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Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?

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Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/19/12 5:50 PM
So, I decided today, screw it, i think i want to go on a long term retreat. Like, 6 months or so, possibly more depending on how i like it there. How do i go about doing this? Can anyone suggest any places? I'd like to practice basic Theravadan shamatha and jhana practice as well as vipassana practice, noting is my technique of choice. How much is this going to cost? What should i be thinking about and looking for? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!!

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/20/12 12:48 PM as a reply to Brian K..
I've never done this, and there are others here with far more relevant experience. I would suggest you feel your way into it. Six months is a big commitment, and you're more likely to optimize it if you have a lot of information which you really can't get on the internet or in a book. Try a few shorter retreats in places where you like the teachings first.

Like I said, I have no first-hand knowledge of this, but I have heard of monasteries which will take you on for no charge, if they establish that you're serious. I think it was Buddhadasa Bhikku's? I know someone who used to train with him, I think, and could probably put you in touch. Obviously, price is not a sensible thing to optimize for, and I don't know what the going rate is. I'm just mentioning this because it suggests that it might not cost as much as you'd think, if you go to Asia.

I bet you'd get a useful answer from Yuttadhammo.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/20/12 2:30 PM as a reply to fivebells ..
Yes i've contacted another member here who directed me to a number of monastaries in Asia that will let one stay for free. And as for the smaller retreats, idk i think this is something i want to just do, jump in head first. I was planning on going away to a 4 year school in spring 2013 but now think i am delaying it until fall 2013, and after that i will pretty much be in school for the next 4 years and will probably have to start working immediately after to take care of what debt i have left. So the time is now for a long retreat. Fuck it right? Its an experience and i've been flip-flopping on it for a while. I think I'm gonna shoot first ask questions later on this one.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/20/12 3:49 PM as a reply to Brian K..
I agree, why not? Do it if going for 6 months is feasible, so that you won't come back to ordinary life negatively impacted by going on such a long retreat (such that you wouldn't be ignoring "real world" responsibilities or winding up with a load of debt). Partially due to what was once stubbornness about wanting to prove that I could make fast progress in daily life without going on retreat... I never bothered taking advantage of retreat time. I did manage to find a way and made it work and all that... but it's still likely I could have uncovered alot more, much sooner had I just gone on retreat. Honestly, if you're this serious about practice at this stage in your life, that's genuinely fucking excellent so make good use of it. I had nowhere near that level of motivation before starting college.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/20/12 4:12 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Thanks for the motivation! I appreciate it!

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/20/12 7:46 PM as a reply to Brian K..
Well, taking six months off for meditation is definitely better than taking on a boatload of student debt at this stage. May your shots hit the mark (and bring you to peace. emoticon)

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/20/12 7:55 PM as a reply to fivebells ..
Noting "jealous."

No advice here, but good luck!

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/21/12 1:54 AM as a reply to Brian K..
Brian K.:
So, I decided today, screw it, i think i want to go on a long term retreat. Like, 6 months or so, possibly more depending on how i like it there. How do i go about doing this? Can anyone suggest any places? I'd like to practice basic Theravadan shamatha and jhana practice as well as vipassana practice, noting is my technique of choice. How much is this going to cost? What should i be thinking about and looking for? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!!


Sounds like fun.
Have you ever done a retreat before?

Two of my friends did long retreats at Panditarama in Lumbini and they liked both the place and the teacher (Sayadaw U Vivekananda, a student of U Pandita), although it has its problems (too hot in the summer, danger of malaria, etc).
You could basically talk to them in advance, get them to agree to you coming for a month or so, and then every month they reassess your situation and you could stay there for as long as you want, provided they are satisfied you are making good progress and not wasting your time or going nuts.

Panditarama, Lumbini

Here's some old advice from Tarin to someone who asked about a retreat, his advice is basically about length, and I liked it, so here it is:

tarin:
the best length is probably however long you think you can keep up total and sincere dedication to doing it like you mean it. can you do that for a month nonstop? no? try 3 weeks. can you do it for 3 weeks? no? try 2 weeks. but i think it really probably shouldn't be any shorter than 2 weeks. you also better be at the end of your rope if you cut it that short. for a short focused and purposeful retreat, i actually recommend doing it solo in order to focus the intensity even further, if you can manage to keep up that level of intensity while on your own, but it may not be for everybody.

