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Best structure for a 30 day 50/50 meditation/work self retreat?

I have a 4 week break from university starting tomorrow. I've worked out that I can study, do everything else and have ~6/7 hours leftover every day for formal practise. It's rare to have such breaks so I want to make good use of it for practise.

I'll be practising goenka style body scan vipassana and 1+ hour of metta every day. Metta to balance my aloof floating eyeball temperament with some healthy warmth and fuzziness. I'll also be reading through MCTB a few times before bed to make sure practise is maximally fruitful.

I'm scratching my head with how best to timetable the sits. A few options I came up with are:

-One strong determination chunk e.g. 06:00 to 12:00 every morning, ending in metta. Then the rest of the day free to work and be a human.
-Two slightly less determined chunks e.g. 06:00 to 09:00 and 20:00 to 23:00
-30:00 minute sits alternated with 30:00 minute regular work/study all day. 

A few factors are weighing on this decision. Firstly, long sits seem super useful for developing strong concentration and the end portion of any sit usually feels like the most productive. However, I also have some tendency to develop tension and stress at the expectation of not moving for many hours. I can do it, but want to make sure it's healthy since I have a pattern of trying way too hard with just about everything. But maybe powering through to stream entry is allowed with vipassana. Secondly, I'd like to make sure my work time is productive, constantly alternating between sits and work might put me too deep in vipassana-izing mode when I'm trying to think clearly and thinking mode when I'm trying to vipassana-ize. 

Any suggestions?

Or experiences of doing a similar thing? 

Thank you kind sirs, 

Wing

RE: Best structure for a 30 day 50/50 meditation/work self retreat?
Answer
12/4/16 5:26 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
My suggestion? Do not change your name, Wing Biddlebaum!

RE: Best structure for a 30 day 50/50 meditation/work self retreat?
Answer
12/5/16 3:27 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
My suggestion? Do not change your name, Wing Biddlebaum!


Thanks Chris, I have taken a vow to keep it during these 30 days. 

RE: Best structure for a 30 day 50/50 meditation/work self retreat?
Answer
12/7/16 8:01 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Get this book: http://themindilluminated.com/

Work your way through it.

Kind Regards!

RE: Best structure for a 30 day 50/50 meditation/work self retreat?
Answer
12/7/16 9:25 AM as a reply to MuMuWu MuMuMuMu.
MuMuWu MuMuMuMu:
Get this book: http://themindilluminated.com/

Work your way through it.

Kind Regards!


How and why do you think this would be useful? 

I'm wary of digging too many small holes and going thirsty. 

RE: Best structure for a 30 day 50/50 meditation/work self retreat?
Answer
12/7/16 12:19 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
It goes step by step, so you could work your way through it over the course of the retreat.

RE: Best structure for a 30 day 50/50 meditation/work self retreat?
Answer
12/7/16 11:16 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Wing Biddlebaum:
I'll be practising goenka style body scan vipassana
So you find every sensation other than in the body as unworthy of investigation? Why is that? Of the 6 senses are you sure you want to put all your eggs in the feeling basket? I'd notice everything that is happening even if you wish to predominately want to feel into the body, do not ignore other sensations.

Wing Biddlebaum:
and 1+ hour of metta every day.
Start with Metta, focus on the FEELING of loving kindness and use it as the focus to get concentrated. Notice where the feeling is strongest and stay on it wherever it goes.
Wing Biddlebaum:

I'm scratching my head with how best to timetable the sits. A few options I came up with are:

-One strong determination chunk e.g. 06:00 to 12:00 every morning, ending in metta. Then the rest of the day free to work and be a human.
-Two slightly less determined chunks e.g. 06:00 to 09:00 and 20:00 to 23:00
-30:00 minute sits alternated with 30:00 minute regular work/study all day. 
Walking meditation for 15 minutes min. between sits.
Wing Biddlebaum:

A few factors are weighing on this decision. Firstly, long sits seem super useful for developing strong concentration and the end portion of any sit usually feels like the most productive. However, I also have some tendency to develop tension and stress at the expectation of not moving for many hours. I can do it, but want to make sure it's healthy since I have a pattern of trying way too hard with just about everything.
Goenka sits are about 45 minutes before a break of some sort. I would recommend trying this time period out and maybe a few longer sits to see what happens. No longer than 2 hours though.
Wing Biddlebaum:

Any suggestions?

Wing
Its your practice so play around with it and see what you notice about how you chop things up....then modify it to get closer to the optimal expereince you are looking for.
Good luck and tell us how its going.
~D

RE: Best structure for a 30 day 50/50 meditation/work self retreat?
Answer
12/7/16 1:29 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Dream Walker:
Wing Biddlebaum:
I'll be practising goenka style body scan vipassana
So you find every sensation other than in the body as unworthy of investigation? Why is that? Of the 6 senses are you sure you want to put all your eggs in the feeling basket? I'd notice everything that is happening even if you wish to predominately want to feel into the body, do not ignore other sensations.

