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Long Term Practice at MBMC?

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Long Term Practice at MBMC? Lee G Moore 10/16/08 3:08 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Vincent Horn 10/16/08 5:06 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Lee G Moore 10/16/08 2:02 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Vincent Horn 10/16/08 3:27 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Guillermo Z 10/19/08 5:39 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? tarin greco 10/20/08 1:05 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Lee G Moore 10/20/08 1:54 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? tarin greco 10/20/08 2:21 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Lee G Moore 10/20/08 2:37 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Guillermo Z 10/24/08 11:41 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Wet Paint 12/3/08 8:32 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Wet Paint 12/3/08 8:55 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Lee G Moore 12/4/08 1:10 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Lee G Moore 12/4/08 1:12 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Wet Paint 12/7/08 2:07 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? tarin greco 12/7/08 3:36 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Wet Paint 12/7/08 2:56 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Wet Paint 12/7/08 2:57 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Vincent Horn 12/7/08 4:05 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Daniel M. Ingram 12/8/08 3:42 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Wet Paint 12/9/08 5:01 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Daniel M. Ingram 12/9/08 6:33 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? tarin greco 12/9/08 4:54 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? tarin greco 12/9/08 5:00 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Wet Paint 12/9/08 5:44 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Wet Paint 12/10/08 3:59 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Wet Paint 12/10/08 4:02 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Daniel M. Ingram 12/10/08 4:42 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Daniel M. Ingram 12/10/08 4:58 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? tarin greco 12/10/08 5:47 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Lee G Moore 2/12/09 9:41 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Guillermo Z 2/12/09 11:11 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Kenneth Folk 2/13/09 2:55 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Lee G Moore 2/14/09 6:33 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Wet Paint 5/31/09 9:45 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Lee G Moore 7/2/09 12:45 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Lee G Moore 7/2/09 12:46 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Wet Paint 7/4/09 3:31 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Lee G Moore 7/4/09 7:08 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Dark Night Yogi 11/20/09 10:14 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? tarin greco 11/20/09 11:06 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Yuliya Yakhontova 12/2/09 2:39 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Lee G Moore 12/5/09 9:25 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Yuliya Yakhontova 12/6/09 10:19 PM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Lee G Moore 12/5/09 9:33 AM
RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC? Dark Night Yogi 12/5/09 9:46 AM
Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
10/16/08 3:08 AM
Forum: MBMC (Penang, Malaysia)

How long of a continuous period can you go to MBMC? I may have the opportunity for a sabbatical soon and I'd be very interested in spending 6-9 months at MBMC. Anyone aware of retreat length limits here?

-Lee

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
10/16/08 5:06 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Hi Lee,

That sounds like a great opportunity. emoticon I'm not sure if there is a limit at MBMC. My guess is not, as I've known a couple folks who have spent 3 months there recently, and also one person who spent 6 months there (though that was about 10 years ago). I'll also just throw out there, though it may not end up being true for you, is that if you get stream-entry in the spring (on your next retreat) you may not be as compelled to do such a long retreat afterwards. Things tend to come into more balance after getting out of the dark night, and retreat practice can become less important (it did for me). That being said, I continued to do longer retreats and get tremendous benefits from them, so if you're aim is to make as much progress as fast as possible, a long retreat could be a great way to do that, stream-entry or not. emoticon

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
10/16/08 2:02 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
I appreciate the feedback Vince. Unfortunately, to make this sabbatical work financially I will likely need to cancel Spirit Rock in March. I see your point about the need for longer term work reducing if I hit Stream Entry, however it's hard to say if I'll get there in 27 days. I think 6 months at a hard core Mahasi gives me a much higher probability of hitting Stream entry, stabilizing and maybe having some time to develop concentration attainments.

It also ties in well with wanting to go back to school after long term retreat and retool towards a career that is more skillful and offers more in the way of service. I'm not sure exactly what that looks like but I think I'll be in a better position to work through the details once I've developed more wisdom. Maybe I'll look into going to grad school at Naropa emoticon

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
10/16/08 3:27 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Hey Lee,

Yeah, 6 months will definitely give you a higher probability of hitting stream-entry. Sounds like a good plan. Please keep us updated on your plans. I'd love to hear how things progress.

-Vince

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
10/19/08 5:39 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Hi leemore!

I spent 2.5 Weeks at the MBMC. I met people that went there for 6 months, so I guess that there is no problem in staying there for a longer time. Any way contact Linda Toh (lindatoh2001@yahoo.com)... she will talk to Sayadaw and get back to you.

My experience was great and I would really recommend it. For details see the page I set up with the information. If you need further information write me your questions.

