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Advice on Finding Opportunities for Longer Retreats

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Hi all,

I've been looking into retreats this fall/winter and all of them are either too short or conflict with my work schedule. Is it unheard of for someone with a limited retreat background to request a two-week independent retreat? I don't have the minimal requirements for the centers I have checked. Similarly, does anyone have suggestions for the appropriate manner for contacting a center/teacher that I haven't met. On the face of it, saying "hey we haven't met, but I'd like to spend two weeks at your center," seems pretty dang forward, but that is ultimately the question I would like to ask. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

RE: Advice on Finding Opportunities for Longer Retreats
Answer
7/26/08 1:35 PM as a reply to beta wave.
Well, I would ask the Forest Refuge if you can do a 2-week course there. Let them know about your practice background, stressing your daily practice and commitment, and I suspect they'd be very open to your practicing there. They are pretty flexible. It's a great center and I would highly recommend doing serious practice there.

Let us know what you end up doing. emoticon

RE: Advice on Finding Opportunities for Longer Retreats
Answer
8/8/08 5:34 AM as a reply to beta wave.
Thanks Vince! The Forest Refuge was on my short list. I had a chance to visit there on my first (and only ever) retreat at IMS and I had a good feeling about the place. Your confirmation is much appreciated!

Another question for all... It seems like retreats tend to be 3, 5, 10, 30, or 90 days as a general rule. Is there a rationale behind this?

The reason I ask -- and since this is a website about practical training, I guess I can be direct and say this -- I am aiming for stream entry on this retreat. I felt like I was very close last year and signed up for the first retreat available, which was 5 days at IMS. Based on that 5 day retreat, I clearly would benefit from more time. (Actually the 5 day was more like a 3 day with two 1/2 day transition periods on either side.) My current guess is two weeks might be about right, but I'm debating three weeks. However, if even three weeks is unlikely, then the best thing I should do is save my vacation time and keep up my home practice until I can arrange for a longer retreat.

Two or three weeks now... or up to 5 weeks later is the question. (5 weeks is about the limit given my employment commitments.)

Any advice would be very much appreciated. And I'll be glad to answer any questions about my practice which would help answer this question.

Thanks!

RE: Advice on Finding Opportunities for Longer Retreats
Answer
8/8/08 11:34 AM as a reply to beta wave.
Good question.

In Daniel's section on retreats (how long, when, etc.) he suggested that 3 weeks would be enough time to cross the A&P. I've found that to definitely be true, and I've known many many people who've crossed it with less retreat time.

My sense is that to get stream-entry it does take a bit longer, one because navigating the dark night can often be tricky, as can equanimity. It's not uncommon for people to get into equanimity and then fall back into the dark night, only to re-arise in equanimity over and over again. Personally, I would shoot for as long as you can, but no longer than life circumstances allow. If that's 5 weeks, I would def. do that.

As you probably already know, the time it takes can vary tremendously from person to person, and really nothing is lost if you get stream-entry and then have extra time to play with the jhanas, get familiar with the review territory, or even make more progress on the insight front. If you don't give yourself enough time however, it'll be likely that you'll have to go on another retreat and try for it again, though even then much is learned on long retreats and it's easier to get through the territory one has already traversed.

Also, I've found that after stream-entry it isn't as hard to make solid progress despite the length of the retreat, so 1st path is definitely the one you want to save up your vacation time for!

RE: Advice on Finding Opportunities for Longer Retreats
Answer
8/8/08 2:36 PM as a reply to beta wave.
Thanks again. Wow, I'll need to digest that for a while...

Hmm, actually it's clear: save as much time as I can, then go for it. Simple.

It will be a bit of a struggle to wait until I've accumulated my maximum time, but that's plenty of time to get "serious" with daily practice.

Thanks again!

RE: Advice on Finding Opportunities for Longer Retreats
Answer
8/11/08 5:32 PM as a reply to beta wave.
Vince,

I can really resonate with your sense of stream entry taking longer. I started doing a number ofshort retreats over the last year and with 2 retreats of 9-10 days I get into knowledge of A&P with both but don't cross. However with 2 retreats of 14-15 days, I managed to cross A&P, through the Dark Night and into equanimity. In both the 2 week retreats I seem to stall out in equanimity.

I seem to get stuck in the pleasant phases (knowledge of arising and passing away and knowledge of equanimity), and power my way through the difficult phases (dark night). Somehow the mental and physical suffering along with a deep insight that there is no "silver bullet" and clear knowledge that no goal, no thought, no thing, will satisfy drives me into intensive continuous practice and helps to fuel rapid progress. Then when the clouds clear and all gets easy and smooth, maintaining continuous disciplined practiced is a bit harder. As I try to ratchet up the effort to get things moving, the same kind of effort that got me through the dark night is too gross and I seem to start backsliding until I dial down the intensity

Disclaimer: all of this is my working hypothesis emoticon

One of the teachers at IMS that I consulted on this mentioned that for some "greed" types (I'm definitely a greed type) that's not uncommon. And that what I need is a longer retreat (at least 3-4 weeks or more) to allow time for me to get the hang of skillful effort in equanimity and to allow it to mature.