Wing Biddlebaum:
and 1+ hour of metta every day.
Start with Metta, focus on the FEELING of loving kindness and use it as the focus to get concentrated. Notice where the feeling is strongest and stay on it wherever it goes.
Wing Biddlebaum:

I'm scratching my head with how best to timetable the sits. A few options I came up with are:

-One strong determination chunk e.g. 06:00 to 12:00 every morning, ending in metta. Then the rest of the day free to work and be a human.
-Two slightly less determined chunks e.g. 06:00 to 09:00 and 20:00 to 23:00
-30:00 minute sits alternated with 30:00 minute regular work/study all day. 
Walking meditation for 15 minutes min. between sits.
Wing Biddlebaum:

A few factors are weighing on this decision. Firstly, long sits seem super useful for developing strong concentration and the end portion of any sit usually feels like the most productive. However, I also have some tendency to develop tension and stress at the expectation of not moving for many hours. I can do it, but want to make sure it's healthy since I have a pattern of trying way too hard with just about everything.
Goenka sits are about 45 minutes before a break of some sort. I would recommend trying this time period out and maybe a few longer sits to see what happens. No longer than 2 hours though.
Wing Biddlebaum:

Any suggestions?

Wing
Its your practice so play around with it and see what you notice about how you chop things up....then modify it to get closer to the optimal expereince you are looking for.
Good luck and tell us how its going.
~D

Thanks DW, your advice is helpful as usual. Goenka style is mainly a question of familiarity and wanting to pursue one method diligently without flopping around. I did quickly see some flaws as you say, so I did modify it a little. When thought/hearing/sight activity is predominant I've started noting "thinking", "hearing", "seeing" during my scans. I also sometimes note the quality of my perception e.g. if scanning feels really slow like a worm burrowing through some thick dirt, or if clarity is low I sometimes note "slow" and "dull" to make sure hindrances are seen as yet more phonemena. 

Another reason for choosing the body scan style was because I considered it to have some power in emotional processing. In the past I used other techniques that reduced reactive thought activity a lot, but despite this I still experienced a great deal of physical anxiety in reaction to sensations occuring in my body (primarily torso area stuff e.g.  palpitations, tingles, tensions, heavy bracing type sensations, etc). So focussing on observation/equanimity of these type of bodily phenomena seemed like it might be useful in alleviating big patterns of reactionary suffering, as well as attaining insight of the characteristics.

What would be the risk of overlooking certain sensations? Is insight into certain types of sensations not enough?



I will start using metta as start point on your advice. I found this idea more attractive than standard anapana type practises (especially when a degree of restlessness/anxiety can mark the start of my sits) and also heard it evanglised by bhante vimalaramsi as a base for insight practise. 

Sometimes I can't find a loving-kindness type feeling, other than maybe some vague warmth that might be my blanket. I seem to be quite binary with metta, the feeling either missing or suddenly emerging in full force. Like a light switch rather than a volume knob, although I'm not quite sure how to turn it on. Kind of like how suddenly dropping into equanimity sometimes feels, except dropping into love.

Is the feeling of loving-kindness a necessary start point, or is it okay to power through with intention until hopefully hitting the feeling?



Sometimes I've sat for 4-8 hours and held strong concentration and it's felt fruitful. At other times I've definitely sat too long. I think I was operating on a mixture of curiosity, trying too hard and something shinzen said that resonated with me, "sit until just past the point of maximum intensity". But I also know that it's beneficial to get used to practising when in motion, since it's often more difficult and more applicable to achieving continuity of practise in daily life. 

Is there a guideline you'd use to decide when to stop sitting and start walking practise? 


Thank you for your help. I think I might make a log to track progress and make this month maximally useful. I would also be very grateful to be able to contact you occasionally? I've found most of the posts you've written insightful. 

-Wing

RE: Best structure for a 30 day 50/50 meditation/work self retreat?
Answer
12/8/16 9:47 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
@ DW

Last night I spontaneously switched to noting about 10 minutes in then did a 4 hour strong determination sit. 

It was way better. Some quick observations: 

-Speed: I was consistently able to note an average of about 2-3 distinct phenomena per second, whereas during body scanning I would often spend an inordinate amount of time on individual sensations.
-Time awareness: Noting gives a clear indicator of the time that is passing and compels you to use it fruitfully. You tend to notice that you haven't noted for several seconds, whereas with body scanning it's easy to lose track. 
-Tension/Stress: Body scanning really spiked my perfectionist tendency and induced stress because I wanted to follow perfect tracks or sequences through the body and not miss anything. In contrast, just noting whatever happens to arise takes away all that. As a result I noticed my body seemed to physiologically relax and slow down much faster.
-Catching more sensations: I noticed that I often miss a lot of ricochet/fast phenomena with scanning. For instance, (1) there might be a small, sharp pain in my gut area. Then there's often a ricochet of a peripheral bracing sensation, a tensing/controlling of the breath (presumably to limit sensation) and sometimes thought activity. Or (2) When entering states of deep relaxation or absorption, sometimes fear can seem to block entry. When at this point, it's way better to track these sensations and chase them around your body on the fly (plus any mental phenomena that arises) otherwise they quickly seem to gain apparent validity as a "me".... With body scanning I'd often be so locked onto to investigating the sensation(s) in a limited area at some point along my scanning train track, that I'd simply ignore stuff like (1) and (2). I thought it was unreactive, but the truth is that reactions and some kind of me-solidification was still happening in the background.
-Room for humour: I think this is a strong point, but doesn't' seem to have been mentioned on Dharma Overground anywhere. For instance, when thoughts about some girl not giving me attention came up I'd note "weird needy thought" or some thought about bragging might be noted "indulgent braggart thought". Or when some peculiar physical sensation arises, I might give a funny name. I think this is in alignment with the whole shooting aliens thing. It makes it much more like a game. A few times my notes would make me laugh out loud (I'd note laughing too obviously...). But overall this kind of relaxation/humour is definitely conducive to concentration and long sits that don't have that trying too hard quality. 


-Wing