First time on a month-long retreat: any advice?

Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

First time on a month-long retreat: any advice?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

Hi all,

I have recently decided to practice at the MBMC for one month at least, ASAP. I want to reach High Equanimity at the very least (stream-entry would be better, obviously). I've progressed beyond Re-observation about 3 times in the last few months, but each time I get so blissed out on the relief and optimism that (in true ironic fashion) I slip back to Re-observation.

I know myself well enough to realise that I need disciplined practice, and a lifestyle of few distractions, for an extended period of time in order to stop identifying with these transient feelings of comfort.

The opportunity has come up because my wife and I recently separated, and I begin a self-imposed sabbatical from contract work in two weeks. Hence, I have a lot of free time, and I live in New Zealand so Penang is quite close.

The longest (in fact, the only) retreat I've done so far was a 10 day Goenka-style retreat. Loved it. Does one need to be "ready" for a month-long retreat, or should I just go for it?

I'm a little impatient. I have been stuck in the dukkha nanas for years. I could in theory do even 2 months.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: First time on a month-long retreat: any advice?

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I would talk with Tarin, aka ThePrisonerGreco, as he has recently spent time there and also recently got stream entry.

I would also talk with ccasey, as she has also spent time there recently.

In general, my advice is to practice every second of every day like your hair was on fire, know the maps and the traps cold so that you avoid them like the plague, and note like it was the key to staying alive. This sounds extreme, but then if you want stream entry, this sort of practice is powerful. Go for stronger moment to moment concentration than you ever did, watch for the changes from the 2nd to 3rd to 4th jhana way of perceiving things, and keep the Three Characteristics in the front of your mind at all times, perceiving them for wider and more inclusive aspects of things until you can perceive the sum total of your reality flux on its own. Avoid indulging in your stuff at all costs. Wear white clothes. If you do 1-2 months, you may run into the problem that you will feel you have lots of time and thus learn bad slacker habits. Avoid this. Practice like you wish to get stream entry within about 2-3 weeks, then have time to integrate it and perhaps tag second path. This will put a bit more fire under the thing.

When on the path of heroic effort, realize that this moment is the foundation of the path.

CCasey has recently written up a long essay of great value on practicing at MBMC.

Helpful?

Daniel
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: First time on a month-long retreat: any advice?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Thanks Daniel, very helpful as always. I'm not sure what you mean about the differences in perception from 2nd, 3rd and 4th jhana, but I will dig into the literature on that. I have been applying awareness of the Three Characteristics to my daily life for about six months now (which has lead to decisions on my part that surely appear odd to those who knew me previously!).

Interestingly, perception of impermanence has dropped out a bit in the last couple months. Immediately post-retreat, I could not /help/ but see decay and change everywhere I looked. Not in some imaginary or visualisation fashion, I mean really directly noticing that people, their emotions, material objects, sensations etc were in flux and that all our plans and actions are based on ego-clinging to the present moment, mostly out of fear for the unknown. It wasn't entirely pleasant.

Now however, I can observe things as they arise and pass (moods, thoughts, pain, pleasure, actions) but it just doesn't come through so strongly or so instinctively to me as the unsatisfactoriness and interdependence of phenomena.

I will speak with ThePrisonerGreco and CCasey about their experiences and for practical tips on staying at MBMC. Your thoughts on duration of my stay make a lot of sense -- I do have a treacherous mind that tends toward complacency, and setting aside time for integration seems only sensible.

Thanks heaps,
Cam
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: First time on a month-long retreat: any advice?

Posts: 211 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Just so you know, I spoke with CCasey the other day, and it appears that there may not be a teacher at MBMC for a while (visa issues and a lack of arhants to man the place I think). I'm not sure how solid that information is yet, but I would steer clear of there if there isn't a teacher, as it's probably in chaos and there wouldn't be any good guidance. You probably will want to talk to CCasey however to confirm this, as she's in touch with some folks out there at MBMC.

good luck,

-Vince
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: First time on a month-long retreat: any advice?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Oh dear, that could certainly throw a spanner in the works! The best laid plans and all that ... not that I'd looked at any actual logistics yet, but I was certainly inspired by the possibility.

I shall introduce myself to CCasey and see if she knows what the story is. Thanks for the info.

Cam
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: First time on a month-long retreat: any advice?

Posts: 28 Join Date: 8/23/09 Recent Posts
Yes, I recently spent a week at the MBMC and I can confirm there is no senior teacher. While everyone there was very good to me and I certainly gained from the time spent, I wouldn't suggest anything more than a brief period until they've sorted out the teacher situation.

I would qualify that, nonetheless: I think you can go a long way by preparing yourself well, and, as is reiterated here often, following 'the instructions'. I came away with one excellent lesson learnt/re-learnt: Namely, the need to relax one's attention at times - without losing focus - to make progress.

And Daniel is right, the food is delicious!
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: First time on a month-long retreat: any advice?

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
i hear u pandita 'jr' (a former abbott at mbmc from years ago) is heading a place in melbourne that is possible to retreat at. you should look into it as an option, as i have it on pretty good authority that he knows his stuff and has high standards for practice.
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: First time on a month-long retreat: any advice?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi,
I've been to U Pandita 'jr''s place a few times and its not really equipped for a solitary retreat as it is just a normal house on a suburban street in Melbourne, many devotees come and go each day. It would be best to go to one of the retreats he runs in Malaysia or Burma, his calender and details are here (http://www.dhammasukha.org.au/calender.htm).

He is a very interesting character to say the least. One slight annoyance is the amount of meat the Burmese monks eat, I've been to several Burmese temples now and each time I go I've struggled to find a vegetarian option.

take care,
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: First time on a month-long retreat: any advice?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I checked out netineti's link and it seems that U Pandita 'jr' is only running 5-day retreats in Australia at this time, and the next one is not until October. I'll still consider attending this, as being in NZ it's quite close and I would like to try out the teachings of the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition -- other than books I've not had an opportunity to do this yet.

In the meantime, I'll seek out a centre of somewhat comparable quality to the MBMC where I can also complete a longer stay. joebob333 has done a good writeup of the Chom Tong Insight Meditation Centre (also Sayadaw style) at http://dharmaoverground.wetpaint.com/page/Chom+Tong+Insight+Meditation+Center+(Chaing+Mai%2C+Thailand). I also had a pdf somewhere about retreats in Asia, which I'll dig into.

Failing that, I'll do a shorter Goenka retreat for now and save my pennies until the MBMC has a senior teacher in residence, as it's not a trip I'll be able to afford regularly (changing careers doesn't do wonders for one's bank account).

Thanks all, for sharing your knowledge.

Cam
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: First time on a month-long retreat: any advice?

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

I didn't know if you knew of these places in New Zealand for an individual retreat? Perhaps there is a local teacher, or a teacher you can talk with over the phone every other day.
http://www.sudarshanaloka.org/retreat-cabins.html
North Island, have five self contained cabins by donation
http://www.ishwara.com/
South Island, they have a Cottage, caravan, flat; economical camp sites.

best of luck, CCasey
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: First time on a month-long retreat: any advice?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Sorry for the late reply here -- "stuff" intervened.

I didn't know about either of those places! Nice googling emoticon Sudarshanaloka seems the best for me -- they pretty much leave you alone, except for a grocery drop every week. And it's donation based (suggested donation is pretty high, but ... it's a donation).

Perfect. Now I'm just deciding between Sudarshanaloka or Chom Tong in Thailand. I'll be sure to post a write-up if I try the cabins.

Thanks CCasey :-)

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