Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! R M 2/19/24 2:34 PM
RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! J Bird 2/20/24 12:03 PM
RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! Martin 2/20/24 4:42 PM
RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! shargrol 2/21/24 5:45 AM
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RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! R M 2/24/24 9:03 PM
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RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! R M 2/25/24 8:24 PM
RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! R M 2/26/24 7:01 PM
RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! Martin 2/27/24 12:34 AM
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RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! R M 2/26/24 8:57 PM
RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! R M 2/27/24 12:26 PM
RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! R M 2/27/24 9:03 PM
RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! Papa Che Dusko 2/28/24 12:04 PM
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RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! R M 2/28/24 3:06 PM
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RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! Papa Che Dusko 2/28/24 4:07 PM
RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! Martin 2/28/24 4:36 PM
RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! Dream Walker 2/28/24 4:56 PM
RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! Dream Walker 2/28/24 6:22 PM
RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! shargrol 2/28/24 4:35 PM
RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! R M 2/28/24 6:39 PM
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RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! R M 2/28/24 8:34 PM
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RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! R M 3/2/24 12:13 PM
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RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! R M 3/2/24 10:20 PM
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RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! Martin 3/3/24 12:23 PM
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RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated! Jim Smith 3/3/24 7:26 PM
R M, modified 3 Months ago at 2/19/24 2:34 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 2/19/24 12:27 PM

Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

Posts: 19 Join Date: 2/18/24 Recent Posts
Hi everyone. I'm about to have a week off from university starting Saturday Feb 24, so I'm planning to make the best of that time by deepening my practice. My background is in TMI, and I generally hang around stages 2-4. I've been meditating consistently 20min-2h (typically 1h) per day for about a month now, and on and off before that. This will be my first retreat, so I have no experience doing this much intensive meditation before. And because this won't be a formal retreat setting with a teacher's guidance (unless I stumble into such an opportunity in the next week), I'm going to need some advice on how to make it go as smoothly as possible. Here are the questions that have come to mind so far.
  1. Daniel Ingram mentioned in an interview that for beginning meditators it's good to "play the high cards first"; that is, (to paraphrase) use techniques that get inspiring, if small, results quickly in order to fuel future practice. In light of this, would continuing the TMI practice be my best option here or should I perhaps switch to or integrate another practice for that retreat? As things currently stand, my medium-term goal is to reach first Jhana, though I don't expect it to happen on this retreat. I'm not sure what other "aces" or small achievements I could achieve that would be easier than first jhana, besides perhaps incrementally better concentration. My longer term goal is to hit stream-entry.
  2. I can barely sit for an hour and a half before boredom and/or neck pain become nearly insurmountable. So how can I effectively make use of the 10+ hours I'll have per day? Would it help to alternate techniques throughout the day? I've heard that people on retreats will typically alternate between sitting and walking every hour or so. I've given some thought to integrating other practices too such as fire kasina or just sitting in order to keep my mind more engaged with diversity, but I don't know what will really be best for me here.
  3. Should I find a teacher? There are some Buddhist priests in my area, if having an in-person teacher is something important to look for. I haven't visited any of them yet, so I guess this weekend would be the time to do that. At the risk of doxxing myself, the ones I've found within biking distance are: 1, 2. If having online instruction is equally effective, where should I look for online teachers, and what qualities should I look for in a teacher?
  4. Is there anything special I should do in the coming days before the retreat, such as perhaps ramping up my practice as preparation for the long days ahead?
Your advice is much appreciated.
Best,
 - R M
J Bird, modified 2 Months ago at 2/20/24 12:03 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/20/24 12:03 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

Posts: 26 Join Date: 12/10/23 Recent Posts
Hey R M,

I recently did a solo retreat, although I'm no authority, but maybe I can offer some ideas. I think Daniel gives an example schedule in MCTB2 somewhere of a Mahasi retreat in Malaysia that alternated an hour walking and an hour sitting. That's pretty close to what I came up with by the end of my 10 days after a lot of pain, a lot of which was probably unnecessary. In fact, I felt like the walking really kept my mind fresh. 

I don't have experience with TMI, and I don't have a consistent teacher, although it's probably better to have one, generally. I was amazed, though, that every time I got lost or had a new experience, there was a clear, comprehensive, and usually pretty inspiring entry in MCTB about it. Also, I read the biographical chapters in there during that time and they're full of great retreat stories. That might be worth reading before you go. Also, if you can't find someone on short notice to guide you through this, it could be helpful to keep a journal here. It would take some discipline to keep from getting sucked into the internet while on retreat, but there are some qualified posters here. 

