Author Topic: 10 day retreat questions  (Read 7154 times)

Anglepen

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10 day retreat questions
« on: June 06, 2011, 08:30:14 PM »
Sangha

I have a question, whilst I have not searched all through the forum archives I hope this has not been asked.

I have deliberated over the last few months on the decision to attend a 10 day course of SN Goenka style Vipassana at my local centre, I freely doubt I have the fortitude to complete such a course at my current place in my life and I wondered how hindered I may be not attending, what I think I mean is how long meditating at home for maybe 30 minutes a day would relate in a time scale against such a dedicated course?

Could I possibly achieve in 10 days what would take me several months or years to achieve on a daily 30 minute home plan?

I am aware, before the point is raised, that time is not a factor and that to understand oneself cannot be dictated by a timeline, but I am curious as to whether it would benefit me to aim at such an intensive course in the months to come.

Regards

Kev

Jhana4

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Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2011, 09:38:04 PM »
Hi Kev;

I took 2 day retreats back in the 90s.   I have also gone over 5 years without missing a daily meditation.    I've gotten much more out of having a consistent daily practice than I did out of any retreat.   

Meditation doesn't run on a time table.   You can't gauge where you will be by how many hours you put in.  You can't translate going on a retreat, not going on a retreat into progress or lack of progress.  Let alone any particular point on a spectrum of growth.

The Goenka centers are not my cup of tea, but I would encourage you to go and give it a try.   If you feel pain sitting down you can just change your position.  If it doesn't work, you simply come home early.

As an alternative, depending on your area you can look for a temple or a meditation group offering 1 day long retreats and weekend retreats to try yourself out.


Matthew

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Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2011, 11:07:31 PM »
Kev,

Please don't bother wasting your time. Goenka says he is not teaching Buddhism whilst actually he is teaching a faulted form of Buddhism. It will mess up your practice and contradicts the advice I gave you earlier which you said made great sense.

Matthew

ps

In my limited experience I have been struggling with the same thing.

I had always read and watched clips that always emphasised concentrating on the nostrils or upper lip, I did this and I always felt a little disconnected, ....

Its hard to put this into words so forgive me if it sounds nonsense!
Angelpen,

No this does not sound like nonsense, not at all. By focussing on the nose area/upper lip you are activating the Trigeminal nerve - a cranial nerve that links the face directly to the brain. As we are generally "living in our heads" to an unhealthy degree it is absolutely normal that this would make you feel disconnected as it amplifies that. It's also an attempt to force concentration.

By focussing on the abdomen and chest or whole body you will be activating the Vagus nerve - another Cranial nerve but this one is the super-information-highway between body and brain. This one reconnects, regrounds and anchors us in our body. We "re-incarnate" our disembodied minds by doing so, reconnecting bodymind fully.

Warmly,

Matthew
« Last Edit: June 06, 2011, 11:10:27 PM by Matthew »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Matthew

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Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2011, 11:20:17 PM »
Kev,

Given where you are you would benefit much more from spending retreat time at Amaravati Monastery.

http://www.amaravati.org/abmnew/index.php/retreat_centre/retreat_info

http://www.amaravati.org/abmnew/index.php/about_us/getting_here/

At least they are real Buddhists and not confused about it. If they talk noses ignore - it they won't have a problem with this and you can stick to whole body Shamatha.

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

kidnovice

  • Member
    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2011, 12:10:26 AM »
Could I possibly achieve in 10 days what would take me several months or years to achieve on a daily 30 minute home plan?

Hi Kevin, its been awhile since I posted on the forum, so its a pleasure to meet you. :) I've benefited greatly from Goenka's centers. The courses are especially good for helping you cultivate certain qualities and attainments through meditation... but not ALL qualities or attainments.

So, I am curious, what exactly are you hoping to achieve? Why? The more specific you are in answering this question, the more likely it is that you will receive a fruitful answer (from yourself or this forum) about whether you ought to attend a Goenka course.

After all, you wouldn't want to go to a ten-day tennis camp, when what you really wanted was to play better chess.  ;)

With metta,
Dylan
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Masauwu

  • Member
    • chipping away
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2011, 05:11:34 AM »
Hi Kev,

I think retreats are very useful tools if you take full advantage of them, you should look into Matthew`s suggestions.

Try one and see for yourself.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2011, 05:15:58 AM by Masauwu »
The summer river:
although there is a bridge, my horse
goes through the water.