Regards,

Guillermo (mautelino)

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
10/20/08 1:05 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
hi lee,

long stays have by first-timers at MBMC have to be approved by the sayadaw in an interview but it's unlikely he will say no. also, you would have to leave after 3 months due to your visa expiring, but i think you could take a cheap flight to thailand and come back the next day for another 3 months. it's unlikely immigration will let you through after 6 consecutive months though. i think there's actually a rule about how long you have to be out of the country before you can get another 3 month visa but i've forgotten the numbers.

a side note: a malaysian monk i talked to there who spent some time training at the mahasi centre in yangon said 2-3 months isn't sufficient for some people and that they could require up to 6 months for stream entry. he also went on to tell me how, in a way, it is better to go on retreat as a lay practitioner than as a monk, as at the mahasi centre in burma, monks are only given 6 months for intensive retreat, after which point their retreat time is ended and all the ones who've at least gotten to equanimity regarding formations are assigned the duty of helping teach beginners.

oh, a word to the wise about MBMC: some of those afternoons can get pretty hot. phew!

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
10/20/08 1:54 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Dear Vince,
Thanks for the encouragement and feedback.

Dear Guillermo,
I've been going back and forth with Linda Toh in emails. The main Sayadaw may not be there when I arrive but based on my experience, she thanks that's probably all right. I did see your page and I appreciate the info.

Dear Tarin,
I didn't consider the Visa issue. I've just done some research based on your feedback and it seems I don't need a Visa but your right, I have to leave within 90 days. I'm going to reach out to the American consulate in Kuala Lumpur and see if there are any options for getting a Visa to stay longer.

If I don't have any luck on getting a Visa to stay longer, perhaps I can spend my final 2-3 months in Asia at a monastery in Thailand or at the Burmese Vihara at Bodh Gaya. If anyone has any other recommendations please speak up. While Burma is an option, I'd prefer to avoid some of the issues I've heard about.

When I return to the states after 5-6 months in Asia, I'm considering spending a few months in work retreat at the Forest Refuge or in Residency at Bhavana as an inexpensive way to integrate while still engaging in substantial practice.

-Lee

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
10/20/08 2:21 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
hi lee,

your visa is what they will issue you upon arrival and it will be good for 90 days. the american embassy will not be able to assist you getting a longer one, unfortunately, nor will the malaysian government be willing to. as for crossing in and out, airport immigration has a reputation for being less restrictive than the land crossings with thailand and will probably let you back in the next day (check the rules about the number of hours you are technically required to be out of the country before being eligible for another 90 day upon-arrival visa to be safe), whereas the land border may not. air asia has a cheap direct flight between penang and bangkok.

regarding spending a few months in thailand - you are only given a 30 day 'entry visa' upon arrival, but may apply for a 60 day 'tourist visa' at an embassy or consulate outside of thailand. trying to get an extension on that involves going to the immigration building in bangkok and is generally more trouble than worth, since the extension won't be for more than a couple weeks at most.

here's a resource you may find very useful:
http://www.retreat-infos.de/Download/Retreats_in_Asia_Oct07.pdf

all the best with your retreat(s).

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
10/20/08 2:37 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Dear Tarin,

That's an excellent file on what's available in Southeast Asia. That should keep me busy.

One other question I meant to ask about MBMC...Is there sufficient room or facilities for Yoga or Tai Chi?

Thanks,
Lee

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
10/24/08 11:41 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
hi,

There is enough space, but you must ask Sayadaw for permission (they have their rules).

Guillermo

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/3/08 8:32 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Author: Gavesini

Hi Lee,
You are most welcome to practice for any length of time unless you have been asked to leave by the Management or the resident Sayadaw for not conforming to the rules. Currently the Resident Sayadaw is most compassionate and lenient so this sort of thing is very rare. So far I know of only one case in the last 6 months. .. a very defiant , weird and incorrigible young American female yogi who broke almost rule and even refused to leave when requested to do so. She finally went nuts or perhaps was a nut case before she came.
As for Yoga and Tai Chi definitely not anywhere in the meditation hall or common area. You can do it the mornings in your own room but with the approval of Sayadaw.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/3/08 8:55 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Author: Gavesini

Hi Lee,
Here is another tip for you.
Many foreign yogis and monks have in the past opted for the easiest cheapest and hassle free way of taking the train or taxi from Butterworth to Haadyai, stay overnight there and re-enter the next day. MBMC can help you arrange the transport and stay in a Haadyai monastery if you prove yourself to be a sincere yogi and if you are really determined to stay for 6 months. Since Burma is out of the question this is your best option as it is unlikely for you to find another centre in Thailand or India where you can do really serious practice in the Mahasi tradition. .speaking from personal experience as I have travelled widely, visited and practised in many of the popular meditation centres in Thailand. I have visited India and done some "research" into the centres there and the conditions there are not as conducive than in Thailand.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/4/08 1:10 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Hi Gavesini

Thanks for the info. I'm fairly comfortable with 8 precepts and typical rituals and traditions at monastic centres so suppose I should be fine.