I think the main thing I would do differently is use more moderate effort. I kind of wanted to calibrate effort by finding the upper limit, so it was a constructive mistake, maybe, but I did get a little burnt out at the end. 
Martin, modified 2 Months ago at 2/20/24 4:42 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/20/24 4:42 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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I have never done a self-retreat but on many retreats the schedule goes something like: sit/walk/dharma talk/sit/walk/lunch/sit/walk/dharma talk etc. I think the dharma talks can serve not only as a way to orient thought, but as kind of mindfulness breaks (while listening, there is less observing/deconstructing going on). 

If there are any teachers who you like because you have read their books, there is a good chance that you can find dharma talks by them here: https://dharmaseed.org/teachers/

You could also search my topic and make your own mix (suffering in the morning, impermanence in the afternoon, and not-self before bed, for example :-) ). 
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 2/21/24 5:45 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/21/24 5:45 AM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

Posts: 2476 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
This is just my hunch, but doing a formal week-long solo retreat might be too much to expect to accomplish. It's hard to do even with a retreat center and teachers there to support your practice (typical schedule further below).

Why not use the week to slowly explore increasing the amount of practice you do? For example, start with two sits a day, then go to three, then go to four over the course of the week. Use your other time to exercise/stretch, cook good food, and study dharma talks from teachers you respect, slowly and carefully read MCTB or other texts, etc. 

In other words, maybe try to have a good dharma week instead of a formal retreat week?

A typical vipassina retreat schedule is like this: 

FAQs About Retreats – Insight Meditation Society (dharma.org)

Here is a typical daily Retreat Center schedule. Please note that it is only tentative – a more precise schedule will be available on your arrival.5:30 am – Wake up
6:00 am – Sitting meditation… 6:30 am – Breakfast …7:15 am – Work-as-practice period
8:15 am – Sitting meditation with instructions
9:15 am – Walking meditation
10:00 am – Sitting meditation
10:45 am – Walking meditation or meetings with teachers
11:30 am – Sitting meditation… 12:00 noon – Lunch …1:45 pm – Walking meditation
2:15 pm – Sitting meditation
3:00 pm – Walking meditation
3:45 pm – Sitting meditation
4:30 pm – Walking meditation… 5:00 pm – Light Dinner …6:15 pm – Sitting meditation
7:00 pm – Walking meditation
7:30 pm – Dharma talk
8:30 pm – Walking meditation
9:00 pm – Sitting meditation
9:30 pm – Late tea, further practice or sleep
Monsoon Frog, modified 2 Months ago at 2/21/24 4:12 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/21/24 3:52 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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FWIW, here's a link to Tarin Greco's A Reformed Slacker's Guide to Stream Entry (for some reason I cannot locate it using the DHO's built in search function) which is his take on how to undertake a retreat. It's explicitly oriented towards a Mahasi style practice which may or may not have relevance to a retreat based on TMI practice and/or your particular take on TMI.

https://web.archive.org/web/20120222104836/http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/ReformedSlackersGuide?p_r_p_185834411_title=ReformedSlackersGuide

