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Tips to Dealing with Loneliness while on personal retreat

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I'm starting a bit of a personal retreat -in my house - as I still have to go to work for about 4-5 hours per day.

but this first week I have been overcome with loneliness, and that I'm missing out on all these fun activities my friends are up to. Especially when the weekend rolls around.  I would suppose that you all would tell me to observe the loneliness and dissect it,  although I'm not sure on how to do that?  Perhaps that is the best advice, however I have yet to begin insight meditation. I'm still working on building my concentration skills. Not even close to having reached access concentration in my opinion.  Does that matter?

Any help appreciated.

RE: Tips to Dealing with Loneliness while on personal retreat
Answer
9/11/14 3:00 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Jinxed P:
I'm starting a bit of a personal retreat -in my house - as I still have to go to work for about 4-5 hours per day.

but this first week I have been overcome with loneliness, and that I'm missing out on all these fun activities my friends are up to. Especially when the weekend rolls around.  I would suppose that you all would tell me to observe the loneliness and dissect it,  although I'm not sure on how to do that?  Perhaps that is the best advice, however I have yet to begin insight meditation. I'm still working on building my concentration skills. Not even close to having reached access concentration in my opinion.  Does that matter?

Any help appreciated.


Hi,

Are you dealing with loneliness or boredom? Either way, it's okay to go out. That is great practice too.

If you should create the experience of "isolated retreat" this will certainly not be better or worse than "weekending with the friends" unless one creates a bunch of negative experiences/outcomes in either "going out with friends" or "isolated retreat".

And if you feel you wasted the time or created regret/something unhelpful, then just do a different experience the next weekend. 

This is not an easy practice often, just meeting with own arising mind, own habits... 


Good luck and thanks.

RE: Tips to Dealing with Loneliness while on personal retreat
Answer
9/11/14 8:14 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
If you want to be inspired towards the rigorous self-retreat though, the Ch'an teacher Sheng Yen retreated in winter in Japan at one time in his younger monastic years. He was the only Chinese monk among his Japanese peers to attend this winter retreat and I think he wrote something about wanting his conduct to reflect well on his own countrymen so he did not quit the retreat and tried extra hard despite very aversive conditions: Apparently they slep upright and had very short blankets that could just cover a portion of oneself while sitting, and it was so cold. He did not like that retreat style in the beginning, but he wouldn't give up. I think he wrote that he grew to love sleeping upright and in cold from this retreat discipline. This account may have been reprinted in a Dharma Drum magaze in in Winter 2014. That's when I read it anyway. Best wishes with your practice either way.

RE: Tips to Dealing with Loneliness while on personal retreat
Answer
9/11/14 8:41 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
there are ways to make practice more fun, such that, while obviously you are losing out on some fun activities, you are having some fun yourself.

try adopting a more playful attitude, a more sports-like attitude, and see if that helps.

this is your time, your mind, your adventure, your exploration, your experiment, your precious opportunity to learn things that are really, really cool and interesting, your time to figure out how your mind works, to push it to places it has never gone before, to get to know yourself at a level you might not have before: all precious opportunities.

why are you on a self-retreat? what were you hoping to get out of it?

Daniel

RE: Tips to Dealing with Loneliness while on personal retreat
Answer
9/12/14 9:05 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
there are ways to make practice more fun, such that, while obviously you are losing out on some fun activities, you are having some fun yourself.

try adopting a more playful attitude, a more sports-like attitude, and see if that helps.

this is your time, your mind, your adventure, your exploration, your experiment, your precious opportunity to learn things that are really, really cool and interesting, your time to figure out how your mind works, to push it to places it has never gone before, to get to know yourself at a level you might not have before: all precious opportunities.

why are you on a self-retreat? what were you hoping to get out of it?

Daniel
This is great advice. Thanks.

I'm on self retreat because I want to improve my concentration, hopefully getting towards access concentration so that I can begin insight practice in the style of MTCB. Which I want to do because I want to live the happiest life possible.

Side benefits of increased concentration include the benefits of having better concentration in itself, of being more relaxed, peaceful and less stressed.

RE: Tips to Dealing with Loneliness while on personal retreat
Answer
9/12/14 11:44 AM as a reply to Jinxed P.
I'm on self retreat because I want to improve my concentration, hopefully getting towards access concentration so that I can begin insight practice in the style of MTCB.

Here is a reasonable caution about retreat in solitude before one has concentration skill: 

The Buddha’s Instruction to Upāli
1
Then the Venerable Upāli approached the Blessed One, paid
homage to him, sat down to one side, and said, “Bhante, I wish to
resort to remote lodgings in forests and jungle groves.”
[The Buddha replied,] “Remote lodgings in forests and
jungle groves are hard to endure, Upāli. Solitude is hard to
undertake and hard to delight in. When he is alone, the woods
steal the mind of a bhikkhu who does not gain concentration. It
can be expected that one who says, ‘I do not gain concentration,
yet will resort to remote lodgings in forests and jungle groves’ will
either sink or float away.
“Suppose, Upāli, there was a large lake, and a bull elephant
seven or eight cubits in size would come along. He might think,
‘Let me enter this lake and playfully wash my ears and back. I will
bathe and drink, come out, and set off wherever I want.’ He then
enters the lake and playfully washes his ears and back. He bathes
and drinks, comes out, and sets off wherever he wants. How so?
Because his large body finds a footing in the depths.
“Then a hare or a cat comes along. It might think, ‘How is a
bull elephant different from myself? I’ll enter this lake and
playfully wash my ears and back. I will bathe and drink, come out,
and set off wherever I want.’ Then, without reflecting, it hastily
enters the deep lake. It can be expected that it will either sink or
float away. Why so? Because its small body does not find a
footing in the depths.
“So too, it can be expected that one who would say, ‘I do
not gain concentration, yet I will resort to remote lodgings in
forests and jungle groves,’ will either sink or float away.”

1Anguttara-nikāya V 201ff.  Translated by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, The
Numerical Discourses of the Buddha
, Pali Text Society, 2012, pp. 1476f. 
______
EDIT: so if you are "floating away" from your practice for a bit, a weekend, the practical training folk of this tradition anticipate that.  To compare (uh-oh) I would think floating away from it is safer that getting stuck.

RE: Tips to Dealing with Loneliness while on personal retreat
Answer
9/12/14 11:45 AM as a reply to Jinxed P.
if it is hard to note it out I found beneficial to listen to short interviews with teachers or hardcore practitioners. it can pump up the motivation to keep going with the practice. 

also better to let to know your friends what are you up to even if they don't understand as total isolation can be a problem later. 
if it is so hard that you can't deal with it I think better to go out for a weekend (eg. for a shorter time)...maybe your practice will be more effective during the week.

you can start insight meditation anyway as momentary concentration can suppress the hindrances.

self-retreat is hard especially surrounded by friends
good luck