I'm currently debating whether to devise a short easy Tai Chi or Yoga routine that I can do very mindfully before starting the daily meditation to help maintain health/flexibility for long term intensive practice. Are the rooms shared or single? Would this be frowned on?

Regarding Visa runs, currently I'm scheduled to arrive in Penang January 9th, then I have a trip to Bangkok scheduled in early April. I'm keeping an eye on the current government challenges in Thailand and may modify plans accordingly.

Thanks,
Lee

Have you known people to continue to study at MBMC even longer than 6 months? I'm not sure that's something I'm going to want to do, but I'm trying to leave all options open since I'm at a unique point in my life where I have no real commitments or attachments.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/4/08 1:12 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Heh put my closing before my final question.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/7/08 2:07 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Author: JJosh

Dear Tarin

" he also went on to tell me how, in a way, it is better to go on retreat as a lay practitioner than as a monk, as at the mahasi centre in burma, monks are only given 6 months for intensive retreat, after which point their retreat time is ended and all the ones who've at least gotten to equanimity regarding formations are assigned the duty of helping teach beginners."

Do you know whether that means that after the first year of 6moths retreat 6months helping teaching beginners that the next year it’s the same routine of 6 on 6 off or is this just the first year of being a monk at that centre? emoticon


thank you
josh

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/7/08 3:36 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
no, i dont know.. and even if so, im not sure that would apply to western monks either, btw. westerners are often given special treatment about many things and i could see this (time given for retreat) being one of them. but it might depend on the sayadaw too.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/7/08 2:56 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Author: Gavesini

Hi Lee,
A short yoga/tai chi routine of about 30mins or less would be easier for you to squeeze into the strict daily schedule. From my experience the best time would be on waking up at 4 am or in the evenings, The male yogis' rooms are meant to be shared when all the rooms are occupied but usually there are very few males (like one to four) so you can request to be on your own. The beginning of the year is off peak season so don't be surprised if you find yourself to be the only male yogi there most of the time. Now and then there will be one or two local male yogis who will come in the weekends or public holidays but that is only for 2 or 3 days at most. Sayadaw will most likely tell you to do your exercise in your own room. Well, in the event you have a room mate you can let your room mate know that you have prior approval from Sayadaw. That should not be a problem.
I have known a few monastics who stayed more then 6 months there but only a couple of them really benefitted from their stay. The others (foreign and local )stayed that long because they know they had nowhere else better to go to, having renounced the world but they would usually not practice intensively after 3 or 4 months. As for lay foreign yogis they normally leave after 3 months but a handful would return the following year. In my opinion, being able to practise intensive meditation for 3 months at a stretch without a break is good enough. Even in Burma this is the recommended duration at most meditation centres (yeiktha) for one to make significant progress. Most foreign yogis who come to mbmc especially those who are very goal orientated cannot last even for one month as they are not used to the strict schedule of walking, sitting and noble silence.
You will need to get Sayadaw's approval if you want to return after your first 3 months stay.
.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/7/08 2:57 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Author: Gavesini

A word of caution ..Going for a retreat with the idea of attaining something is not at all advisable. It is a sure way of getting into a whole lot of mess because of the underlying defilement of craving. Remember, the whole principle behind our practice is 'letting go' of all defilements. In a retrreat, priority ought to be given to learning the technique of developing concentration and mindfulness and then sharpening the skills involved so that you can use it to your own benefit at any time or place in the future.
Everyone will progress at their own rate and it is not how long you practice but how you practice and what grade of yogi you belong to, that matters. A first class yogi can make good progress in a matter of days but such yogis are very rare. ..and a skillful and sharp teacher can easily recognise such yogis after the first 3 interviews

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/7/08 4:05 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Hi Gavesini,

Just a suggestion: You may want to check out the FAQ section of this site and get a better sense of what this community is about. We are trying to promote an intelligent and responsible map-based approach to practice, as many of us have found it extremely helpful, and have been able to distinguish between craving as it arises in the moment, and clear and realizable goals as rational strategies to help orient our practices. There is a difference, and one which this community sees as valuable. Not everyone seems to be able to understand that difference, but just know that this is one of the primary reasons that this community exists. :-D

-Vince

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/8/08 3:42 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
The point of Mahasi based practice, as I understand it, is heroic effort to directly comprehend the Three Characteristics of very sensation as it arises in one's practice from the moment one wakes up to the moment one falls asleep and thus realize stream entry and beyond it to arahatship, utilizing the technique of strict noting until one can comprehend the Three Characteristics more directly and continuously. The sensations of craving and not craving both manifest the Three Characteristics, and so are valid objects for insight, all "defilements" manifest those same characteristics, so are valid objects for insight, and thus, by noticing things as they are with strong effort, mindfulness and concentration, one may move through the stages of insight and attain the goal. Yes, people progress at different rates, but the notion that one should spend a Mahasi retreat "letting go" is nonsense. All sensations let go of themselves, as they are impermanent, so noticing this again and again second after second leads to direct comprehension and wisdom.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/9/08 5:01 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Author: Tracy.