As always YMMV.
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/24/24 9:03 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/24/24 9:03 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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Like @jbird suggested, I'm going to start keeping a journal. Today I started around 5:00 PM and have been trying to stay mindful since. I spent a good deal of time, maybe 2.5 hrs so far, "on the cushion" (either literally on the cushion or lying down, as my knees and neck may have it). I've had some moments where I was in TMI stage 3, and some where it seems like I had mastered (temporarily) stage 4. When not doing anapanasati, I've mostly been doing Mahasi-style noting.
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/25/24 2:12 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/25/24 2:12 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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2/25 log:
Started out with lots of dullness. It didn't go away after leaving the cushion so I took a nap. Things went slightly better after that. I got distracted a lot and seemed to be around stage 3, maybe 4. Most of the early distractions were music I remembered. As time went on the music changed to stuff I hadn't listened to for a long time. I'm hoping that as I ignore one track at a time I'll progress onto other memories and stuff that Culadasa said tends to well up in stage 4. As time went on the music mostly disappeared, replaced instead by pain as a distraction. I wasn't very good about waiting before moving. Aversion seemed to just keep growing. I tried to bring a quality of calm loving-kindness to my meditation which seemed to help with the aversion a little, possibly at the expense of clarity in sensations of the breath. I might post another log later today.
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 2/25/24 3:13 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/25/24 3:13 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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Hearing music while meditating is no big deal. In fact it's pretty well known that during the retreat you'll probably have 10 or 15 songs that go through your head at various points of time. At Ims, one of the teachers joked that you could just put all of those songs together on a playlist, and when someone asked you about how the retreat went you could say "it's hard to describe but here's the soundtrack!" emoticon
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/25/24 8:24 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/25/24 8:23 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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2/25 log (part 2):
​​​​​​​There were some times where I felt like I had all but extinguished gross distraction, but also a few times where I mind-wandered for nearly a minute! The latter experiences were usually shortly following a not-so-mindful movement from one posture to another. In my better moments, I started doing some stage 5 practices, paying attention to various parts of the body while keeping the rising and falling of the abdomen in peripheral awareness. It's not easy, but despite not maintaining any intention to have peripheral awareness during this practice it seems to be there anyway, and I rarely go off-task. That could also partially be because the practice is new and the mind finds it interesting in comparison to my more boring stage 4 stuff. When focusing on my hands during this practice, they feel almost electric.
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/26/24 7:01 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/26/24 4:19 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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2/26 log:
I don't know what I've been doing wrong but the aversion keeps increasing. The feeling I get when I sit down to meditate is much like what I feel when I sit down to weed the garden in the hot sun for 2 hours. I've started to downright hate the idea of meditation, even though I know on a conscious level that I have good reasons to be motivated to do it. I don't know if pushing through this aversion even more will help me get past it or if it will just make it even worse. I tried to push through the aversion a little bit today by intending to do a 30 minute meditation. I found that I was in stage 2, and this disappointing realization combined with my previous aversion and aversion-induced stress caused me to rage quit 20 minutes into the session. I took a (non-mindful) walk outside and came back, which may have helped a little.
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 2/26/24 6:52 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/26/24 6:52 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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Now is a great opportunity to look at your mind and it's orientation and really figure out the aversion.

My hunch is that you are thinking about meditation as something that "you" do to make "it" happen. While this framing works fine for everyday life, it basically puts you against your own mind. Can I make my mind go to TMI 5, oh no I'm back at TMI 2, etc. etc. 

What if you didn't have to do anything except just notice what your mind does. Notice how you create a goal and judge yourself against this goal. Notice how you try even harder when things aren't going as planned. Notice how your judgements about what is happening is more important to you than the sensations, emotions, and thoughts that you should be directly experiencing and noting.

Frequent meditation on retreat can really cook up aversion. A lot of the time, the aversion shows up when we're fundamentally in battle with ourself. Because why should we be doing battle with ourself? 

Do you remember the classic Eckart Tolle story about how he said to himself, "I can't live with myself" --- and then suddenly wondered what was the "I" and what was "myself" in that thought?  Was he two people?

Meditation is very simple once you see that meditation isn't about making and meeting goals nor is about and judging and manipulating things to make them go better. Meditaiton is simply the study of how the mind creates suffering by wanting what isn't occuring right now. 

So let yourself experience whatever happens and just notice it as it is happening as if that is your only thing you have to do. 

Another little secret: if you are interested and curious about what aversion is... it isn't as much of a problem, actually it's endlessly interesting. But if you become averse about having aversion --- that's when things really start to cook up in a bad way because it's a sort of negative feedback loop.

Hope this helps in some way. Definitely feel free to ignore if it doesn't seem relevant.
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/26/24 8:57 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/26/24 7:22 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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Thank you shargrol for the wise words. I will give that a try.

After my episode of frustration today and short break from meditation I decided to do a bit of dharma-debugging. To be more exact I searched for the keyword "aversion" on r/streamentry and r/TheMindIlluminated to see what I could find that might help with this hindrance in particular. I saw that quite a few people found TWIM useful, so I figured I would look into that. I saw that the main technique was metta, which I had not really had success with in the past so I figured I would try to retrofit what I perceived to be the important parts of TWIM (the 6 R's) onto TMI-style anapanasati. The resulting amalgamation of technique I tried was:
- Feel the breathing, mostly at the nose but extended anywhere that feels nice
- Don't place any emphasis on introspective attention or awareness, instead paying attention only to the breath and doing the 6 R's when I realize I am distracted. (In TMI terms, I deliberately went back to stage 2)
- Really try to relax after noticing a distraction. Don't try to come back to the breathing quickly, just take as much time as needed or more doing the 6 R's.
I went into it with the mindset of letting go of my previous technique and "attainments", and just trying to calm myself from the day's events. To my surprise, I actually somewhat enjoyed it. I didn't do it for long before I had a reason to stop, so I do have to wonder if this too would have gotten more boring with time.