Vivek

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Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2011, 05:26:23 AM »
Kev,

 There are far too many who have benefitted immensely from attending Goenkaji's courses. So, I suggest you think over thoroughly before making a decision. You said there is a centre near you; talk to the teacher(s) over there about your difficulties. If only their advice makes sense to you, consider attending a 10-day course. I suggest not fixing a definite outcome regarding attending the course, except that you will complete the full 10 days no matter what happens. This kind of firm determination has helped many people complete the course successfully and make Vipassana a part of their lives. Both attending retreats as well as daily practice have their own benefits. Both are required and one is not a substitute for the other.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2011, 05:36:24 AM »
"Hoping to achieve" is clinging meditation. Goenka's course will contradict with what Kev has discovered for himself about whole body Shamatha.

Everyone posting to go has also posted that whole body Shamatha has been a refinement of their practice at some point, if I am not mistaken. Clinging to Goenka chaps?
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Jeeprs

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Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2011, 07:01:10 AM »
My experience of the Goenka retreat was not too bad, although I do remember I wanted to leave, and in fact was sure I was going to leave, every moment from about the Wednesday. I hung in there till the end though. But when I came back, there was no way I was going to sit 'two hours a day'. To be really blunt about it, I didn't have the self-discipline, and didn't want to want to have it.

Anyway practice has been a bit patchy since then but am intent on maintaining a twice-daily sit. I don't have too many criticisms of Goenka, but I don't really accept that his is the 'one true version'. I think it suits people with (among other things) much more self-discipline than I have got. I went to a lovely place called Sunnataram Forest Monastery last (Australian) Christmas.

Bottom line is - I would go with Matthew's advice. The Goenka retreat is gruelling and very regimented. But if you do decide to proceed, hang in there till the end. It is all practice.

Morning Dew

  • Guest
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2011, 07:25:02 AM »
Quote
Could I possibly achieve in 10 days what would take me several months or years to achieve on a daily 30 minute home plan?

I never attended a 10 days retreat. Instead I did a 3 days solo-retreat (6 hours a day) which in my opinion is harder to sit through than sitting 10 days in a supportive surrounding (teachers, other students).

I felt like none can feel in a protected environment. I felt my loneliness, my fear, my doubt, my greed, my ignorance. 3 days of sitting alone. It aint easy.

What we "want to achive" in meditation is to let go of wanting to achive my dear friend :) right here you can change your view.

I started practicing Shamatha last year in March and ever since I did it daily, some days once some days twice and at times even three times.
Daily practice is like daily water intake. If you dont drink water you dehidrate. So simple is it! Daily meditation invokes calming hormones (serotonin and dopamine) which calms your body-mind a lot. One gets that feeling of calm joyfulness through out the day. One start reacting less to lifes curcomstancs and begins to respond more. People around you feel better too because all can feel yourr joyfulness and calmness.
Each day you remember to slow down the wheel of ignorance and greed which is spinning very fast. It is of great importnace to slow it down daily because it grows in speed with each passing day.

10 days retreat? Maybe. Sitting for a few days in solitude? Yes. I am planning to buy a farm with my wife and will build a shed somewhere (as far) away from the main house for my solo-retreats.

30 minutes a day is in my experience a bit on a low side to take a 10 days course 10 hours a day (an hour long sessions). If you realy want to do this buil up your calm-abiding practice to 2x1hour every day, in the morning and evening. If possible do a one day solo-retreat (weekend).

You will know best though what to do :)

MAy you be free from suffering

Anglepen

  • Guest
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2011, 08:00:48 AM »
Thanks for the comments guys.

I am honest an do not think I personally have the fortitude for such an intense course, Matthew, I also agree I do seem to be making my progress quite well and I don't want to follow the Goenka style so rigidly as I have problems with it as noted previously, my question was more of whether an intensive course would be of benefit rather than a daily short spell sitting.

I thought alot about it as I lie in bed last night and I don't want to rush things and feel any frustration with not progressing at the rate I felt I should.
I get a lot from my sittings now, I feel calm and relaxed and things seem so very clear and bright after, for the moment this is beneficial for me and I maybe will add a second sitting when time allows.

Some wonderful thoughts posted though and I will re-read this thread later when I have more time.
Unfortunately my working days are long, I rise at 5am and leave my house at 6am, not returning until 8pm so quality 'me' time is thin on the ground.

I have looked into spending an afternoon or evening at the Amaravati Monastery, I would like to talk over a couple of matters with the guys there and it looks such a wonderful and peaceful place, I may in the future spend a few days there just so I can see how I get on leaving my material possessions and distractions behind and dedicate some real quality time to myself. I freely admit I dont always like myself let alone love myself so some time really meeting myself and looking at myself would be a big boost I think.