I was on retreat at MBMC when this "crazy yogi" thing happened, and I found the whole thing to be pretty shocking. Before this retreat, I had assumed that spiritual teachers and meditation centers knew how to help people with all kinds of mental problems, and would show compassion and caring to such people even if they could not get through to them. This assumption was totally shattered by my time at MBMC. A young woman arrived at the center, and over a period of a couple of weeks her behavior gradually deteriorated from odd, to highly unusual, to seemingly psychotic. It's pretty obvious that no one at MBMC was willing or able to help her get back to a normal state of mind, and she's the one who had to suffer the consequences. The rest of us were merely distracted by her behavior once in a while. Now you're calling her "incorrigible," as if she had this breakdown on purpose! It's incomprehensible to me. I think Westerners should be aware that they too will be "left to their own devices" psychologically at this retreat center. Counseling and mental health intervention services are not included in the package, and in fact it appears that they are not available at all. So be careful not to go crazy at MBMC!

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/9/08 6:33 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
It is also true that the vast majority of people who go on retreats and practice hard don't go psychotic, or if so then only for very brief periods that the vast majority can compensate for. It is also possible that she went in with some sort of psychological baggage, such as borderline personality disorder (pretty common), or that her malaria meds made her nuts (look up the literature on Lariam), or that there was something else going on that we don't know about. Did practice cause it as primary cause or exacerbate something underlying that was latent or previously known, or was it unrelated to practice? Sorting this out is not easy without more information. In terms of a meditation center being set up to handle people who go barking crazy, this is a complex issue, as to really handle those who are psychotic well requires people who are trained to do so, such as doctors, usually with meds at their disposal, and what can be done do/with psychotic individuals varies a lot by local laws and resources. Most meditation centers do not have in house psychiatrists/mental health professionals who can appropriately treat someone who is psychotic, so I wouldn't be to quick to jump on MBMC for not having resources that are quite rare.

It is generally expected on both sides of the world that only the very sane go on intensive retreats, as ultra-intensive meditation practice and underlying mental illness tend to not be very complementary, to put it mildly. This is the reason for the extensive questionnaires that you find at places like IMS about mental illness, and they are justified in asking these things. Places like MBMC could possibly be criticized by being too kind, open, and inviting, but this seems unfair also, and I appreciate their open and relatively trusting style.

I wasn't there, and perhaps the thing could have been handled more skillfully, but I am not sure MBMC should be singled out in this regard.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/9/08 4:54 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
now, while the above sounds like it could have happened to anyone on intensive retreat in any part of the world, i have a background, family, and part of a childhood in what is widely regarded as one of the most friendly, libertarian, and socially tolerant buddhist countries in the world, thailand, and feel qualified to voice my opinion that it is probably more likely to occur in asia than in the west.

for while it may be generally expected (or said to be expected) on both sides of the world that only the very sane* go on intensive retreats...
1- buddhism is a popular religion in southeast asia and its adherents popularly believe - even those who probably should know better - that harm will not come from its practice. ah, belief.. the fervent wish for something to be true!
2- knowledge of mental disorders and how to recognise and treat those afflicted is far more limited in asia than in the west. (there may even be argument that certain forms of mental disorder, or mental disorder in general, are less prevalent in buddhist asia than the west, but i really don't want to get into that).
3- southeast asians, in general, prefer to avoid direct confrontations. boy does that just let trouble brew and fester sometimes.

given 1, 2, and 3, it is entirely understandable that a kind, compassionate, experienced, and highly enlightened sayadaw, in his enthusiasm to help someone understand their relationship to the world and resolve a deep form of suffering, could overlook a few quirks in a yogi *even if* they may have been readily apparent to someone else (1 and 2), not recognise (2) - or not really want to recognise (3) - her mental breakdown as it was progressing, and, after having tolerated (3) her increasingly abberant behaviour as she became more and more nutso, not knowing what else to do (2), finally kicked her out.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/9/08 5:00 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
(cont.)

last year at mbmc, a young local man went kinda nuts. actually he really went off the charts. he was ordaining for a short period of time (couple of weeks) to help chaperone a samanera (novice monk) program, where a lot of chinese buddhist school kids get sent to live at the centre as a kind of religion camp. even though i was there, it's hard to say what the whole story was, and maybe the story's not relevant, and it's probably better kept private anyway, but what i think it's ok to say is that it really happened and there was a lot of screaming and running around and stripping naked in front of grade-school kids (be careful of places your parents force you to go!), and broken glass and blood. the police and his family had to come. the sayadaw looked really, really tired.

before you think 'oh mbmc is a loony bin!', i should mention i've also watched people flip out in the middle of goenka retreats. oh and i personally really lost the plot for about a week or two AFTER getting out of mbmc, but the funny thing about that one was hardly anyone but the people i told noticed (my family sure didn't). makes me wonder how many other people this sort of thing has happened to.

and on that note, i want to repeat what i said at the beginning here, which is that i think people can flip out on intense retreat anywhere.. i second tracy's imploration about being careful to not go crazy at mbmc, but would like to expand it to say: be careful to not go crazy on retreat anywhere!