Edit: I did the above technique for an hour. There was still some aversion during the sit, but it was considerably less as I was trying to notice and correct it with the 6 R's. Unfortunately the hindrance of dullness came on pretty strong. Not to the point of nearly falling asleep, but it was noticeable. Better than aversion, I guess emoticon
Martin, modified 2 Months ago at 2/27/24 12:34 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/27/24 12:34 AM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

Posts: 847 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
R M
2/26 log:
I don't know what I've been doing wrong but the aversion keeps increasing. 

It doesn't sound to me like you are doing anything wrong. That's about par for the course. The mind doesn't like sitting still with the eyes closed. That's why it isn't more popular. 

It will change. There are not many predictions that can be made with confidence, but "it will change" is one of them :-) 
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/27/24 12:26 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/27/24 12:23 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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2/27 log part 1: I tried to do 1 hour in the morning today. Like last night, aversion had drastically decreased compared to yesterday afternoon. However, I felt restless, as if I had had a large cup of coffee. However I didn't have anything caffeinated for breakfast. I don't know what caused this restlessness but it made things pretty difficult and I checked the clock twice during meditation. I did a long (and rather fast in speed) walking meditation afterwards; this felt much better, as I was able to more skillfully use the energy to investigate the sensations in my feet. After that was done, I did what I think was another 30-45 minutes of meditation, though it was untimed. The practice at that time was mostly in stages 4 and 5. Maybe it's just the novelty, but stage 5 practice is actually a pretty engaging challenge. I stopped to type this out because... well I'm not sure. I felt like I should stop. I felt like I should take a nap, but I'm not tired. I felt like it was time to eat lunch, but I'm not hungry yet. Maybe it's a more subtle aversion or other hindrance that's still present. I'm going to do another 45 minutes and see how it goes.
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/27/24 9:03 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/27/24 7:41 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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2/27 log part 2:
Stage 4 seems nearly conquered for now. I've gotten to a point where sitting is actually very pleasant. Aversion is gone. There's a somewhat strong feeling of energetic bliss around my chest and the back of my head. Is that piti? I have to be pretty close to access concentration, because there were a couple times where the breath became very subtle and there were very few, if any, thoughts in the background. I tried to enter jhana by focusing on a pleasant sensation, but failed both times. I found the pleasant sensation in the chest area, but upon focusing on it, my heart rate went up dramatically and the pleasant sensation intensified slightly and then faded away. I also tried looking for pleasant sensations in the hands, as many people find them there, but I didn't find any. Anyway, I wonder if my concentration is just not quite there for jhana? Or maybe Culadasa would say this was just subtle dullness? It sure didn't feel like dullness.

Update: the piti (if that's what it is) has gotten to be a little much to the point where it's annoying. If the first jhana is like that but more intense, then I'm not gonna want to be in it for long ! emoticon I think I'll try a practice less likely to produce these sensations, such as stage 5 body scanning.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 12:04 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 12:01 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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"Aversion"

"Desire"

These two feed our ignorance. 

So emoticon instead of having desire to fix the aversion, note the aversion and desire by recognising all its aspects; body sensations associated with aversion/desire, feeling tone associated with aversion/desire, thoughts/urges associated with aversion/desire, mind images associated with aversion/desire. 

Do this ACTIVE noting. Do noting out loud if necessary just do not break the stream of noting matter of fact arising-passing experiences. 

Aversion, doubt, sense of loss, restlessness, irritations, dullness ... all these are but food for awakening IF you note them fast as they arise-pass away. Do not fight it! Acceptance of it all and 1-5 sensations a second noting! emoticon 
uninterrupted 45 minutes of such fast noting practice once a day is far more beneficial than sitting 3 hours sitting and relaxing and day dreaming about this or that TMI stage. 
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Dream Walker, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 3:02 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 3:02 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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Papa Che Dusko

Do this ACTIVE noting. Do noting out loud if necessary just do not break the stream of noting matter of fact arising-passing experiences. 

Aversion, doubt, sense of loss, restlessness, irritations, dullness ... all these are but food for awakening IF you note them fast as they arise-pass away. Do not fight it! Acceptance of it all and 1-5 sensations a second noting! emoticon 
uninterrupted 45 minutes of such fast noting practice once a day is far more beneficial than sitting 3 hours sitting and relaxing and day dreaming about this or that TMI stage. 

