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Long Term Retreat Advice
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5/2/12 1:58 AM
I am coming to you guys just for some perspective. Meditation has changed everything. I thought it would only help me deal with my pain, but instead it has completely changed my experience of the self and world. I doubt you are really interested in a rant of how powerful of an experience it has been coming from where I was to where I am at now. The transition from a living hell, to heaven, has got me considering taking my practice to the next level, especially after my retreat with Shinzen.

I don't know anyone who has dropped everything and gone on a longer retreat, but I figured you guys probably know a few people, if you haven't done it yourself. What kind of financial position do people who do this leave in? Do people have safety nets, money saved up and the support of others? Being that I am 21 and working a job at Whole Foods, that does not currently give me the funds to save enough to do such a thing. I would be leaving under this idea that if you follow your heart, great risks can reap great rewards. It's sort of a romantic spiritual belief, but following my heart has put me in a beautiful direction, yet at the same time I have made some foolish choices in the past based off naive spiritual beliefs. Do people just know in the heart when it is time to go on these kind of things? Or is there risk involved? For me some things just synchronistically align and that is how I know it is ment to be, but sometimes I need to make the first move. I also don't always act on something just because of "synchronicity".

A part of me is scared to drop everything, but there isn't much keeping me here. Don't take that like I am not enjoying my time spent in beautiful Los Angeles. I love living here. I am surrounded by some beautiful people, I eat good food and am for the first time in my entire life genuinely happy. But I don't really feel attached to any of it. The deeper I get into this practice, these philosophies, the more I just want to dedicate myself to studying and observing the mind. I am thinking about just going back to school for psychology, philosophy and getting into neuroscience of all this jazz. If you made it this far, thanks for reading this. I don't have many people who's opinions I really trust on a subject such as this. They would all just tell me I have lost my marbles and to keep my real job.
With Love,
-Braxton

RE: Long Term Retreat Advice
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5/2/12 4:20 AM as a reply to Braxton.
I would be leaving under this idea that if you follow your heart, great risks can reap great rewards. It's sort of a romantic spiritual belief, but following my heart has put me in a beautiful direction, yet at the same time I have made some foolish choices in the past based off naive spiritual beliefs. Do people just know in the heart when it is time to go on these kind of things? Or is there risk involved? For me some things just synchronistically align and that is how I know it is ment to be, but sometimes I need to make the first move. I also don't always act on something just because of "synchronicity".


IMO, Keep in mind the practical issues of such an endeavour, so that you are able to support yourself, as well as knowing in your heart that it is time to go on such a retreat :-)

RE: Long Term Retreat Advice
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5/6/12 4:12 PM as a reply to Yadid dee.
Yadid dee:
IMO, Keep in mind the practical issues of such an endeavour, so that you are able to support yourself, as well as knowing in your heart that it is time to go on such a retreat :-)


This is exactly the conclusion I came to after speaking with a few people. I'm in the process of saving up enough for my ticket, plus I was thinking $1,000 in case shit happens money. Has anyone done this that could suggest a rough estimate of how much backup money I should have or specific places to go? Actually any tips at all would be greatly appreciated. Shinzen and one of his facilitators Stephanie have suggested a few places, but I would love to hear some more suggestions. I'm still considering IMS, but I kind of want to go out of America, perhaps Burma or Thailand.

RE: Long Term Retreat Advice
Answer
5/7/12 6:28 AM as a reply to Braxton.
I don't have any specific practical advice, except that if you decide to do a long-term retreat, you should commit to doing it for a certain amount of time, hell or high water. Romantic visions of life in a monastary (or wherever) start to lose their motivating force if your find that busting your ass on a cushion for 12+ hours a day has unpleasant, stressful, or difficult qualities to it (or you start to face more of those qualities in your everyday experience). So, I think it will support your practice to start looking at a long-term retreat as a serious commitment, whether or not you initially find it to be enjoyable or terrible, and plan to follow through on that commitment once it's begun, whether or not it meets the expectations and dreams that you have for how it will turn out.

RE: Long Term Retreat Advice
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7/2/12 1:52 PM as a reply to Braxton.
Hey Braxton,

It's wonderful to hear of another young yogi who wants to awaken. Makes me happy!

What I read in your post is exactly how I have thought in the past. I sat 3 Goenka 10-days, served and sat for about 3 and a half months, went to Burma for 60-some days for U Pandita's special December/January retreat, and have just returned from a 90-day personal retreat at GAIA House is the UK. The urge for liberation does it's own thing regardless of life circumstances.