(*i personally know not one but *two* cases of people who were, self-admittedly, both at the end of their sanity rope at the time they went on retreat and got enlightened, and they both later became effective and well-regarded teachers, so the expectation regarding intensive retreats being for only the very sane.. hah!)

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/9/08 5:44 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Author: ccasey

Here are some notes from Daniel, (with his permission) from a fellow yogi:
"1. better have your psychological trip very together before attempting a
3-month without prior prep and training. This kind of training is not for the unstable or for those who can't really keep a lid on their psychological stuff.
2. If you are very stable, have a good tolerance for pain (both emotional
and psychological)
3. can/will follow simple instructions well
4. can sort out what is just religious trapping and what is core insight practice
5. are diligent
Then, a 3-month might be an amazing experience.
Failure to have even one of those qualities could make the experience much worse."

I would add that it is important to check your health before starting there. I do not recommend going from the plane to the Center, because this can be a set-up for immune system failure and place an undue burden on 1-the volunteer staff if you are sick from the get-go, and 2-your practice. I took some time to rest up and recover from the jet lag. Then, when I arrived, I felt strong and healthy and ready for the regimen.
Some comments I heard from folks there is that they are concerned about Americans going there because of both mental and or physical health issues that they are not equipped to deal with. Fortunately, my case was good. I made progress and never had stronger health. But I'm sure that others can say that they can also make excellent progress when health is compromised, I don't know.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/10/08 3:59 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Author: Tracy.

Even though IMS and other Western centers screen out people with serious mental illness, it's obvious that they provide some psychological and emotional support side by side with spiritual guidance. Since I've never actually been there, I'm thinking of some of the examples of his teaching style that Jack Kornfield gives in his books, and also the descriptions in MCTB. Bare-bones retreats where teachers teach one technique and give no help in dealing with content (such as Mahasi retreats in Asia and also Goenka retreats now that I think of it) are tried and true paths to awakening, yes, but it seems like there's a higher flip-out factor at these places. They don't have that buffer of warm fuzzy "dance in the forest like a fairy princess if that's what you need to do to feel OK with yourself" personalized guidance. If you're stable and mature, and you know what you're doing, there's no problem with going on this kind of retreat. However, evidence provided in this thread suggests that in practice, the people who go to these centers are sometimes not stable or mature, and they flip out, and they don't get very much help from their teachers, because the teachers are rightfully there to teach meditation. I suspect that if such people went to IMS instead, they would have an easier time and would not flip out as intensely or as long. And then the question is, how can a person tell whether or not they're mature and stable enough to do a long Mahasi-style retreat without flipping out? ( ... to be continued)

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/10/08 4:02 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Author: Tracy.

I think it's hard to get a clear cut answer to that question if you're assuming that you are in the Dark Night stages. Are you in the Dark Night of the Soul, or are you psychologically unstable, or do you have a mental illness? What's the real difference? If we take Daniel's suggestion that the way to get out of the Dark Night is to go on a long Mahasi retreat, and then we take his OTHER suggestion that "ultra-intensive meditation practice and underlying mental illness tend to not be very complementary, to put it mildly" we're potentially at an impasse on what to do. So I think people should be aware that if they're at that stage of going "well, I'm maybe kind of crazy, but I think it's just because I'm at this stage of insight and it'll all get better if I dedicate myself to practice," the decision to go on a long retreat is probably a good one, but there's a small possibility of flipping out. And flipping out at a place like MBMC (sorry to single them out again), you would be in the somewhat unpleasant position of being a temporarily crazy person surrounded by people who have a very different conception of mental illness than the one you're accustomed to. And then you'll probably come back to reality eventually anyway. Maybe it's not such a big deal. I didn't flip out at MBMC, by the way. At least, I followed the rules, so I was sane by their standards. (And also it's a nice place, and I got a lot out of the time I spent there.)

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
Answer
12/10/08 4:42 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
While this territory is not perfectly black and white, there is a real difference between someone who is basically sane with some neuroses who is in the Dark Night and someone with a classic mental illness or personality disorder. Yes, there are those with both, but that doesn't apply to most people. When I say mental illness, I mean schizophrenia and that spectrum of disorders, manic depression (not just stage-dependent mood swings but the real deal), major depression +/- psychotic features, the Cluster B personality disorders (borderline, histrionic, antisocial and narcissistic as classically defined), bad OCD, and the like. These are a big deal, usually have caused significant life dysfunction long before someone crossed the A&P, and usually have involved meds, therapy, significant love and work dysfunction, sometimes inpatient treatment, and the like. True, sometimes the first psychotic break or manic episode may just happen to fall on retreat, but that's not necessarily meditation's fault, and could just be bad timing, though again, this is not perfectly black and white.