Clap, clap, clap!!!
Great Advice, I agree that you should try this and see what happens!
good luck,
~D
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 3:06 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 3:06 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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I appreciate the advice but I'm really going for the samatha-first approach.
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Dream Walker, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 3:14 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 3:14 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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R M
I appreciate the advice but I'm really going for the samatha-first approach.

Try this hack and see what happens. Breath less, surf the edge where you almost want to gasp but then take a longer breath, then go back to short breaths then long ones again as needed. Know the short and long breaths as they happen-all the way thru the breath, investigate every moment of this intensity of surfing that fine edge of breathing as short and shallow. Don't overdo it to where you actually gasp or start doing all long breaths, but if you do, just fine tune it to fix it. Try 10-20 minutes.

Carbon dioxide buildup is a natural vasodilator...veins and arteries will open up increasing blood flow as well as relaxing other related body parts.

Next move the attention of the breath to the stomach. Stop with the short and long breath and let it be natural. Imagine yourself on a swingset with each breath. Cultivate the pleasure of that tickle in the belly as you swing, each breath/swing increase the pleasure as well as the focus on the pleasure.

Play with these instructions and see what works, be curios and enjoy the process of play, see how big the 'ball' of pleasure in the stomach gets, move it around if you want, how stable? How intense? Does it ebb and flow over time or is it linearly stonger? Hahahaha, so much fun stuff to to explore.

Good luck,
~D
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 3:43 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 3:43 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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Just a couple minutes of this made my heart rate go up, provoked a rather strong fear response, and made me feel kind of giddy. Are you sure it's safe?
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 4:07 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 4:07 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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"fear" 

It is a great fuel for awakening IF you go into it and examine it (by following the noting advice above, and ... buckle your seatbelt Dorothy ... ).

There are far worse ways of hurting oneself than noting meditation emoticon Its all fluff anyway BUT you want to see this for yourself. So to speak emoticon 

However, if you have not yet seen that shamatha related jhanic stuff is also packed with Dukkha, do some more of that practice until Anicca rips it to bits and pieces and you end up on the muddy floor of despair with an utter sense of loss, gasping for a sense of freedom from it all, then try and remember Ingram's book and read it, and re-read it again ... so much stuff is being missed when we read it only once. NOTING comes in very handy when our Shamatha stuff is ripped up by Anicca. It's ok. It's all fluff. DON'T PANIC emoticon Noting the in and out breathing sensations is still part of the Noting practice. As is the jhanic stuff that might (and likely will) show up yet again and so on and so off emoticon 
BTW, do not underestimate Khanika Samadhi (momentary concentration) which is associated with the Noting practice. 

Best wishes and do it when or if you feel ready. What we say matters little if it doesn't resonate with you! 
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 4:35 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 4:35 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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+1

Noting is a very direct way to awakening, but not everyone really wants awakening.  So definitely listen to yourself and decide whether fear is a sign that there is something boundary-expanding that you want to explore... or if fear is a wise warning to go SLOW if/when exploring that kind of stuff.

Ultimately, it boils down to intent. In your inner most heart, why are you retreating this week?
Martin, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 4:36 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 4:36 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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It is probably safe but it is not the instruction set that you started with. TMI is a solid instruction set. Changing instruction sets before you have finished with them is not a practice approach that I would recommend, particularly during an intensive practice period. There are lots of effective approaches out there, but changing approaches midway is rarely effective. 

It would be a different matter if you had exhausted what you could do with TMI and gotten stuck, but you seem to be doing fine. 
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Dream Walker, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 4:56 PM
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RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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R M
Just a couple minutes of this made my heart rate go up, provoked a rather strong fear response, and made me feel kind of giddy. Are you sure it's safe?

