RE: Advice on Having Better Virtual Retreat

Sam Gentile, modified 21 Days ago.

Advice on Having Better Virtual Retreat

Posts: 994 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
I am not having this virtual IMS retreat until April 24-28 on Awakening: Insight Meditation Retreat but I wanted to get ahead and start planning. I have gone on real in-person retreats at IMS and there is plenty of advice about those kind of retreats here on DhO. But in taking 3-4 virtual retreats, I see a whole different set of challenges. The retreat is on the Internet, so it is really hard to stay off places like DhO. Also there is no one rining the bell, so there is no real sense of shedule.

In my Advanced Emptiness retreat, I met my goal of no logging into Dh0 for 8 days but here are the problems I had:
  1. The retreat activities wouldn't start until 11AM, so I wouldn't wake up until 10 and got no morning practice. This led to overall not enough practice during the day.
  2. There was the distration of my cell phone which I checked periodically.
  3. Since I was in the hose, I would do sittins only until 5 or so, watch the news and then the dharma talk.
  4. I would watch TV from 8-11PM.
So, I didn't make progress because I simply didn't have enough sits during the day. Do any of you have specific advice to overcome these issues while having all these distractions in the house?
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J W, modified 21 Days ago.

RE: Advice on Having Better Virtual Retreat

Posts: 369 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
Just set some rules for yourself - no cell phones, no TV, no news, etc. Or, set aside certain times throughout the day to do those things if you absolutely have to.
My wife and I just did a virtual IMS retreat as well, we just decided we wouldn't look at our phones until after the last session (unless it was important/work related).  Then I would do stuff on my phone maybe for an hour before bed. Probably better not to, but oh well.

Good luck! emoticon
Sam Gentile, modified 21 Days ago.

RE: Advice on Having Better Virtual Retreat

Posts: 994 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for your response. How do you have the willpower when there are no bells enforcing things? Also how many hours of the day spent in sitting practice is considered a goal to have a good retreat? Should I set up for sessions from early in the day until evening?
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Josef C, modified 21 Days ago.

RE: Advice on Having Better Virtual Retreat

Posts: 43 Join Date: 6/16/20 Recent Posts
I can only advice on the willpower part since I have not done any virtual retreats. My advice when it comes to will power , is that willpower is the last resort. Can you tweak your environment to make it more conducive to meditative practice? Lessen the distractions available around your environment and make it harder to access those distractions.  Can you put your phone in a place where it is harder to access? Maybe in another area besides the meditation area. Since  the retreat is only for four days , can you  eliminate watching tv ? Or lessen it to an hour or less. Set a specific time period for watching tv then once the time is up let go of it.  Good luck with your virtual retreat ! 
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J W, modified 21 Days ago.

RE: Advice on Having Better Virtual Retreat

Posts: 369 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
Hmm... well, the one that we did, there were only about 3-4 hours of video sessions, but the idea was to keep the mindfulness/concentration going in between the sessions as well.  So at the very least maybe you can set a goal to not look at phones/TVs between the sessions.  That way you can get a good 6-8 hours of practice in, which is a pretty good goal by many standards.
Not sure what the schedule for yours is like.  But also keep in mind that you can do stuff outside of strict sitting, i.e. walking meditation, mindful cleaning, standing meditation.
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Siavash ', modified 21 Days ago.

RE: Advice on Having Better Virtual Retreat

Posts: 1198 Join Date: 5/5/19 Recent Posts
Hi Sam,

Regarding distraction, one thing that might help, is questioning. For the activities that you consider to be distractions, like watching TV or checking your phone, to have these questions in mind that: "Why should I do it?", "Do I really need to do it?", "What would happen if I didn't do it?".

Specially doing this questioning just before that activity can be helpful. For example, you intend to watch TV, but just before turning the TV on, ask yourself: "Why should I pick the controller? Why should I turn the TV on? Do I really need to do it, and do it now? Can it wait? What will I lose and what will I gain by watching TV?".

Hope this helps.
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Chris Marti, modified 21 Days ago.

RE: Advice on Having Better Virtual Retreat

Posts: 3862 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
How do you have the willpower when there are no bells enforcing things?

Sam, isn't this part of your retreat practice? What I mean by that is that you can use your observational capabilities to watch this process happening, then examine it, then take a few attentional steps back and watch the desires come and go, arise and pass. This will be part of your retreat, and not something you feel you need to avoid. Walk up to it with the confidence that you can become its friend.

EDIT: The "bargaining" approach would not be a good idea, IMHO, as it encourages you to engage with the mind in a way that sabotages your intent to be on the retreat in the first place. The mind wants you to pay attention to the stories it tells, the temptations it shows you, and to enter into a dialogue with it at that level. Don't play that game.
Sam Gentile, modified 17 Days ago.

RE: Advice on Having Better Virtual Retreat

Posts: 994 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
Thanks Chris and others
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David Matte, modified 17 Days ago.

RE: Advice on Having Better Virtual Retreat

Posts: 67 Join Date: 8/3/19 Recent Posts
Dear Sam,

Just want to add to the great advise here already and say that it's perhaps worthwhile to re-examine your motivation for your practise and doing the retreat. Without motivation, being disciplined won't really help. Ask yourself "Why am I doing this?" "What do I hope to get out of this?"

Also I would suggest to make up a schedule, print it and post it somewhere so you can see an overview of the day. 10 hours a day is a typical amount of formal practise. 

​​​​​​​May you have a fruitful retreat emoticon

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