I just received confirmation on the March 2009 Month long retreat at Spirit Rock with Jack Kornfield. Hopefully this one will do the trick emoticon

-Lee

RE: Advice on Finding Opportunities for Longer Retreats
Answer
8/11/08 5:45 PM as a reply to beta wave.
Betawave,

There are some other options for different lengths of time in structured retreats.

This Setptember IMS is experimenting with a new 3 week option at the beginning of their fall 3-month retreat this year.
http://www.dharma.org/ims/retreat_detail.php?id=124

Tathagata Meditation Center in San Jose California is offering a 2 week retreat in September and a 3 week retreat in November. Both are Mahasi style. They also offer a 6 week with Upandita in May if you can stand the heat. I hear Upandita retreats are pretty brutal.
http://www.tathagata.org/schedule/Schedule2008.pdf

RE: Advice on Finding Opportunities for Longer Retreats
Answer
8/12/08 1:32 AM as a reply to beta wave.
Hi Lee,

Yeah, what you're describing with your experience sounds quite common. I had the same experience, where I got into equanimity on a 6-week retreat, didn't land it, but then on a 4-week retreat finally got the hang of equanmity (after falling out of it and rising back into it several times) and finally the conditions were right for stream-entry to occur. I like the advice that the IMS teacher gave. Do you mind me asking who it was?

Also, my partner (Emily) and I are confirmed for the retreat in March as well. We'll have to meet after the retreat is over and chat... emoticon

RE: Advice on Finding Opportunities for Longer Retreats
Answer
8/12/08 4:20 AM as a reply to beta wave.
The main teacher I consulted with about this was Michelle McDonald. She's an excellent teacher and is quite comfortable talking about the maps during interviews (even group interviews). If you ever get the opportunity to interview with her do so. She embodies a sense of deep realization and talks about enlightenment and maps freely with little inhibition. In Dharma talks and guided meditations she doesn't talk about that stuff as much but she has an uncanny knack for connecting with both hardcore practitioners as well as more "I'm Ok your Ok New Agers"

I also discussed my situation and confirmed the advice with Rebecca Bradshaw who was teaching that retreat and is a teacher I sometimes work with via email. Rebecca is a psychologist and one of the standard teachers on the fall IMS 3 Month retreat.

I saw some complaints in an earlier thread about IMS teachers poo-pooing real attainment. My experience is that they don't emphasize it for the group at large but I've talked to at least 5 or 6 different teachers about stream entry and the standard maps. All seemed quite comfortable discussing with me and encouraging my progress. I think it was obvious to them that I'd studied the maps, was aware of the dangers but was tracking against them regardless and they seemed to support and encourage that. But I see why they don't talk about it in Dharma talks. To be honest, most of the 80-100+ people sitting a shorter IMS retreat are simply not yet ready for hardcore map based practice.

We'll definitely chat after the Spirit Rock retreat. BTW in the May IMS retreat, I was the tall 30 something heavyset guy with short hair and glasses that use to walk in the lower walking room with you a lot in the beginning. Once my concentration stabilized I started walking outside a bit more.

-Lee

RE: Advice on Finding Opportunities for Longer Retreats
Answer
8/12/08 5:27 AM as a reply to beta wave.
Hi Lee,

Yeah, I've never sat with Michelle but it's good to hear she is willing to talk maps when it's useful. I have sat with Rebecca several times, and really dig her approach and style. I've had a similar experience where it was obvious she was willing to talk about the more hardcore aspects of the maps and the practice, and like you say many of the IMS teachers are but generally during one-on-one interviews and not so much during dharma talks or Q&A's.

I seem to have a vague memory if you at the IMS retreat, but to be honest I've done so many retreats down there and walked with so many people it's extremely hard to remember! That being said, I'm sure when I see you at Spirit Rock it will all come rushing back. And it is really nice to be practicing with some other Dharma Overgrounders. :-D

RE: Advice on Finding Opportunities for Longer Retreats
Answer
8/12/08 12:15 PM as a reply to beta wave.
Thanks Lee. Looks like another good place. Could you define "brutal", as in: "Upandita retreats are pretty brutal."? emoticon

I included your quote about IMS just for the sake of seconding the point. At the "5" day retreat I did, about 50% of us were on our very first retreat. Just playing the percentages, probably most weren't ready for hardcore map-based practice, plus in terms of duration, maybe that would be futile anyway... But I found just enough winks and nods even at this short retreat to make me feel very comfortable practicing there. (I think for liability sake, it just doesn't make sense to give people something to push towards on these short retreats. Probably not on longer retreats as well.) But when the teacher during a group interview that "moods are an energy, thoughts are an energy, _self_ is an energy...", it gave me a lot of confidence that I was in the company who knew the territory.

RE: Advice on Finding Opportunities for Longer Retreats
Answer
8/14/08 4:11 AM as a reply to beta wave.
Author: ccasey

I like this question because I also gave this some consideration. And then, I read in some Mahasi material, (and I can't remember exactly where) but I remember he said that for Westerners, in his experience, it is estimated that it would take between 6 weeks to three months depending on how you practice, follow instructions, eat nutritious food, etc.

I took this to heart, and decided to go to MBMC for 10 weeks, estimating that I may be a slow learner, and I'm leaving next month. Wish me luck. And good luck to you too!

RE: Advice on Finding Opportunities for Longer Retreats
Answer
8/16/08 12:54 AM as a reply to beta wave.
Good luck Constance! Sounds like a perfect plan.