Holding your breath as a child is dangerous, swimming and controlling your breath to do so is dangerous. emoticon
I said breath less til its slightly uncomfortable, then take a longer breath so it isn't, then shallow again. Don't stop breathing, that would be dangerous emoticon
It is your breath, do with it as you like. The point of the exercise is to automatically PAY ATTENTION to the breath, it works quite well.
Do the swingset thing....see what that does. Or not. Remember that it is YOUR meditation, play with it and NOTICE what happens, Have fun with it!
Good Luck,
~D
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Dream Walker, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 6:22 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 6:22 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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BTW
Whenever during meditation, when something actually starts happening, the first response is "Oh shit WTF is happening to me! fear!"
As you approach a pathy moment, this is especially true. Or even tripping into an arupa moment. Or just anything new. then excitement screws it up even longer than fear does.
Have fun!
~D
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 6:39 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 6:39 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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2/28 log:

Concentration seemed a little weaker than yesterday, and my practice was a little sloppy. Probably this had something to do with the greater amount of dullness today. Nevertheless there were a few moments that seemed close to access concentration again. However, there was no piti today.
Martin, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 7:15 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 7:15 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

Posts: 847 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
A trick that I learned, which you may already be doing, was to focus on the technique, rather than the results. It's like cutting a dowel on a lathe and just focusing on the blade where it cuts, without looking at the beautifully shaped dowel that results. If the attention is continuous, that is all that I need to know. If piti comes up, I ignore that, because the attention is on the breath. If piti does not come up, I ignore that, because the attention is on the breath. In the longer term, this can produce very powerful results. 
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 7:38 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 7:38 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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I agree. But off the cushion, I like to nerd out over what the perfect technique is supposed to be (by reading TMI chapters, MCTB, DhO posts, Reddit posts), and ponder the (very noisy) data of my progress to see what's working. One fact I'm not so proud of is that on non-retreat days I sometime spend more time doing this than actually practicing emoticon
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 8:34 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 8:34 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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2/28 log (part 2):

Way better than earlier today. I feel like distractions, gross and subtle, are getting fewer and farther between. Feels like it made a world of difference when I remembered to concentrate on the gap between the out-breath and in-breath. I had less dullness, though I think this is more due to my natural rhythm than anything I actually did. Once again a mix of stages 5 and 4, though I found stage 4 practice more pleasant this time. I actually felt some pleasure similar to yesterday, but to a significantly smaller degree.
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/29/24 7:33 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/29/24 7:33 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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2/29 log:
I was really tired today for some reason. Took one nap in the morning shortly after waking up, then another at 5 PM. The first one may have been due to bad sleep but I think that second one was caused by tiredness from meditation. There's been more aversion today than yesterday, too. Anyway, I figured I would try some metta to help with that today. While the feeling of it didn't seem very strong, the positive effects did linger for a while.
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 2/29/24 11:27 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/29/24 11:27 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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2/29 log (part 2):

I watched to Bhante Vimalaramsi's video on the 6 R's again. That always gets me in a relaxed, good mood for meditation. I did a couple more cushion hours and got a lot of what I was feeling on February 27th. I initially had called it piti but it didn't feel like what Michael Taft described as a "body buzz", so perhaps it was sukha instead? Anyway, I tried focusing on that and it seemed to increase to a greater degree than it did a couple days ago, though it still did not take off into jhana. Normally I would have moved to stage 5 practice but that's more effortful and doesn't produce sukha, so I wanted to explore this a little more. Though Culadasa does have a warning not to skip stage 5...
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 3/2/24 12:13 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/2/24 12:13 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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3/1 log (and I guess 3/2):

Back to stage 3, and meditations seem to now take Herculean willpower. There seems to be no joy to be found. Truly some of the most boring hours of my life. I guess the price of admission for freedom from suffering involves lots of suffering on the cushion.
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 3/2/24 3:32 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/2/24 3:31 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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What makes it boring?

And out of curiousity, what does Culadasa suggest in these circumstances?
R M, modified 2 Months ago at 3/2/24 10:20 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/2/24 10:18 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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shargrol What makes it boring? And out of curiousity, what does Culadasa suggest in these circumstances?
I wish I knew what made it boring, because sometimes it really doesn't seem boring at all. When piti/sukha is present that seems to decrease boredom to almost nothing, but it's usually not there emoticon . I think my attitude must play a significant role. Sometimes I am sitting "because I'm on 'retreat' and should make use of this time so I guess I'll grind out another hour or two"; those sits don't often go very well. I might sit down and practically hear the subminds screaming "oh god he's going to do the thing again where he makes us all suffer for an hour, quick find something to distract him!" However, the times where I sit "to try to enjoy myself" or even "to work on a specific skill" often go better. I don't think I mentioned this in the log, but Thursday's best sit was with the intention to give myself a break from the stress of meditation... ironic. As dumb as it sounds I just kind of decided it would work and it did.