On finances: Somebody owed me money. I put the bill for the flight to Burma on my credit card. Came back, ran around like a maniac trying to pay off the debt and move money around for the next retreat. I used gofundme.com to raise some money, sold a bunch of stuff on craigslist, tutored a bit. Actually I gave my mom a bunch of money just because she is my mom and nothing is better than to give to parents. Two months after coming back from Burma, I went to the UK, putting most everything on my credit card and hoping for the best. Before I left, some of the debt was paid off by my old business partner, and during the retreat my mom helped me pay off the remaining debt and deposited extra money into the account. Now, I am back for a month or so, my business partner is close to paying off all debt, and I am planning on 7 months at the Forest Refuge.

Basically, practice the Dhamma in faith, develop compassion, give whatever you have whenever possible and practical, and just have faith. A few thousand dollars in debt isn't the end of the world. It's just another thought. For me, long retreats have been worth all the anxiety about money and not having enough, because when I come out the other side, things just seem to fall in place. My relationship to money has changed although there are definitely still contractions around it. Faith is important. Have faith in Dhamma!

Intellectual knowledge is important but practicing is more important. If the choice is between going back to school and practicing meditation intensely for the same period of time, definitely meditate. Just my two cents.

Be Happy!

RE: Long Term Retreat Advice
Answer
7/2/12 5:21 PM as a reply to Braxton.
You must already have some kind of safety net if you're thinking of going to school in CA.

You need resources to exist peacefully while you do this work. It might lead to a place where you don't care about money or survival, but you shouldn't count on that happening on a schedule. If you end up destitute and hounded by creditors before you're ready, it will be a hindrance. emoticon

School in the US is basically a vast scam at this point (and I say that having devoted my life to academia.) Don't go to school to learn stuff you could just read in a book, make sure that if you go you have a practical plan for how the skills you acquire there will improve your life. You would be much better off devoting your time to practice than pursuing a degree in the psych, philosophy or the neuroscience of this stuff. (Certain parts of psychology and neuroscience are worthwhile, but almost anything related to meditation is a gimmick.) If I were in your situation, I would probably be talking to whoever I expected to help me fund the further schooling about what I really want out of life.

RE: Long Term Retreat Advice
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7/5/12 4:47 PM as a reply to Braxton.
Hi Braxton,

I'm in a similar boat (i.e. the one about not having enough money for a retreat), and imo, this stuff should, theoretically, be the cheapest thing to do in the world. Now, a lot of people may completely disagree with me on this, and I totally respect and understand the benefits of flying off to burma for three-month retreats; however, Buddha essentially said, repeatedly, just go to a secluded place and meditate. That costs zero dollars! And you don't have to quit your job to do it. Call me crazy, but working at Whole Foods during this time actually might be conducive to practice: it's mostly (correct me if I'm wrong) physical and does not require intense cognitive analysis, and so you could get in a lot of vipassana. I try to think of my workplace as a monastery, especially when I have to do mindless stuff, and it actually seems to work. Especially since you've already been on a retreat and you sound like you already have at least a certain level of attainment, you won't just be totally floundering, and you can always post questions on here if you are.

That said, not going on retreat I think may definitely be holding me back. I definitely feel divided between "the world" and meditation. Retreats seem to me very much like joining a gym: technically, you can get super fit just in your living room, but joining a gym (and even better, getting a personal trainer or going to a boot camp) are extremely helpful in terms of motivation. However, many people can't afford a gym membership (e.g. me), and it sounds like in your case, you just can't afford to do a long-term retreat. The dharma is not divorced from practicality. In the words of a Thai forest monk, "I didn't learn the dhamma to become stupid." It's not like a cult that's like, give us money no matter what the consequences; we promise it's worth it. You could just go to dhamma centers (for free or donation-only) when you can to keep up your motivation. (btw, I'm in LA, too!) emoticon

Just my perspective, for what it's worth.

-M

RE: Long Term Retreat Advice
Answer
7/5/12 7:06 PM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
Morgan Taylor:


I'm in a similar boat (i.e. the one about not having enough money for a retreat), and imo, this stuff should, theoretically, be the cheapest thing to do in the world.

Now, a lot of people may completely disagree with me on this, and I totally respect and understand the benefits of flying off to burma for three-month retreats; however, Buddha essentially said, repeatedly, just go to a secluded place and meditate. That costs zero dollars! And you don't have to quit your job to do it. Call me crazy, but working at Whole Foods during this time actually might be conducive to practice: it's mostly (correct me if I'm wrong) physical and does not require intense cognitive analysis, and so you could get in a lot of vipassana.