I do agree that psychology is way more a part of our pop culture and meditation culture, though I generally consider a this a real problem for those who are interested in classic attainments. That said, for those who are really neurotic and not going to practice because of obsession with their stuff anyway, perhaps some of them get something out of it on occasion, and in those rare cases where people really lose it, it could be of benefit, true, though what those who get truly psychotic or manic really need is something much stronger, such as a good mental health facility, as dancing like a fairy princess in the forest is unlikely to do the trick at that point, and something along the lines of Geodon, Zyprexa or Haldol (anti-psychotic meds) is way more likely to be a short term bridge to more functional mind states.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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12/10/08 4:58 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
As an Emergency Medicine physician, I deal with severe mental illness all the time, the real deal, not just whiny Western meditators, and it is a whole different animal. Thus, I don't think that more fluffy psychologized issue-processing emotionally based practice is necessarily going to have much if any affect on those with deep underlying cracks in their reality processing. True, if a place like IMS can recognize the signs of someone sailing out into dangerous territory (as Tarin and Tracy are saying), then this could be of real benefit so that they could be quickly gotten to some place that had the capabilities to deal with that, which, as I said above, is generally a mental health facility, not a retreat center of any kind.

I have pushed my practice pretty hard as people go, and have gotten into a large number of volatile and unusual mind states, had all sorts of strange experiences, crazy visions, heard crazy things, had serious perception distortions, very powerful and odd raptures of all sorts, and yet none of this to me constituted mental illness, as the core processing part of things was still able to keep a lid on it, notice what was going on, keep interacting in relatively normal ways with external reality, and it all passed rapidly enough (usually seconds to minutes, rarely hours, never days). If you go on retreat and are feeling like you really are going crazy and it is lasting for days, then stop practicing and get help. In an ideal world, every center, culture and country would be perfectly equipped to handle these things, but clearly this is not the case, so if you have schizophrenia or previous episodes of psychosis that was not some temporary meditation experience, bad bipolar disorder (the real deal), or some other major mental illness, then MBMC and any other major intensive retreat center is probably not for you, though you could always ask someone like Jack Kornfield, who is way more of an expert in this territory than I am.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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12/10/08 5:47 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
this has been a pretty long tangent. let's keep this thread for talking about long term practice at mbmc. i'll start a new thread about mental health and meditation.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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2/12/09 9:41 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Kenneth asked some questions about my upcoming retreat at MBMC and my goals. I thought I resurrect this thread rather than start a new one or hijack the Kasinas for Shamatha thread.

I just finished 4 weeks at MBMC. I was planning to go a full 3 months but I had a back problem flare up so I'm taking a week off in a hotel in Penang. I'm returning Monday for 4-6 weeks (my Malay visa runs out in about 6 weeks) Then I'll head to Thailand. For this trip my goal is Stream Entry. My best guess is that I've broken through into low equanimity a number of times on various retreats but never had it mature into high equanimity. I had some longer conversations with a number of Dharma Overgrounders in the last several days and have gotten a lot of great advice and motivation for breaking through. So this time I'm going in with mindfulness guns a blazin' to either get first path or die trying.

Ideally in the medium term I'd like to stay in Southeast Asia for the next year or 2 and work my way to Anagami and attain some degree of mastery of the 8 Jhanas before I return to the US. I realize though that conditions change, and my perspective will likely shift significantly after Stream Entry so I'm trying not to get too locked into fixed plans.

-Lee

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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2/12/09 11:11 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Lee, I am glad to hear that you made it to MBMC! I wish you all the best for the next meditation weeks!

Any interesting experiences there? Did you like the place, teachings, food, etc?

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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2/13/09 2:55 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Lee, thanks for the update. I got Stream Entry (First Path) at MBMC in 1992 under the tutelage of a wonderful Burmese meditation master named Sayadaw U Rajinda. MBMC is a great place to practice - Daniel and I call it the Upper Middle Path. I'm glad you have clear short and medium term goals, and that you've left room for the plan changes that inevitably come as your perspective shifts. It all sounds very promising. Keep us posted.

A practice tip for attaining Path, for people who have advanced to the 11th (equanimity) ñana: Incline your mind to the passing away of phenomena. Notice that things don't just fade away. They STOP. COLD. Notice that stopping point. Don't strain, just notice. (This is Sayadaw U Kundala's technique as I understand it. It works very well for First and Second Path.)

