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Miscellaneous retreat center questions

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Miscellaneous retreat center questions
Answer
11/20/13 11:17 PM
Here are some questions for Daniel and any others who wish to answer:

1. Would you still recommend MBMC? The last review said the center can't be recommended any longer due to issues with teacher availability, but I don't need teachers (for what I'm trying to achieve on retreat, not in general), just a place to practice without distraction.

2. Is Panditarama in Lumbini a top recommendation of yours? Are there any disadvantages to that center other than the power outages mentioned in the thread?

3. Do the Pa Auk monasteries follow a schedule of 1 hour walking to 1 hour sitting, or does the sitting v. walking ratio vary from student to student?

4. How do Forest Refuge and Spirit Rock stack up against the Asian retreat centers I mentioned above?

5. If the meditator is suited to it, is living in a wilderness cabin committed to solitary practice potentially preferable to a retreat center? My heart is drawn to this option, and I'd appreciate any practical advice from those who have experience with this kind of practice, including the money side, what kind of supplies are needed and in what amounts, whether you absolutely need a car, etc.

Lastly, I'm doing a month-long mahamudra retreat at Reggie Ray's retreat center next month. I think immersion in the Tibetan-style approach will be interesting. The center doesn't have resident meditators, however, so it won't be suitable for the long-term practice I'll do in the future.

RE: Miscellaneous retreat center questions
Answer
11/21/13 1:33 AM as a reply to Matthew.
If the meditator is suited to it, is living in a wilderness cabin committed to solitary practice potentially preferable to a retreat center? My heart is drawn to this option, and I'd appreciate any practical advice from those who have experience with this kind of practice, including the money side, what kind of supplies are needed and in what amounts, whether you absolutely need a car, etc.

This can be awesome, but how far out are you talking?

Would you have to use a chainsaw, for example? That can cause major injuries (forehead, thigh, calf...). Not a great tool to use after tranquility meditation.

Same with axe, maul and wedge. It happens that the axe glances off the wood and legs are next in line.

I'm not trying to be frightening at all: You just want to have a plan for this stuff. It can help prevent it. Did I mention the axe/maul can glance off the chopping block and legs are next in line for the hit. Bad news. And chainsaws... they pop right back up at the face or go straight through to the legs. If you don't use these regularly, it's truly great to put in some hours with someone experienced first.

Propane lines can get frozen with condensation if you're somewhere cold enough, so a wood stove for cooking is useful, e.g. not relying on fuel.

Truly to be in the middle of nowhere with stream water and a lot of canned food and lots of old lock-down old sealing military boxes for storing rice/potato flakes, beans/nuts/whatever-else-you-want-rodent-poo-free is awesome.

Animals that should be asleep in winter or fat and are not are dangerous. I think there are more moose injuries than bear injuries in northern climes. Moose get grumpy in January (not much food) and are really suffering these days due to tick predation and no body fat. Remember: bonk a big animal in the nose if you have nothing else and don't get in that position in the first place.

I suggest take a lot of green/black tea (metabolizes blood sugar more slowly/helps teeth), sugar/maple syrup, fat (oils, nuts, not butter-- gets rancid) and canned/boxed milk/milk substitute. Eggs take a while to spoil, weeks and weeks. Still, crack them one-by-one in a separate bowl when making stuff to be able to throw out the rotten ones.

Take some blue foam if you have to poke a hole in ice for water; cover hole with foam and snow and you can have access to fresh water all winter.

Buy a tough fishing vest and keep staples in all the pockets: pocket knife, duct tape wrapped around pencil, pocket knife, lots and lots of strike anywhere matches in an old film container or tiny aspirin bottle, aspirin, sugar/snickers bar/glucose or honey tube, spare light, fresh batteries. In the back pocket of vest, have spare wool sockets. Wear the vest when leaving the cabin/homestead/yurt/tent/lean-to...

Only take wool and synthetics when hiking about.

Take a lotta dried food. Lots. And plan for rations for a two-week delay from your exit time if you're in a snowed-in area/winter flooding area.

Hmmm. Take the Samyutta Nikaya?


Good luck emoticon


(Seriously, can we get some scout DhO badges for this stuff??)
______
If you're going to be somewhere that winter exists, consider packing in a good bit of blue foam insulation. It gets old fast to spend eons getting firewood (which needed to be dry last year to burn well) and watching the ice pile up on the wall/floor/ceiling cracks. I'd take a pile of 2" insulation. If you're thinking of using natural supplies, just consider fire hazard; consider that hazard all the time actually. Take a smoke detector and spare batteries and do everything you can to not get in the position of having a cabin fire.