Theoretically, yes, all of us can go to a forest or a cave somewhere, forget about everything and meditate. Practically, how many of us are willing to do this? Even if we are, there are still practicalities, like food and medicine, that make this tough for the Westerner. We're conditioned to be comfortable.

Working at Whole Foods is not the same as going to a secluded place and meditating. Yes, we can learn a lot from interactions from other people, but the deepest work is when we are completely alone, without any distractions (or with a group who are all practicing silence and meditation). By the way, there are monasteries in Asia where they let people stay for very cheap or even for free for as long as you want e.g. Panditarama Forest Monastery in Burma. You just have to gather the resources to get there. Of course, there are still issues like the weather, mosquitoes, and food that we might not be used to, but we don't know until we explore.

Morgan Taylor:
That said, not going on retreat I think may definitely be holding me back. I definitely feel divided between "the world" and meditation. Retreats seem to me very much like joining a gym: technically, you can get super fit just in your living room, but joining a gym (and even better, getting a personal trainer or going to a boot camp) are extremely helpful in terms of motivation. However, many people can't afford a gym membership (e.g. me), and it sounds like in your case, you just can't afford to do a long-term retreat. The dharma is not divorced from practicality. In the words of a Thai forest monk, "I didn't learn the dhamma to become stupid." It's not like a cult that's like, give us money no matter what the consequences; we promise it's worth it. You could just go to dhamma centers (for free or donation-only) when you can to keep up your motivation. (btw, I'm in LA, too!) emoticon


Retreats are wonderful. Food is provided. Shelter is provided. In most places, basic medicine is available. We don't have to think about survival. This allows us to go deeper into meditation. The deeper we go in meditation, the more benefit we bring to ourselves and to those with whom we interact.

In my experience, going on retreat is the most wonderful thing a young person could do. It sets a foundation for the rest of our lives. Purifying our senses and perceptions when we are young is the wisest choice we can make.

Be Happy!

RE: Long Term Retreat Advice
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7/5/12 7:17 PM as a reply to Be Free Now.
Mitsuaki David Chi:
Theoretically, yes, all of us can go to a forest or a cave somewhere, forget about everything and meditate. Practically, how many of us are willing to do this? Even if we are, there are still practicalities, like food and medicine, that make this tough for the Westerner. We're conditioned to be comfortable.


I wasn't saying live in a forest; I was thinking like, just going there for a few hours a day or on the weekend or something.

Mitsuaki David Chi:
Working at Whole Foods is not the same as going to a secluded place and meditating. Yes, we can learn a lot from interactions from other people, but the deepest work is when we are completely alone, without any distractions (or with a group who are all practicing silence and meditation).


Well, yes. If money is no object, of course a retreat is ideal. But if money is an object, as it is for most people, I'm just saying that you don't have to chuck the whole thing; you can still integrate it into your daily life. And even monks don't go to a secluded place and meditate their whole lives, or even a whole day; they work both with things and people at times.

RE: Long Term Retreat Advice
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7/5/12 7:55 PM as a reply to Braxton.
Meditation Center

Here is another meditation center in Burma.

RE: Long Term Retreat Advice
Answer
7/5/12 8:00 PM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
Morgan Taylor:


I wasn't saying live in a forest; I was thinking like, just going there for a few hours a day or on the weekend or something.


Better than nothing is a few hours each day or every weekend, but there's nothing like prolonged retreat without much distraction. This way, we can really dig into our cravings and ignorance.

Morgan Taylor:

Well, yes. If money is no object, of course a retreat is ideal. But if money is an object, as it is for most people, I'm just saying that you don't have to chuck the whole thing; you can still integrate it into your daily life. And even monks don't go to a secluded place and meditate their whole lives, or even a whole day; they work both with things and people at times.


Yes, money is usually an issue in our lives. But don't spend on anything extra so you can save for Dhamma (besides health, perhaps)!

Different monks do different things. Some Tibetan monks go into seclusion for years or decades. Most Theravadin monks sit the rains retreat for 3 months every year, and then carry that wisdom into the other 9 months (although they still sit more than we usually do during their "off-peak" months). Some monks go to a meditation center and practice intensely with others without taking on any duties. And some monks don't meditate at all. There's lots of ways to do it!

Be Happy!