Culadasa has a lot of recommendations, which I read through today. Much of it was along the lines of "find the joy", which is very difficult to do sometimes. What more often helps is relaxation, which is pretty easy for me to do. Even when there is very little joy to be found, relaxation seems to give the mind a positive feedback signal. Sometimes it's not enough though. Yesterday night's sit was very relaxed and yet still rather boring. I feel like I need more easy ways to give the mind a reward signal to keep it engaged. Smiling is another, though it only seems to help when I'm already somewhat enjoying the meditation.

As for what happened later today, I did something pretty similar. I decided to sit down with the intention to not use even a little bit of willpower. It did work out pretty nicely. I hope this is a strategy that will be shown to be reliable. It's also possible that my late night sits just go a lot better than my mid-day or morning sits because I'm more awake and thus don't start the cycle of gross distraction or forgetting -> blaming myself for not using sufficiently strong and frequently repeated intentions -> dissatisfaction -> even more forgetting and mind-wandering. As easy as it might sound to fix this by just not doing the second step in that cycle, it kind of is my fault that I didn't have the right balance of attention and introspective awareness, right? I think to myself, "I guess I just need to set those intentions more often" but after like 30 breaths I just forget to do that and it's only a matter of time before I'm not very with the breath anymore.
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 3/3/24 5:35 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/3/24 5:35 AM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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Sounds good, but also remember that meditation practice isn't about being perfect... it's about creating a practice that reveals how you unconsciously make things more difficult than they need to be. There's no way to get an insight into this unless practice goes "wrong" in some way. So really, when it goes wrong, the practice is actually doing it's purpose. 

(It's sort of like how weight lifting makes you feel momentarily weak, but you get stronger over time.)

It sounds like you are getting some good insights from your sits. Focusing on a particular skill rather than worrying about what the outcome will be is a great insight. And so is seeing how present-judging and self-blaming isn't very helpful. Those are some important insight.

Don't be surprised that this needs to be seen and relearned again and again during practice. Most insights are easy to understand conceptually, but it takes a long time to really learn the lesson in our bones.
Adi Vader, modified 2 Months ago at 3/3/24 12:17 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/3/24 12:17 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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Please check this out.

​​​​​​​https://youtu.be/Mw0GWsCYSho?si=-a7tY0k8Jyv6ivja
Martin, modified 2 Months ago at 3/3/24 12:23 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/3/24 12:23 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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Unless you were locked on the breath and consciously decided, "You know what, I'm going to change my attention to gross distractions," I don't see how it makes sense to blame yourself. What would the "self" be that you are blaming? Who was in control when the attention moved? Can you even identify the moment in time when that happened? Or did attention shift due to something other than premeditated conscious will? The same is true of setting intentions and getting the right balance. Was there a "self" that, in the moment, deliberately opted for an overly weak intention or said to itself "this balance seems wrong, but I'm going to go with it anyway?" 

Many Buddhist smilies talk about training animals to do useful work and point out that it would make no sense to blame a wild animal for not learning right away. I take it a step further and think in terms of plants in a garden. You can plan for a certain outcome from a plant and achieve it by setting conditions, monitoring, and adjusting the conditions. If the plant grows in another direction than the one planned, or a bud on the plant withers, we don't get angry. We continue to nurture it, possibly adjusting the conditions occasionally, but mostly patiently allowing the process to unfold. I remember also, that beautiful gardens, and good gardeners, take time to develop. 
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Jim Smith, modified 2 Months ago at 3/3/24 7:26 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/3/24 4:52 PM

RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

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R M
Hi everyone. I'm about to have a week off from university starting Saturday Feb 24, so I'm planning to make the best of that time by deepening my practice. My background is in TMI, and I generally hang around stages 2-4. I've been meditating consistently 20min-2h (typically 1h) per day for about a month now, and on and off before that. This will be my first retreat, so I have no experience doing this much intensive meditation before. And because this won't be a formal retreat setting with a teacher's guidance (unless I stumble into such an opportunity in the next week), I'm going to need some advice on how to make it go as smoothly as possible. Here are the questions that have come to mind so far.
  1. Daniel Ingram mentioned in an interview that for beginning meditators it's good to "play the high cards first"; that is, (to paraphrase) use techniques that get inspiring, if small, results quickly in order to fuel future practice. In light of this, would continuing the TMI practice be my best option here or should I perhaps switch to or integrate another practice for that retreat? As things currently stand, my medium-term goal is to reach first Jhana, though I don't expect it to happen on this retreat. I'm not sure what other "aces" or small achievements I could achieve that would be easier than first jhana, besides perhaps incrementally better concentration. My longer term goal is to hit stream-entry.
  2. I can barely sit for an hour and a half before boredom and/or neck pain become nearly insurmountable. So how can I effectively make use of the 10+ hours I'll have per day? Would it help to alternate techniques throughout the day? I've heard that people on retreats will typically alternate between sitting and walking every hour or so. I've given some thought to integrating other practices too such as fire kasina or just sitting in order to keep my mind more engaged with diversity, but I don't know what will really be best for me here.

