RE: Selecting a first retreat - help!

Craig Alexander Hill, modified 12 Days ago.

Selecting a first retreat - help!

Posts: 3 Join Date: 6/9/21 Recent Posts
Hi all,

First post here - I've been meditating daily for 20 - 90 mins for 7 months now, having started with headspace and moved on to TMI. I started on the MCTB recently and have found it complimentary, which led me here. 

I've been looking for meditation retreats in France; there are a few sites that have spiritual tourism looking stuff, Vipassana retreats with long waitlists, and a whole host of different centers with different structures. 

I've found a New Kadampa Tradition five day retreat that I am looking in to - I am in stage 4/5 of the TMI path and have been having some disruptive insights, so want to spend some time working more on the Loving Kindness front to try to mediate some of the DNS flavoured stuff.

Having done some research, I'm realising there is a long history to Buddhism which I know precious little about. So I am on the fence between immersing myself in reading about these different approaches (traditional vs. eclectic, countries, schools, lineages, politics) versus just wanting to get some more sitting time in, in a calm environment, with a qualified teacher. Ideally both over the longterm!

a) Has anyone been on a retreat with NKT, and if so, how was your experience?
b) How have you dealt with working in a tradition / moving between traditions? I like the pragmatism of TMI and MCBT so am at a bit of a loss here. 
c) What advice would you give to a first-timer looking to go on retreat, as far as picking a centre / type of Buddhism? Green and red flags?

Thank you in advance for any insights you can share on navigating this process!
Josef C, modified 12 Days ago.

RE: Selecting a first retreat - help!

Posts: 61 Join Date: 6/16/20 Recent Posts
Hello ! Good day.

I have had no retreat experiences yet , but what I know is that NKT is a controversial sect of Buddhism. You can look them up so that you can learn of the various "controversies" in regards to NKT.

In France what I have seen are  Mahasi ,Goenka and Plum Village in France too. Alongside there are numerous good retreat centers in EU. They all have very different approach and please check whether their approach fits you. 

You can also  check this post and check the links ( readings) that are very helpful: .

​​​​​​​Good luck ! 
C Alexander, modified 12 Days ago.

RE: Selecting a first retreat - help!

Posts: 3 Join Date: 6/9/21 Recent Posts
Hi Josef, 

Thank you for the advice and the readings, definitely helpful! I'll broaden my search a bit and maybe do a "self-retreat" in the meantime as I see Plum Village is offering these instead of in-person (COVID). 

Wishing you a nice weekend,
Eudoxos ., modified 11 Days ago.

RE: Selecting a first retreat - help!

Posts: 44 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
(b) don't expect MBCT-level of communicative openness in Theravada (including Mahasi) places, though that itself is "pragmatic": it pushes one to the real practice and weakens the attachment to expectations, theories, ambitions etc. The teachers are pretty much used to meditators roaming between traditions, but having dedication at some point definitely helps to avoid shopping around, confusion, doubt etc. (c) Daniel has good advice on retreats in MCTB2 (IIRC), in particular to sincerely follow the practice of the place; I'd go for Theravada, for me it somehow goes straight to the point, but that is perhaps personal preference or temperament plus lack of experience of other traditions.

A few centers in the Thai-Mahasi tradition I know about now (nothing in France ATM, sorry): Dhammacari (near Munich) is taking students now again after a few weeks of break, Dhammanikhom near Berlin is also open (both dana-based), will run 2.5-week retreat in July (I am on the crew there ;) ), there are others.

If you want kindness, though, then Mahasi might not be the best choice. Visu Teoh is doing metta/vipassana retreats, mostly in Germany, but it looks all cancelled now. I'd be extra mindful about perhaps wanting to fix the disruptive insights with kindness. The highest kindness is to attend to whatever is present; the insight process is disruptive by design, but it itself helps to handle and heal the disruption.

Good luck!
mrdust, modified 11 Days ago.

RE: Selecting a first retreat - help!

Posts: 44 Join Date: 7/17/19 Recent Posts
I don't think it's important to pick a tradition unless that's something you really want. Most are open to letting people retreat with them. Getting a variety of experiences until something resonates is probably a good idea. And if nothing does that's fine too.

I can't vouch from experience, but this center is on my shortlist and seems to have a pretty pragmatic / modern approach:

As for general rules -- my best retreats have been with experienced teachers and regular personal interviews, so I'd avoid Goenka and solo retreats if you can.

I'd also recommend not going in with too many expectations or goals. Just show up and be ready to follow instructions of whatever you signed up for, the rest will fall into place. 
J W, modified 11 Days ago.

RE: Selecting a first retreat - help!

Posts: 410 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
I would expect above-average mushroom factory vibes from an NKT retreat, it being more of a guru-based tradition,
(This may or may not be a problem depending on your expectations and your level of tolerance for that kind of stuff.)
but that said I have done a couple and they were worthwhile, and I have met some great people from that tradition. 

You might consider looking at a schedule as a lot of the Kadampa stuff is more heavy on dharma talks (and singing. lots of singing) and less actual sitting (if what you are looking for is a lot of sitting time).
C Alexander, modified 10 Days ago.

RE: Selecting a first retreat - help!

Posts: 3 Join Date: 6/9/21 Recent Posts
Thank you for the recomendations and advice, it's greatly appreciated! I'll take some time this weekend to sit down and look through the programs and leads mentioned, hopefully with the outcome of a booked retreat... Wider EU area could work well depending on the country/border situation, the Hridaya center looks cool too. Might be more my pace than the NKT one, it sounds like.

Glad to hear about openess in joining different retreats (and moving between traditions) - I wasn't sure of what to expect and reading about some of the disagreements between different groups. Seems like it's just a matter of taking the first steps and learning as you go. 

Re. Eudoxos on insights/disruptions - thanks for the tip. I read a bit more and found a couple of passages in MCTB (havn't gotten very far in it yet) and threads on Reddit/Dharma Overground that discussed some of the specifics that have cropped up as fairly standard fare. I.e. "void" experiences, irritabilty, etc. Just isn't discussed in as much detail in TMI.  Will keep at it.