i also remember reading that mahasi thought most people could do it within a month and a half.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/22/12 10:05 PM as a reply to Brian K..
I am too lazy to read all the thread here, but I just wanted to quickly say how wonderful I feel it is that you are going for it like that. Go, go, go, while you can, meditate and it will be time well spent. Enjoy! Personally, I recommend the Forest Refuge, which gets cheaper the longer that you stay.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/23/12 12:39 PM as a reply to M B.
Thanks bro, and everyone else! Encouragement as well as suggestion is always appreciated.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/23/12 1:00 PM as a reply to Brian K..
you should start getting in touch with the retreat centers/monasteries you are considering sooner rather than later. from the bit i've read in the past on various monasteries websites, they generally have a very limited number of spots for retreat goers, especially centers that are free of charge. what part of the world do you live in? if you're going to another country there will likely be visa requirements, which will potentially take a fair amount of time to sort out. usually you need a letter from the monastery to submit to the consulate and you will get a short term visa, something around 3 months for lots of asian countries, i think. i have read some reports that retreat goers will get the 3 month visa, exit to a neighboring country when it's about to expire, renew (or get a new one? i'm not sure) the visa there and then go back to the initial retreat center. anyways, i'm sure you can contact the monastery and ask them all this.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/23/12 2:01 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Right, i've already contacted one and asked them a few questions. They responded, but i'm waiting for a reply as of right now. Also i am waiting for a reply from another one in the US. I live in New Jersey. The only thing that concerns me, and maybe this will sound like a silly concern to some, but is that i'm a musician (guitar player mostly) and am studying music in college, its not a hobby thing, its basically my life. Im afraid if i leave for an extended amount of time and i'm not able to play at all, my muscles/muscle memory will atrophy. I would like to be able to play guitar (an unplugged, quiet, electric guitar) for like 10-15 minutes each day just to keep my chops up so i dont have to spend months practicing when i get back to reclaim where i once was. However, that may be a sacrifice im willing to make if i need to. I've also considered mental rehearsal techniques, like have you ever heard about how if you rehearse something in your mind, to your brain its almost as good as actually doing it? Anyway, does anyone have any suggestions/ experience with this???

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/23/12 9:20 PM as a reply to Brian K..
http://www.dharma.org/resources/outside-resources this is a link to a good list of places for retreats.

It also occurs to me that Wat Metta Forest Monastery is an excellent place to go... it is free to stay there but you work several hours per day. There are also many hours to meditate and the teacher there-- Thanissaro Bhikku-- is good. It's not the same as doing non-stop silent retreat, but you could practice your guitar in the avocado grove there.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/24/12 12:56 AM as a reply to M B.
People keep mentioning places in Thailand. I know of a place just north of Chang Mai, and apparently there are centers near Bangkok. I would contact Tarin Greco to see what he knows of them.

Daniel

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/24/12 6:36 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Ok, thank you. I have many places to look. Would anyone be able to suggest, perhaps, some of the main things to consider in choosing a retreat center? Preferably bullet point style?! (sometimes i need things simple.....) Because as of right now, it seems i have a number of options. which is awesome.... I'm contacting a few places now and will continue to do so over the next few days/week or two, then get crackin on makin it happen.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/25/12 5:14 AM as a reply to Brian K..
Brian K.:
Ok, thank you. I have many places to look. Would anyone be able to suggest, perhaps, some of the main things to consider in choosing a retreat center? Preferably bullet point style?! (sometimes i need things simple.....) Because as of right now, it seems i have a number of options. which is awesome.... I'm contacting a few places now and will continue to do so over the next few days/week or two, then get crackin on makin it happen.


If money is an issue:
- How far is it, so how expensive is it to get there by flight
- How much does the retreat cost

The rest:

- How interested are you in what the local resident teacher has to teach
- How hardcore is the approach there (how many hours will you expected to practice per day), and does it match your own ability / interest for this retreat.
- How are the living conditions (anywhere from very low-grade to very high-grade in places like IMS/Forest Refuge), and will you be ok with that.
- How secluded will you be / how much noise is there, what kind of balance do you prefer in regards to this
- Is there malaria / other dangers in the area

Thats what I can think of as of right now, probably others can add something.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
Answer
8/25/12 12:37 PM as a reply to Brian K..
Brian K.:
Ok, thank you. I have many places to look. Would anyone be able to suggest, perhaps, some of the main things to consider in choosing a retreat center? Preferably bullet point style?! (sometimes i need things simple.....) Because as of right now, it seems i have a number of options. which is awesome.... I'm contacting a few places now and will continue to do so over the next few days/week or two, then get crackin on makin it happen.