Kenneth

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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2/14/09 6:33 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Dear Mautelino,

While I found MBMC to be a fine retreat center, there were few challenges that I struggled with. I think this is mostly because I've been a bit spoiled with western centers and this is my first retreat in Asia. The biggest element I had to adjust to was a lot of noise. There was a foundry on one side, a schoolyard on the other and a busy road on the third. In addition the locals use it as a worship center and many have little concern for minimizing noise. I've just been spoiled a bit with IMS, Bhavana and Tathagata. Some other issues include heat, bugs and for a while I was the only male yogi practicing intensively. Great for getting your favorite walking lane but I kind of miss the unspoken peer support. Don't get me wrong, it's a perfectly serviceable center and I have no problem staying there long term.

So far my favorite center has been Tathagata Meditation Center in California. Hardcore schedule and Mahasi teachings, reasonably quiet, incredible food, and very temperate climate.

Dear Kenneth,
Thanks for the advice, I'll definitely try out your suggestion when I hit equanimity again.

-Lee

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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5/31/09 9:45 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Author: AngelinaChan-Ong

Hi all, I'm not sure whether it's a bit late for me to post this reply, hopeful that you're still watching it.

When the previous Sayadaw (Thunzanza) was there, I once went to the MBMC office to ask about the different kinds of donations they accept there. There was one fund which is about RM500, and will give you a certificate to allow long periods of stay FOC except for some minimal utilities payment etc. Not sure whether that still applies. And previously when the Sayadaw was there, there had been some yogis who stayed for more than 6 months if not mistaken, one of them a cancer patient who was healing there through meditation practices.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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7/2/09 12:45 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Just finished my last retreat in Malaysia (for now) and wanted to debrief a little here in hopes that it may be of benefit to others.

I spent a total of 6 months in SE Asia and close to 5 on retreat. I first went to MBMC for 4 weeks until I had some a chronic back problem flare up. After resting up a week in Penang I returned to MBMC for 2 weeks. After about 7 days of that retreat I had an interesting experience that may have been Stream Entry. I dismissed at first as something else but after talking with Kenneth a bit, it seems to have a lot of the common aspects. I left MBMC after 2 weeks because there was no teacher and I lost a lot of motivation to practice after my Stream Entry.

After a quick vacation in Krabi Thailand, I returned to Malaysia and went to a different center. Buddhist Hermitage Lunas (BHL) is a small center an hour south of Penang. It's a bit quieter (I found MBMC a bit noisy for my taste), has better food (especially if you want to eat vegetarian), and has a good teacher (Sayadaw Dr. U Sunanda). I did a 3 week retreat there, took a 3 week break in Bangkok then came back for my final 10 week retreat. It wasn't until the 10 week retreat that what seem to be review fruitions started to appear.

I'm still not entirely convinced that I attained stream entry but I'm starting lean in that direction. Still I'm taking Daniels advice and waiting a year and a day before making up my mind about what attainments I did or didn't get.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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7/2/09 12:46 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
At this point, I'm spending the month of July relaxing, catching up on personal business, visiting family and assisting with DHO 2.0 in whatever way I can. Then in early August I plan to go to the forest refuge for 2 months then go straight to IMS for their 2 month retreat (changed from their normal 3 month fall retreat). I'm considering doing Samatha or Metta for the 2 months at Forest Refuge then insight for the 2 month IMS retreat. After that I will have to find a job, and a place to live and settle back into regular life for a while

Some challenges I struggled with included a lower back problem bad enough to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance last year and put on 3 months work disability. I also started the 6 months about 120 pounds overweight. These 2 factors severely limited the amount of sitting and walking I could do per day and as a result I had to do substantial amounts of lying meditation. At times this would cause an imbalance in energy but toward the end I was finding my most concentrated and mindful sessions were during lying meditation. Fortunately in the course of the 6 months my back has healed significantly and I lost 85 pounds.

Lee

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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7/4/09 3:31 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Author: lieb_und_treu

Hi, thank you for giving an update, and congratulations on any attainments.

I'm interested in going on a long term retreat, possibly at MBMC, but I'm somewhat unsure if I am ready. I realize that it is impossible to give perfect advice regarding such a personal topic over the impersonal medium of the internet, but maybe it will help nonetheless. I'm 22 and have been meditating for three years in concentration exercises. Since the new year i've been becoming much more serious about it and have built up to the point where i'm sitting for up to four hours a day, and the stars have aligned so that I can be free to take the fall semester on holiday if I wish. For a retreat, I would have to travel a long distance regardless, as I live in the deep south, and I havn't found any dharma resources in my more local community.

I have not been on retreat before; I havn't attained any of the higher concentration states; I have no experience in vipassana training. However I can sit for fair lengths of time, and I have had some odd experiences in my meditation which makes me eager to devote myself to it more fully. Is it wise for me to go on a long term retreat(three months) in malaysia?

