how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 3/27/09 11:15 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/27/09 11:15 PM

how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: thittato
Forum: Practical Dharma

Hello. I read in Saints & Psychpaths by Bill Hamilton that he thought the average time it took to achieve stream-entry on retreat after having crossed A&P was 7 weeks. Any thoughts about this? The reason I'm asking is that I'm planning a longer retreat now, and I believe I had the initial phases of A&P going by practicing the Mahasi noting technique 2-4 hours a day for 1-1.5 months (I've lost the momentum right now because of changing life circumstances). Seems like most people are saying that a 3 month retreat is a good shot at stream-entry, but I'm going back and forth on whether a shorter retreat would make it easier to sustain a strong effort throughout the whole retreat instead of some sort of middling effort that might come from feeling there is plenty of time. Any thoughts? Thank you, Thittato.
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 3/28/09 4:54 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/28/09 4:54 AM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
the best length is probably however long you think you can keep up total and sincere dedication to doing it like you mean it. can you do that for a month nonstop? no? try 3 weeks. can you do it for 3 weeks? no? try 2 weeks. but i think it really probably shouldn't be any shorter than 2 weeks. you also better be at the end of your rope if you cut it that short. for a short focused and purposeful retreat, i actually recommend doing it solo in order to focus the intensity even further, if you can manage to keep up that level of intensity while on your own, but it may not be for everybody.

i also remember reading that mahasi thought most people could do it within a month and a half.
Mike L, modified 13 Years ago at 3/28/09 10:47 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/28/09 10:47 AM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/13/09 Recent Posts
http://www.tathagata.org/DhammaTalks/Instructions/Mahasi_Instruction.html

"It will not be long before they will experience for themselves the magga-nana, phala-nana and Nibbana-dhamma experienced by the Buddhas, Arahats and Aryas. As a matter of fact. these may be experienced in the space of a month or of twenty or fifteen days of their meditational practice. Those whose parami [perfection of virtue] is exceptional may experience these dhammas even within seven days."

I think he may be referring to after A&P, but nonetheless, pretty inspiring; greco hits the mark with "total and sincere dedication".
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 13 Years ago at 3/28/09 10:09 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/28/09 10:09 PM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 3226 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I think the above guidelines are reasonable, particularly if one has already crossed the A&P. Essentially, if you can cross the A&P you should be able to do this on retreat in 1-2 weeks, usually less than that, perhaps a few days, and then getting through the Dark Night is largely a question of accepting suffering, keeping on practicing according to instructions, letting attention get wider, and then getting to Equanimity, which itself just requires wide, consistent, strong, accepting, inclusive investigation and presence.

I see many people go on long retreats with the notion that they have lots of time so they don't practice as well as people on shorter retreats. On the other hand, a long retreat gives people the ability to have time to fall back from Equanimity to the Dark Night if they can't land stream entry in the first shot, gain momentum again, get back up to Equanimity once or a few times, and try again.

Each time we cross from the Dark Night to Equanimity we learn more about how to do that. Each time we get into Equanimity we go a little deeper into it and get better at staying present in it. As we build up those muscles, we get closer. Some can do it on a straight shot, but most of us have to walk up and down the path a bit before crossing over.

As The Prisoner so rightly says, go on the longest retreat for which you think you can practice well.
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 3/29/09 8:14 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/29/09 8:14 AM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: thittato

Thanks to you all for excellent advise. This is such an incredible sane place!

OK. So I'm the process of planning a three month retreat in Asia. However, I'm impatient to get going, so I might be able to use my parents vacation home for a 2 week solo retreat, which would have been a nice way to to prepare for my retreat in Asia anyways, but I also want to give stream-entry my best possible shot if I decide to do this solo retreat.

Does anyone have any words\thoughts\advise about the type of strong effort and motivation that would make this goal most likely to come true?

I imagine that for a short and intensive two week period, with the proper mental preparation and motivation, I could really bring out the strongest kind of effort.
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 3/29/09 9:04 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/29/09 9:04 AM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
yes. i've been writing a little booklet on how to hit a retreat with the proper attitude, that has been left half-finished for a while.. this may motivate me to finish it.

in the meantime: keep routines simple. keep food simple. be strict with yourself. stay on schedule. stay focused and disciplined. do not slack. too much effort is better than too little effort in almost all cases. keep going no matter what. if you find yourself not on track, get back on it immediately, there is no time to waste. note discouragement rather than taking it to heart. take reality head-on. develop an independent attitude and do whatever it takes.

here's an example schedule:
4.30 awaken
5.00 walk
6.00 sit
7.00 breakfast
7.30 walk
8.00 sit
9.00 walk
10.00 sit
11.00 walk
12.00 lunch, shower, rest, sit, etc
13.00 walk
14.00 sit
15.00 walk
16.00 sit
17.00 walk
18.00 sit
19.00 walk
20.00 sit
21.00 walk
22.00 sit
22.30 recline

and an example set of reminders to have stuck on the wall:
1) don't indulge in your crap!
2) when in doubt or struggling: note/hit and accept pain.
3) if you have a question, the answer is in the three characteristics.
4) be mindful during transitions between activities.
5) analysis is not the same as practice.
6) practice at all times when awake.
7) stick to the schedule!
8) remember how precious these moments are and how much the dark night sucks.
9) when alone, practice just as hard; this is for you.
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 13 Years ago at 3/29/09 9:41 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/29/09 9:41 PM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 3226 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I cannot express in words how great it is to read Tarin's excellent advice. Nice job.
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 3/30/09 1:24 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/30/09 1:24 AM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
yeah, kinda takes the words right out of somebody's mouth doesnt it?