One of the most valuable skills for a meditator, in my opinion, is to learn how to meditate sitting in a comfortable chair. Not everyone can reach this level of attainment but it is well worth aiming for. When I went on retreats, we would do walking meditation for 5 or 10 minutes between sitting sessions that lasted about 40 minutes - the length of time it took for an incense stick to burn out. Depending on how you meditate and what you are trying to accomplish, you can do more or even mostly walking meditation or some type of mindfulness practice rather than sitting meditation.

This is just my opinion, but I think beginners are too infatuated with special states that require you to sit still in order to experience. What I think is more important is to train your mind (the aggregates are really training themselves) to be in the present moment, to let go of the wandering mind that is the fertile field for dependent origination whence ideas of self and suffering arise. Not to suppress thoughts and emotions but to learn to dwell in a different mode of consciousness. To make permanent changes that last beyond the retreat, I think you are best served by learning to be mindful during daily life, not just sitting meditation. 

https://inquiringmind.com/article/2701_w_kornfield-enlightenments/
As Ajahn Chah described them, meditative states are not important in themselves. Meditation is a way to quiet the mind so you can practice all day long wherever you are; see when there is grasping or aversion, clinging or suffering; and then let it go. 
https://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2023/07/practicing-mindfulness-in-daily-life.html
"Should any person practice these four foundations of mindfulness in this manner for a week, then one of these two fruits may be expected by him: highest knowledge here and now, or if some remainder of clinging is yet present, the state of non-returning."


  • Should I find a teacher? There are some Buddhist priests in my area, if having an in-person teacher is something important to look for. I haven't visited any of them yet, so I guess this weekend would be the time to do that. At the risk of doxxing myself, the ones I've found within biking distance are: 1, 2. If having online instruction is equally effective, where should I look for online teachers, and what qualities should I look for in a teacher?
  • Is there anything special I should do in the coming days before the retreat, such as perhaps ramping up my practice as preparation for the long days ahead?
    Your advice is much appreciated.
    Best,
     - R M
  • R M, modified 2 Months ago at 3/5/24 12:58 PM
    Created 2 Months ago at 3/5/24 12:58 PM

    RE: Doing a week-long solo retreat soon - advice appreciated!

    Posts: 19 Join Date: 2/18/24 Recent Posts
    Adi Vader
    Please check this out.

    https://youtu.be/Mw0GWsCYSho?si=-a7tY0k8Jyv6ivja
    I tried that a little yesterday, and a little bit today. Yesterday it felt contrived, forced, and mostly ineffective. I felt like an actor on stage, pretending to feel a certain way but really not feeling it at all. The few things I could find in my field of awareness which, just maybe, I could distort my perception into thinking were moderately pleasant, didn't hold my attention for very long. I found myself more distracted than when doing the usual anapanasati (which already goes quite badly when I'm in a frustrated mood). Today I felt mostly calm, and had the feeling the rest of the meditation would go well had I not needed to stop partway through.

    I'm starting to resent the fact that I chose a practice that requires me to be happy and relaxed to make good progress. Sessions where I struggle to get out of a bad mood are generally not very effective for concentration, so if I sit down and feel this way, I know I'm not going to really make good progress. And then, why do it at all except on "good" days? At least with vipassana you're doing well no matter how you feel as long as you put good effort in. Sometimes I've considered switching to that (yeah, hindrance of doubt). But as Daniel would say:

    "However, as the concentration-first schools rightly point out, by plunging straightaway into the fast and harsh vibratory experiences of insight practice without the mental strength, stability, and soothing effects of concentration practice to help stay grounded, we can become what are referred to as “dry insight workers” in the old commentaries. Dry insight workers have an unfortunate tendency to become uptight, irascible, emotionally brittle, and occasionally insufferable to be around, as if they were on speed or having a bad acid trip."

    I already feel like I'm there, no need to make it worse emoticon​​​​​​​
     

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