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Getting Started

Getting Started
2/24/10 1:55 PM
I am ready to begin my practice; however, I have only sat on a cushion probably twice. The only reason I found this place was because a kind fellow put me in front of Ingram's Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha after telling him of my desire to cut through the "fluff". It was great to finally meet a like minded individual after growing up with and meeting nothing but "mushrooms". I have not reached access concentration as far as I know, but I have 11 days coming up next month and I want to take the opportunity to go on my first retreat. I live in Portland, Oregon and know nothing of the type of teacher I would choose or the characteristics of a good retreat.

The book emphasized doing a retreat over practicing an hour a day to get better results. As I am a complete novice, should I hold off on a retreat till I have at least obtained access concentration? If not, where should I go? What should I expect? I found no advice (or I missed it) in the book regarding what a good retreat is really like or what happens in a good retreat? Do I have to interact with other people, do I have to cook food, meet up for classes? etc. I appreciate any advice that anyone can provide. Thanks in advance.

RE: Getting Started
2/25/10 3:33 PM as a reply to Ryan M Cornelius.
I haven't done a retreat myself, so I can't give you advice about the experience of retreats. However, I can say that you don't need access concentration in order to do a retreat and get good results. Vipassana practice doesn't require access concentration. You can use a less intense thing called moment-to-moment concentration. It doesn't produce results as quickly as access or jhanic concentration, but it definitely can work. Otherwise, nobody would ever get results with bare insight practice.

Also, insight practice does develop concentration. So by the end of the retreat, you may have access concentration.

RE: Getting Started
2/25/10 11:22 PM as a reply to Ryan M Cornelius.
Since you live in Portland, you could check out Cloud Mountain.

Cloud Mountain

RE: Getting Started
2/26/10 7:10 AM as a reply to Ruth Laura Edlund.
Also, before, when and after thinking of retreats, you can do some insight at home.

All you need to do is to research the technique (wonders of the Internet), I have found noting to be unbelievably effective, but there are other methods that may suit you better (which can only be found through experimentation). Dont worry too much about doing it right or wrong, practice gives clarity in these matters given adequate time (ie. most questions I have had from practice have been answered through further practice). If you run into trouble or obstacles, forums such as this one will be there to help you out.

I started out doing 30 minutes a day, moved to an hour a day when the progress slowed down and moved once again to doing considerably more most days in the week when I realized that I was in this for real. Have faith (which only gets strengthened by good practice), practice with diligence and discipline (an on-going but much enriching process on and off the cushion) and be brave (it wont always be fun or easy).

At the end of the day, its all up to you.

RE: Getting Started
2/26/10 5:14 PM as a reply to Ruth Laura Edlund.
Ruth Laura Edlund:
Since you live in Portland, you could check out Cloud Mountain.

Cloud Mountain
I was there last summer and it's a great place to go for a retreat. I did a write up about it on the old website which didn't survive the transition. The drive is about an hour and a half from Portland if I remember correctly.

RE: Getting Started
2/28/10 2:23 AM as a reply to Ryan M Cornelius.
Dear Ryan,

Glad you liked the book and good to have you here.

Should you hold off until retreat? If you have the time to practice now, it is a good idea in general. The point about daily life and retreats I made in the book was an example of "if you could only devote this man hours to practice, then..." type of thing, and not an attempt to discourage daily practice.

Here is the write up from the old site:

Cloud Mountain Retreat Center
Name of Center: Cloud Mountain Retreat Center
Address: 373 Agren Road,Castle Rock, WA 98611
Phone Number: 360-274-4859; 888-465-9118
Contact Email:
Tradition(s): An assortment of programs from a variety of traditions. Check out the website.
Technique(s): Various
Teacher(s): Various
Cost: Various
Accommodations: single rooms, double rooms, dormitory style rooms located in a number of different buildings.
Facilities: A number of different buildings in close proximity in a forrest locale.
Physical Setting: A lovely, peaceful and secluded forrest setting with several ponds. Very tall trees.
Food (Vegetarian/Vegan/etc.): Vegetarian. The main meal is the mid-day meal.
Retreat Length(s): Any where from a weekend to several weeks.
Typical Schedule: Unique to individual programs.
Issues of Taboos around attainment, real practice, disclosing insights, etc.: Unique to individual teachers
Issues of Rites/Rituals: General guidlines may be found at the Center's URL listed above.
Issues of Proper Dress: Basic common sense; general guidlines may be found at the Center's URL listed above.
Issues of Etiquette: General guidlines may be found at the Center's URL listed above.
Issues of Language: None unless teacher specific.
Health Issues: None.
Logistical Issues: About 2.5 hours travel time south from Seattle (a bit less than this from Seattle-Tacoma Int'l Airport); 1.5 hours north from Porland OR.
Strengths: A great setting for sitting, then walking, then sitting again...
Weaknesses: None that I found.
Other Comments: Over the course of three days I saw a deer, a possum, and several raccoons.
Overall Impression: Awesome.
Worthy of recommendation on the Dharma Overground? Absolutley!
373 Agren Road
Castle Rock
WA 98611 373 Agren Road
Castle Rock
WA 98611