I guess to sum up: small mistakes/carelessness can have huge consequences in a rural/remote setting. It takes some time to realize this, at least it did for me and I could always hike to a neighbour's place, though we were all very remote (fly-in part of the year).

Sooo, if you're inclined to this, go for it. It's awesome to be in a vast quiet, natural area, but there's suffering there, too. Did I mention starving "ghost" moose, due to tick predation? Hard to see wild animals suffer the effects of climate change, repeated mild winters and resulting big tick populations...

RE: Miscellaneous retreat center questions
Answer
11/21/13 4:37 AM as a reply to Matthew.
Hi Matthew,
I'm a big fan of self-retreats. I can be very focused and energized for spells of about two weeks that means full gas for the entire time. Not having to fit my proclivities into chanting or alms rounds or work donation etc. allows me to selfishly focus on the task at hand.

I have a little house in the woods of southern germany that is removed from close neighbors. I shut down the sattelite link, the cell phone and the garden gate. I mix up spices and freeze food in meal sized portions so that I can make excellent, quick food with a minimal disruption to the flow of focus.

The clock is the master and the instructions are simpl (if not easy) and it works berry berry good for me.

I also read about a retreat center in Maine (sorry, linkless) which caters to self-retreatants and were I still on that side of the pond that sounds like the ticket.

Peace and success

Tom

RE: Miscellaneous retreat center questions
Answer
11/21/13 6:25 AM as a reply to Matthew.
Some thoughts:

4. How do Forest Refuge and Spirit Rock stack up against the Asian retreat centers I mentioned above?


I spent time at Panditarama Forest Monastery in Burma and Forest Refuge. I'll compare the two just for example's sake (It's late so I may not be as articulate as I would like).

General Culture: I found it inspiring to practice with monks and other serious meditators at Panditarama. Everybody knows cessation (magga-phala) is the goal of meditation. There is a schedule you follow (until you feel comfortable sitting longer), and it can feel like a spiritual warrior training ground at times. Everything is dana, so you don't pay to meditate.
FR felt different. People come and go randomly. Some stay for a few days, some a few weeks, a few months. There is more of a relaxed, do-it-at-your-own-pace atmosphere. One thing which can hinder practice, IMO, is the lack of segregation. Also, FR is mostly solitary (you could practice in the hall with a few others, but most are in their rooms most of the day I think). It can get a bit lonely. Practicing with people who are not striving to hit paths affects one's own practice as well. Not everybody is on 8 precepts, people bring and store their own foods. Sometimes, it felt like some people were there to be on vacation rather than to work on liberation. Having the library can also be a tempting distraction. Also, a big thing is you are paying to be there. This subtly affects the entire atmosphere of the place. I guess people need different environments at different times. As you can tell, I favor the Asian culture of discipline. Maybe it's delusion emoticon.

Teachers: Monks at the Monastery are more into hardcore insight meditation. Forest Refuge teachers are usually not as realized as the monks (unless you are lucky enough to be there when a monk is teaching. Monks have a different energy about them, in my experience.

Technique: Panditarama is very focused on the Mahasi technique. FR lets you work in your own way. If you are experienced, FR can work, but if you are not (and we probably all need more guidance than we think for longer than we think), it can be harder to stay disciplined technique-wise at the FR, since there are others who may not be on the same page practicing alongside you. (All my opinion, of course).

Accommodations: FRaccommodations are basically hotel level. You share bathrooms, but the rooms are excellent. In Burma, I was lucky enough to have my own kuti with an attached bath. There was no hot water from the shower during the winter months (they give you hot water in your thermos [which they provide] if you bring it to a meal.)

Climate: Lots of mosquitoes in Burma. Also, kutis at Panditarama had many crawling things (lizards, cockroaches, ants). Not enough to overwhelm, but definitely enough to be annoyed at times (like when they are crawling on the bed when you are trying to sleep). FR was really cold and dry in the fall, winter months.

Food: Amazing at both locations. At Panditarama, you will NEVER be disappointed with the food.

5. If the meditator is suited to it, is living in a wilderness cabin committed to solitary practice potentially preferable to a retreat center? My heart is drawn to this option, and I'd appreciate any practical advice from those who have experience with this kind of practice, including the money side, what kind of supplies are needed and in what amounts, whether you absolutely need a car, etc.


Check this out: http://buddhayana.ns.ca/

Be Happy!

RE: Miscellaneous retreat center questions
Answer
11/21/13 6:12 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
tom moylan:


I mix up spices and freeze food in meal sized portions so that I can make excellent, quick food with a minimal disruption to the flow of focus.


How do you do that?

I'd love to know what kind of food you eat and what recipes you use. It would be helpful information for anyone wanting to take a self-retreat.