I'm sorry If this is inappropriate to this forum, but I found it searching around for some place to discuss these things and get the advice I have not been able to find on a more personal level.

Thank you so much.
Robert

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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7/4/09 7:08 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Hi Robert,

MBMC is definately one possibility as is Buddhist Hermitage Lunas. One of the challenges however is consistency and quality of teaching. During retreats at both of these centers the Sayadaw's left for visa runs and got caught in other countries much longer than expected. Overall you get much better support from teachers at the western centers such as IMS and Spirit Rock however they are considerably more expensive.

I would reach out to MBMC and BHL to find out if they have a Sayadaw in residency and find out who and how long they are staying. Also, when you go to either of these centers they are strict Mahasi centers and generally do not condone concentration practice. They expect you to do the Mahasi method according to their instructions.

Assuming a decent Sayadaw will be in attendance throughout the 3 months, I suspect retreating at either center could be of tremendous benefit to you and much cheaper than in the US.

Contact information for MBMC is lindatoh2001@yahoo.com and for Buddhist Hermitage Lunas the website isTelephone:+6-012-4284811 email: support@buddhisthermitagelunas.org

I prefer BHL but if you would like to talk about in more detail send me a PM and we can setup a skype call to chat.

Best of Luck,
Lee

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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11/20/09 10:14 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
hello! i was looking at Chong Tong in Thailand, narrowed down result from advice also from around the net, until I remembered Daniel's recommendation of this place.

Just have questions for anyone who went there:

1~Is it free?

2~2 Meals + Tea? (vegetarian or meat?)

3~how strict exactly is it, and how does the day go.

4~Is it definitely better than any Thai Retreat center?

5~Is the meditation technique basically just about similar to other Sayadaw teachers? (like Ajahn Tong of Chong Tong)

Im planning to go for 1 month at least.



Thanks!,
mitch

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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11/20/09 11:06 PM as a reply to Dark Night Yogi.
Mitch Jacinto:
hello! i was looking at Chong Tong in Thailand, narrowed down result from advice also from around the net, until I remembered Daniel's recommendation of this place.

Just have questions for anyone who went there:

1~Is it free?

2~2 Meals + Tea? (vegetarian or meat?)

3~how strict exactly is it, and how does the day go.

4~Is it definitely better than any Thai Retreat center?

5~Is the meditation technique basically just about similar to other Sayadaw teachers? (like Ajahn Tong of Chong Tong)

Im planning to go for 1 month at least.



Thanks!,
mitch


hi mitch,

1- no. daily rate for the first 10 days (i dont remember how much but it seemed reasonable, then if you have permission to stay longer, its by donation).

2- meat

3- how strict seems to depend on the sayadaw present. you practice in a group but no one will come check up on you all the time, so a degree of self-discipline is required.

4- i dunno

5- the technique they teach is the mahasi method, which is what u ajahn tong teaches too (he trained at wat mahathat in bangkok, kind of the homebase for mahasi-style practice in thailand)

last i heard at mbmc there was no sayadaw there (the one who was supposed to be there had visa problems). check before going to make sure there's a suitable teacher.

tarin

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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12/2/09 2:39 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
I basically eat just fruits with occasional greens and other uncooked vegetables. Is there access to fruits in MBMC?

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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12/5/09 9:25 AM as a reply to Yuliya Yakhontova.
Yes, most meals have plenty of fruit available

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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12/5/09 9:33 AM as a reply to tarin greco.
WRT vegetarian or meat, it is a little harder to eat vegetarian at MBMC because you don't have as much access to vegetarian proteins. If eating vegetarian is important, I'd look at Buddhist Hermitage Lunas. It's about 60 miles SE of MBMC uses mostly the same teaching style and tends to have better food and more selection. They serve a lot more tofu and beans. Either way though, you want to find out what the teacher situation is. While I was at BHL the Sayadaw ran into Visa problems as well. Fortunately there was a monk there who seemed qualified to teach even though he wasn't a sayadaw. At MBMC however the monk that was teaching after the Sayadaw left in February was not qualified IMO.

http://www.buddhisthermitagelunas.org/

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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12/5/09 9:46 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Hello Lee! thanks for the tips

I will try to e-mail also as im planning to go there or to ChomTong, Thailand in January.

I find the Buddhist Hermitage Lunas great becoz u do yoga too. Exercise helps me much. but the price is a bit too much for me.

If u dont mind me asking, do you recommend any other retreat centers in Asia.

RE: Long Term Practice at MBMC?
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12/6/09 10:19 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Lee G Moore:
Yes, most meals have plenty of fruit available


Thank you, Lee, for the great news emoticon Now I have hope emoticon I recently went to VMS in Massachusetts for 10 days, and it was kind of hard to exist on conventional bananas, oranges and apples, especially that it was freezing too.