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Concentration home retreat

Concentration home retreat
12/16/15 8:34 AM
So I'm on my Christmas vacation and I have an insane amount of free time which I decided to dedicate to practicing concentration, hopefully getting some experience with first jhana. 

However, even though I can theortically afford to dedicate up to 5 hours a day to practicing concentration, the problem is that I can't figure out how to practice for extended periods of time without getting tired. For example, today I did a 40 and 50 minute session, and while I didn't reach jhana, the first session left me in a generally good afterglow, a wholesome, blissful, creative, I-can-do-anything, pleasantly focused state of mind. However after the second session I'm feeling just tired, as if I spent too much time studying. My memory is worse I'm not really able to focus as before.

My question is, how do people who go on concentration retreats spend the whole day practicing concentration without getting tired? Can someone share the instructions they received on the retreat? Should I maybe try to lay off using willpower to force the mind to concentrate and just stay with the object until the background chatter quiets down? Would that eventually lead to jhana? Should I try longer or shorter sessions? Take breaks in between? Split the sessions? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Also, what are your thoughts on using counting to quiet down the mind? 

RE: Concentration home retreat
12/16/15 9:21 PM as a reply to John Doe.
Hi John

I am also taking some vacation time to do some concentration meditation. I would recommend Culadasa's “The Mind Illuminated” as a guide for concentration practice. Some of the ground he covers in the book can be found in the pdf's within this thread:

I won't be able to answer all your questions, but here are some thoughts.

At one point in my practice, I noticed that if I put too much effort and focused too narrowly on the breath, I started to feel too dull or sleepy. So, I would open up my attention a bit wider and that would help. Then sometimes the opposite problem would occur, and my mind would drift away from the breath, showing me that I had to tighten the focus back up. I didn't find it so easy to get the right balance.

After much more practice I got to the point were I could stay with the breath and have pleasant piti and sukha type occurrences, but I did notice I was not very alert (there was dullness in my attention). I recognized the problem when reading the pdf's linked above, but I didn't overcome the problem until reading through Culadasa's book and applying his teaching. Basically I was just at a certain stage of development and needed some tips to move along.

For this retreat you are doing right now, it's hard to say. Maybe you will feel different on different days. Try experimenting with the intensity of focus. I think it's OK to push yourself by continuing to meditate even if you think you are not doing so well. I also think it's OK to back off if it feels like all you are doing is pushing, by perhaps not meditating so many hours in a day.  The ideas you have about split session etc may work as well.

Two or three years ago, when on a work break and doing meditation, 3 or 4 hours felt like a lot of time meditating in a day. This year's break I am doing 8 hrs a day, and it seems mostly comfortable (one day was really tough though). I've gradually worked up some stamina by doing 1.5 – 2 hrs of meditation a day for the last year or so.

Counting breaths is great if you find it helps. You can drop the counting when its not needed anymore (and pick it up again if needed).

RE: Concentration home retreat
12/17/15 5:33 AM as a reply to C P M.
Thanks, that's incredibly useful! Especially the .pdfs, since I can't afford the book at the moment. Exactly what I was looking for ^_^

RE: Concentration home retreat
12/17/15 8:35 AM as a reply to John Doe.
alternating walking with sitting is the primary method to balance freshness with depth.

don't forget to focus on those happy feelings.

have fun