about practice. I'm still at it.
shargrol, modified 3 Months ago.

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There's an old saying: a good run is better than a bad stand. emoticon

I'll bet that as you digest your experience you'll better realize where the fear/doubt arose from and it will be clearer how to address that fear/doubt with either directed practice or supplemental study. Best wishes!
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

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The cultivation of equanimity with unpleasant experiences has taken a new precedence within my practice. 
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 3 Months ago.

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     Shargrol's recommendation of addressing the fear/doubt and his mention of “directed practice or supplemental study”, was my cue to tell this story. I don't know if you've heard of the therapeutic technique developed by Eugene Gendlin; Focusing. At one point of my practice, I made extensive use of the technique and even researched how it was being developed in other countries. It still has an important spot in my toolbox although I haven't needed it much lately. I won't go into the details, because you can get them straight from the horse's mouth on their website or the many books written.
     I will add some details from meditator to meditator that may not be touched on in their information. Keep good posture even if you do it in a chair. Prop yourself up if needed but don't recline. This will facilitate transferring to formal practice. Watch the nape of the neck. The jutting out of the chin is a generalized response to stress and difficult emotions. It effectively blocks feeling. The tension can be very subtle. Relax before starting the technique and then be watchful of this area.
​​​​​​​     I used the technique to confront fear and it took me from the feeling in the moment, back to childhood memories, to feeling of inadequacy, to the pure angst of the unknown. Quite a trip. The thing is not to stop at first results, continue going until you exhaust the search. Keep in mind, fear is forever. Be gentle with yourself.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 3 Months ago.

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Thanks for the recommendation. I'll look into that.

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