* Where there is a teacher that you want to work with.
* Wherever is supportive of what you want to do in your practice at this time (as Sayadaw u Tejaniya said to some students on retreat recently, "if you care, you'll find a way"). If you are interested in the dharma, go where you are supported to develop the 8-fold path.
* Restraint, virtue, and simplicity are encouraged, as foundations for the deepening of practice.
* Teachings in a language that you understand is important, because study is useful at times.
* The meditation is a powerful component to the development of the whole path. Use all your activities in the day to help develop the meditation, and for retreat, sit (and walk) as much as possible. Develop the skills to be mindful of your body and mind in a clear and continuous way. This leads to deeply understanding one's own mind, and in turn the practice, which leads to the end of suffering, and great happiness. So, yea, learn to sit and then sit-- whatever supports that.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/26/12 12:06 PM as a reply to M B.
Thanks. The main places I am trying to get in contact with now are Panditarama in Myanmar and Nepal, MBMC in Malaysia and a place called Santisukharama in Malaysia as well. I'm emailing and calling them, i got an international plan on my phone today so i can contact these places. Thanks to everyone for the help. Suggestions are still and always welcome.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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8/28/12 10:39 PM as a reply to Brian K..
Another thing I maybe should consider... what if i send out applications/letters to a few of these places, and they reject me coming to stay with them? I mean, that would sort of fuck up my plans for the next year or so, since i plan on taking a retreat..... Has anyone ever been rejected from residence from a place like this? Is it common? like maybe they ran out of room or something. Also note i have no physical or mental illnesses that would restrict me from being able to meditate safely.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
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9/7/12 10:22 AM as a reply to Brian K..
Brian K.:
Another thing I maybe should consider... what if i send out applications/letters to a few of these places, and they reject me coming to stay with them? I mean, that would sort of fuck up my plans for the next year or so, since i plan on taking a retreat..... Has anyone ever been rejected from residence from a place like this? Is it common? like maybe they ran out of room or something. Also note i have no physical or mental illnesses that would restrict me from being able to meditate safely.


If that's a concern, maybe try a shorter retreat first in the same tradition. I went to a 3 week and then 1 month retreat at TMC in San Jose, California. See http://tathagata.org/ The cost is $25/day and that includes everything. The food is vegetarian and mostly Vietnamese (the center is run by the local Vietnamese community), I found it excellent. It's part of U Pandita's branch of the Mahasi tradition and the Burmese Sayadaws who teach there are excellent teachers. The retreat is as hardcore as anything else.

The second retreat I went to there was led by U Pandita Sayadaw (who is now retired from teaching abroad). At the end of my only interview with him at the end of the retreat he suggested I go to a two month retreat at his main center in Burma. They won't refuse you on the application when the head of the tradition has invited you.

He was the only one who needed a translator, the rest of the monks do speak English, though with a Burmese accent. You can discuss arrangements to go to one of their centers in Asia with them and you'll get a taste of what a longer retreat in this tradition would be like while staying in the States. They'll also invite you to go to their centers in Asia at the end of the retreat. Consequently, when applying to an Asian retreat center you'd be able to list which other retreats you'd gone to in their tradition and which of their monks had recommended you.

I had a hard time of my first retreat because I had my own wrong ideas of how vipassana and meditation in general were supposed to work, despite good instructions and daily interviews with the teachers. Even with teachers who speak English as a second language, language issues are non-trivial, since they'll use technical terms in different ways and with different connotations than the way you expect them. I got through these issues before my second retreat there by working with Kenneth Folk to make sure my noting technique was correct and of sufficient quality and skill to get stream entry. I was able to get stream entry at TMC right before the end my second retreat. I think it would have taken a lot more time without Kenneth's help and even more time if I'd had to talk through translators to talk with the Sayadaws. It really is worth getting stream entry in the States and then going off to Asia once you know what you're doing and have done one cycle.

If nothing else, multi-week retreats can be very hard on the body, especially the knees and back. Since you're not supposed to do any exercise on these retreats (not even stretching, which I did a bit of anyway) other than slow motion walking meditation (which I consider more of a stress release valve meditation than any sort of exercise) it's good to do a shorter retreat as a dry-run before going on a longer one to find out if your body will have any issues and figuring out how to deal with them between retreats. Despite prior retreat experience and years of meditation, my first retreat at TMC was an exercise in meditating on leg pain, as was my one and only Goenka retreat a few years before.