thittato, if you pm me your email address i will send you what i've got, as it may be a long while before its ready to be published publicly.
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 4/1/09 1:39 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 4/1/09 1:39 AM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: thittato

Ok. This is really great advice. Would have been really really desireable if it turned out that I managed to do this in a two week solo retreat, or perhaps that I managed to make some serious progress that I could finish in one or more extra solo retreats. From what I read on this forum it sounds at least like there is a good chance. Thanks!
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 4/10/09 2:36 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 4/10/09 2:36 AM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
i just sent a working draft of my little booklet on retreats to everyone who pm'd me their email address asking for it. if that's you, but it's not in your inbox, check your spam box because i bcc'd it. if it's not there, write me again and i'll send it again.
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Klaus Lundahl Engelholt, modified 13 Years ago at 4/10/09 6:56 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 4/10/09 6:56 AM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Post: 1 Join Date: 8/11/09 Recent Posts
Tarin's booklet is highly commendable. If you haven't requested it yet, please do so.

Thumbs up, Tarin!
Cameron Wilding, modified 13 Years ago at 5/3/09 1:16 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/3/09 1:16 AM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Thanks Tarin, great advice. I'm certainly of the slacker variety, but looking to reform!

I'm often hit by strange imaginings during insight meditation, and until reading this essay felt that maybe they were meaningful, or maybe I was spacing out. After reading one of your ending paragraphs about this, it occurs to me that probably the "imaginary" experiences are both meaningful AND spacing out emoticon

For a whole day on my last retreat, investigating sensation in my thighs was inseparably linked to "imaginary" flashes of death in many forms (gore, decomposing bodies, bones, suicide, explosions, car wrecks you name it. horribly realistic and rapid-fire like subliminal television).

Same retreat, I came to what felt at the time like a very strong Realisation, that all of my fellow meditators and I were gorillas -- you know, mountain gorillas, that sit in a misty glade and chew bamboo contemplatively. We arrived at the hall in silence, explored vast territory with little or no outward sign, absorbed our insights without help from others or disturbing them, ate in silence and returned to our rooms by starlight for rest. It felt primitive in the sense of it being fundamental, something lost over the centuries of trying to "improve our situation" (read: hide from dukkha).

Sounds weird now and I'm probably not doing a great job of explaining it, but there you go. Your essay reminded me of these and similar experiences, and I found it very relevant.

Thanks!
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 5/3/09 4:30 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/3/09 4:30 AM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
wildlings, im going to go out on a limb (im pretty good at this) and say that you intimately know all 4 jhanas of the vipassana cycle already (pre-vipassana, a&p, dark night, equanimity), encourage you to be okay with whichever one you're in, however sensibly or unexpectedly, and to practise as if you can progress equally well and get the insight you're looking for (path-moment) out of any of them... while still making all the effort possible to successfully investigate the reality of this present moment.

seeing both the 3 characteristics as 'this is it' and seeing what you're experiencing right now as 'this is it' (which is essentially just seeing what you're experiencing right now), will do the trick. do this over and over, and over, again, and results are sure to follow.

1 be confident
2 work hard
3 be ok with whatever you see
4 ???
5 profit!

wish you the best of luck.
Greg G, modified 13 Years ago at 5/3/09 6:37 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/3/09 6:37 PM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Wildlings, may not have seemed like it at the time. but these gory/scary images are normal conditions of Adhinava Yana (Knowledge of body and mind as misery or disgust)
Cameron Wilding, modified 13 Years ago at 5/3/09 9:53 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/3/09 9:53 PM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
This approach sounds very refreshing. Something I've been doing that's similar is looking at progress as a side-effect rather than the point. To give this substance, I borrow from the Zen attitude that meditation and mindfulness is a simple expression of our true nature (the gorilla fantasy certainly concurs with this!). I don't know much practical Zen, so apologies if I'm attributing falsely there.

I certainly keep a general awareness of the maps in mind, but if I get too into them, I just know I'll start drawing little charts with arrows and boxes emoticon I come at things in a very conceptual fashion if given half a chance and easily get fascinated by the analysis of practice, which then of course means I am not doing the practice itself (or am I? asks my intellect. It's quite frankly *infatuated* with paradox). Once I get out the hi-lighter, it's all over!

Before coming online today, I had just been re-reading the chapter on the 3 Characteristics in MCTB. Somehow Daniel's tip to view my own sensations as all there is (what I think you mean by "this is it") really resonated with me this time. Good dharma books reward many repeat readings...
Cameron Wilding, modified 13 Years ago at 5/3/09 10:11 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 5/3/09 10:11 PM

RE: how long to achieve stream-entry on retreat?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi joebob333, I'd never known this until you mentioned it, thanks!

The fact that it occurred while scanning my thighs was interesting (this was a Goenka retreat -- body-scanning all the way). Up until then, my upper leg area had been completely devoid of sensation (what Goenka calls "blind areas"). Suddenly they were being eaten by maggots!

(Perhaps a bit OT here) I have a 6 year history of Ashtanga yoga practice, and upon returning from retreat it was as though my legs had "woken up". Finally, I could lift my kneecaps (and keep them lifted) in standing asanas. Finally, I could roll my thighs inwards and press out through the heels of my feet. It hurt like hell (due to weakness in the muscles) and I had to go back to basics with my practice. But I could handle it. Not to sound cliched, but I had "ceased identifying" with the sensations of muscle fatigue, flex and nerve signals. It's made my whole posture more stable and relaxed.

No idea what the connection is, but interesting nonetheless emoticon

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