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Stream Entry

What is the DhO's opinion on self-retreats?

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What is the DhO's opinion on self-retreats?
jhana vibrations retreats stream-entry
Answer
10/31/13 11:09 AM
I have been able to hit jhanas 1-3 with fairly decent precision. I am now seriously considering doing at least a small solo retreat at my house. It is a very quiet home, nice quiet backyard, and I am also too broke to really go anywhere else.

Any recommendations for length? I know that Daniel had mentioned 10 days being a good amount to notice a difference. However, my main goals right now are to master jhanas 1-4, and to get SE. Which one should I focus on? Also, if going for SE, how long should I plan my solo retreat to make sure I can make it all the way to my first Frution?

My last question is this: when noticing the vibrations in the piti-sukha stage should I try to notice all the vibrations throughout my whole body, or should I try to discern the vibrations more acutely within a confined area (i.e. my arms, my legs, fingers, etc.). It seems to be easier to feel the up-and-down movement of the vibrations when I am focusing on a smaller area. Is this sufficient for insight to arise?

Thanks my friends! Any feedback would be appreciated.

RE: What is the DhO's opinion on self-retreats?
Answer
10/31/13 11:45 AM as a reply to Mitchell K Hardy.
Home retreats are great. Do them as many days as you possibly can. I never officially did any home retreats, but I got stream entry by asking myself every day how I could squeeze more cushion-time into my day.

For an official home-retreat, I'd try and make your house less like a house. Rearrange the furniture a little. Cover up books, images, and other distracting things. Disconnect your computer. Give a friend the network card. Set up an altar. Eat simple foods that don't require preparation (I did a hermitage once with a big bag of apples, jars and jars of peanut butter, and a few loaves of bread). Tell your friends not to contact you. That kind of thing.

And I didn't bother doing much jhana practice until post-SE, so I'd say ignore it and blast reality with noting instead. The first four jhanas have become stupidly easy to access as I've progressed in insight.

RE: What is the DhO's opinion on self-retreats?
Answer
11/1/13 11:26 AM as a reply to Mitchell K Hardy.
Those are some really great goals, Mitchell!

Any recommendations for length?

The necessary length is going to vary widely depending on the practitioner. IMO, a few key factors are: your concentration ability; the strength of your intuitive/insightful capacity; faith, especially in your ability to accomplish this; determination; your knowledge of common pitfalls, especially of the trap of anticipation; your knowledge of what to investigate in EQ (found in MCTB ); your self-knowledge and knowledge of vipassana techniques that enables you to find the most suitable one; and your degree of dispassion/renunciation towards the world. The best advice I've seen on this is: take as long as you feel you can maintain a high level of discipline and determination. But don't underestimate practice in daily life either: there's a certain rock-bottom, last-ditch immediacy that can arise out of desperation and having very little time for practice that I think was one of the major factors in getting me across the line.

should I try to notice all the vibrations throughout my whole body, or should I try to discern the vibrations more acutely within a confined area (i.e. my arms, my legs, fingers, etc.).

For SE, the consensus is that your understanding needs to be broad, but not terribly deep; noticing vibrations is useful insofar as it helps you accomplish that.

RE: What is the DhO's opinion on self-retreats?
Answer
11/3/13 2:43 PM as a reply to Mitchell K Hardy.
Hi Mitchell

I did a couple of self-led home retreats. They were very short: 1 day each. They did not "get me" stream entry, but they were interesting and instructive and well worth it. If you can manage retreats longer than a day, that's great! You can find Tarin's "Reformed Slacker's Guide" on the DhO wiki; it contains a lot of good stuff.

Mitchell K Hardy:
Any recommendations for length? I know that Daniel had mentioned 10 days being a good amount to notice a difference. However, my main goals right now are to master jhanas 1-4, and to get SE. Which one should I focus on? Also, if going for SE, how long should I plan my solo retreat to make sure I can make it all the way to my first Frution?


My own experience is that three months of highly dedicated practice during normal daily life, which included the short retreats I mentioned, were "enough". I use quotes because this is so highly individual and subjective and depends on so many other factors apart from sitting duration. But as for the duration, three months should be a realistic attempt.

My last question is this: when noticing the vibrations in the piti-sukha stage should I try to notice all the vibrations throughout my whole body, or should I try to discern the vibrations more acutely within a confined area (i.e. my arms, my legs, fingers, etc.). It seems to be easier to feel the up-and-down movement of the vibrations when I am focusing on a smaller area. Is this sufficient for insight to arise?


That's a great question, and if you're after insight, then asking, investigating, experimenting with, ... this question is exactly where insight starts to arise.

In other words, if you got the answer "do the small area" and then you just did it, you probably would't get much insight from this answer. And if the answer were "notice all the vibrations", and you did that, again, that in itself wouldn't get you insight.

So it's when you think, "Oh, for goodness sake, this person says to do the small area, that one says to do the whole body, so scratch that, they don't seem to know what they are talking about, and I'm going to get to the bottom of this by myself!" that you'll start getting insight.

Buckle down and launch that Dharma-raft into the flood. It's a single-seat raft anyway, and the torrent is noisy, so you won't be hearing much of what we are yelling across anyway. It's mainly cheering you on, asserting our support, and you can safely ignore it and concentrate on getting across emoticon

Cheers!
Florian

RE: What is the DhO's opinion on self-retreats?
Answer
11/4/13 8:50 AM as a reply to Mitchell K Hardy.
Howdy Mitchell,
I'm a big fan of self-retreats for several reasons. The cost, which you mention is one but Goenka has been offering ten day retreats on a donation basis for many years. Because I already "know how to practice", those types of retreats have less appeal than they did in the beginning phases of my practice.

I also have a great place to practice and to retreat which not many people have. That you have a place which is suitable is excellent and I would encourage you to do it.

As florian mentioned, tarin's slackers guide is excellent and there is als a suggested schedule. It is aimed at "self-starters", meaning people who can stay motivated for the chosen length of the retreat. It is an intense schedule and is intended for practitioners who are doing "insight" meditation as opposed to "tranquility" meditation. Without taking a stand on what that means precisely, tarin's take (and mine too) is that in order to increas the chances of getting a fruition you need to spend every waking minute of very long days being aware of what is actualy going on moment by moment.

You seem to be working on concentration from your post, are you also specifically doing any insight (noting, body scanning etc.) practice as well? Are you able to notice the stages of insight as you pass through them during your sits? I ask this because it can be very valuable to know whether you are getting into equanimity, the place from which stream entry occurs.

As to length, as long as you can afford to be away from your day-to-day responsibilities but only as long as you believe you can give it 100% for the time you have chosen.

When I self retreat, I get lots of juice, I fill the freezer with good quality frozen meals which I can prepare mindfully in a couple of minutes. I prepare spice mixtures ahead of time to reduce having to think of the little things. No phones, no audio, no video no books, no internet..just you and your mind.

tom

RE: What is the DhO's opinion on self-retreats?
Answer
12/5/13 9:03 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
Great advice. I too am going on a solo-retreat and this post helped tremendously.

Thank you all for the advice.

I'm getting the feeling that SE should be attained first and foremost and after that jhana becomes easy. Advice is taken and will be practiced emoticon

thanks again.