You may also want to make an arrangement with someone to teach you how to do jhanas (Especially jhanas 5 to 8, the immaterial ones and without putting too much emphasis on nimittas. It doesn't matter how shallow the jhanas feel, as long as you know how they feel, can distinguish between them and know how to access them at all.) and navigate the review ñana that will happen right after stream entry. It's something that's best trained once you get to that point, rather than before. The TMC monks aren't so much into that. They really just want you to do noting, which misses on the special opportunities that you'll have during that ñana. Others in this thread have pointed out that it's good to prepare yourself with the best instructions possible before going on a long retreat with no internet access, I think you're sufficiently close to stream entry that one or two retreats should get you to it, so that you'll have the skills you need to do an effective longer retreat in Asia.

TMC has retreats every other month or so. They have a 3 week retreat that started a few days ago and they don't mind if you show up now for a partial retreat. The next 3 week retreat will be in November.

If you do go to TMC, I also recommend that you ask the office for the handout on the reporting format. The Sayadaws in the Mahasi tradition have a very specific reporting format and they'll explain exactly once. The sayadaws sort of consider reporting in the proper way a test of whether people are paying attention in their meditation and taking them seriously as teachers. If you go to some other Mahasi-style retreat center, it's worth getting them to explain the reporting format right away and making sure that you're crystal clear on it. Reporting properly makes a huge difference when it comes to the instructions that the sayadaws will give you. Interviews will be every day or every other day, so reporting is a big part of the practice.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
Answer
9/8/12 1:23 AM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Jigme Sengye:
the special opportunities that you'll have during that ñana.


Can you say a little more about that? It sounds interesting.

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
Answer
9/8/12 6:34 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
People keep mentioning places in Thailand. I know of a place just north of Chang Mai, and apparently there are centers near Bangkok. I would contact Tarin Greco to see what he knows of them.

Daniel


There is Chom Tong near Chiang Mai which is mentioned on the wiki. I don't recommend this place. I would rather recommend its sister center in Chiang Mai, Wat Lampang. They teach the same technique which is an elaborated adaptation of the Mahasi technique. You aren't supposed to stay more than 28 days since the technique is designed for that period of time. Walking meditation is basically the same as any other mahasi center. The sitting technique is designed to increase you concentration everyday while maintaining insight practice. After a few days, you end up with a routine like this: Label rising, Imagine a ball of light in front of the forehead, label falling, send the ball of light to your lower back, label rising, focus on a point at the top of your back. etc. Of course while labeling everything else that we get aware of.

There is Doi Sutep in Chiang Mai which should have English-speaking monks. It's unfortunate that so few monks in Thailand speak English.

Panditarama in Lumbini seems pretty hardcore. he guy I met a at Lampang was somewhat invited to leave since he was sleeping up to 6 hours per night and they considered that to be too much. Having a medication condition, he couldn't meet their expectation. I guess if someone really need the motivation it might be good. On the other hand, if we are prone to self-loathing, narcissism or have some other issues, we might need a bit more elbow room and compassion.

Brian, I can send an e-mail to a monk that teach at the Chanmyay sayadaw in Yangon and inquiry about availability and maybe even get you in touch. It's a pretty amazing person. I couldn't receive much instructions from him since he had to leave the center for a while but I believe he would have been an amazing teacher for the complete beginner I was. The Yangon center is very very noisy, though. Chyanmay also have burmese center in Thailand but there is not always someone speaking English at the center. You would have to contact them.
http://www.chanmyay.org/

RE: Long- Term Retreat Suggestions?
Answer
9/12/12 11:51 AM as a reply to fivebells ..
fivebells .:
Jigme Sengye:
the special opportunities that you'll have during that ñana.


Can you say a little more about that? It sounds interesting.


During review, immediately after attaining the 1st path, you automatically cycle through the ñanas, are likely to spontaneously and even involuntarily (without meditating) get into formless jhanas (though it's possible to not recognize them for what they are) and get fruitions. It's a good time to do jhana practice, since they're easier at that point. It's interesting to clarify exactly what the different sensations of the ñanas are, since you end up going through them fairly quickly. It's also a good time to familiarize oneself with fruitions, since they aren't going to appear again until the next review phase, once 2nd path is attained. I didn't pay nearly enough attention to those things when I was at that stage, and it probably would have helped somewhat if I had.

I seem to be in review again. Assuming that this actually is the 2nd path and I'm not just misinterpreting things, would anyone have any detailed advice on things to do in the review ñana just after getting 2nd path? I don't mean to hijack this thread, please feel free to reply in a new thread.