« Last Edit: June 07, 2011, 08:09:03 AM by Kev »

Andrew

  • Member
    • friends tell me things, sometimes I listen.
    • Letting Go.
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2011, 08:25:55 AM »

I get a lot from my sittings now, I feel calm and relaxed and things seem so very clear and bright after, for the moment this is beneficial for me and I maybe will add a second sitting when time allows.


Hi Kev,
If you can accept that this is excellent progress, you will only go deeper naturally. You are asking if you can speed it up; we have all the waking day to be mindful.  This is something I did not appreciate at first, but in your situation, it sound like you will benefit from understanding that aspect of training.

Love

Andrew
getting it done

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2011, 10:00:26 AM »
Kev,

Amaravati is a wonderful place. Get yourself down there and check it out - soon as mate.

Also if you do a retreat there it will not be heavily structured but up to you to keep your discipline (though they will offer support and some structure if you discuss it with them I'm sure).

Warmly,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Jeeprs

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Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2011, 12:22:12 PM »
Isn't that where Ajahn Sumedho is? He is one of my favourite writers on Dhamma.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2011, 03:44:25 PM »
Jeeprs,

He was the Abbot until November last year. He retired and I understand he left Britain with a "one way ticket to Thailand" at the end of the year.

Matthew

http://buddhismnow.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/ajahn-sumedho-retires/
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

kidnovice

  • Member
    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2011, 06:46:01 PM »
Hey Kevin,

It sounds like you know what is best for you right now.  Well done. :)

As for your "hoping to achieve" something,  I would still encourage you to unpack your aspirations and do some self-inquiry and exploration around them. What exactly do you hope to achieve? Which goals are helpful for you to have?  Which ones are  counterproductive to your lasting happiness? How tightly do you hold your goals or intentions? Is there a way for you to hold these goals more lightly?

This process of self-inquiry is an important part of the path-- and helps develop right intention.   You can have a goal or aspiration without it becoming clinging (though it can easily become that).  At times, because we are unable to think about the future from a place of ease and equanimity, it is helpful to just let go of all goals-- but that's no way to live.

We need to be able to work toward goals without straining or getting frustrated. This is something that we can all learn, but it takes practice.

Also, consider that rejecting all your aspirations and goals can be very counterproductive. It can leave you directionless and overly dependent on others' guidance. It can also allow unskillful intentions to remain unexamined (and thus more influential). As the Buddha found, some intentions are helpful and lead to long term happiness. Rather than hide from our intentions, we should figure out which ones are helpful, and then use them as guiding stars.

With metta,
Dylan


« Last Edit: June 08, 2011, 06:52:35 PM by kidnovice »
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Morning Dew

  • Guest
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #17 on: June 08, 2011, 06:58:20 PM »
KN my friend, your writing is like the most beautiful music for my ears :)

Much Love

May you be free from suffering

Anglepen

  • Guest
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #18 on: June 08, 2011, 08:01:48 PM »
Hey Kevin,

It sounds like you know what is best for you right now.  Well done. :)

As for your "hoping to achieve" something,  I would still encourage you to unpack your aspirations and do some self-inquiry and exploration around them. What exactly do you hope to achieve? Which goals are helpful for you to have?  Which ones are  counterproductive to your lasting happiness? How tightly do you hold your goals or intentions? Is there a way for you to hold these goals more lightly?

Hello KN

I'll try and answer as honestly as possible.

Hope to achieve;  I don't really know, maybe some inner peace, a calming of my hectic mind, maybe some form of enlightenment, I was diagnosed with depression last Summer after a serious personal event that I won't go into publicly but would be happy to discuss in PM.

Helpful goals to have; I guess the same as above, more compassion and importantly more tolerance of other peoples faults- I am very critical of what I see as a weakness or a why of doing things that I disagree with, I am very intolerant and I dont like myself for this.

The last questions;  I guess I answer this above, I dont want to be a picky, intolerant and (in the uk we would call this) arsey (arse = ass)
I want to be calmer, more accepting of others perceived faults. My good points are an amazing honesty, openesss and compassion, for example I refuse to pull weeds as they to me are still a living thing so I uproot them and replant them on my walks (a bit much I'll agree) If someone asks me a question I'll give them an answer-I am totally transparent and I like that in myself despite it maybe leaving me open to judgement.

I hope this helps, its tricky to answer question when I am unfamiliar with the person asking (something I'd like to rectify with time) but I have been honest and open as is 'me.

Regards

Kev

Crystal Palace

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  • "Move on Bhikkus, Move On" - Buddha
    • Thai Forest Tradition
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #19 on: June 08, 2011, 08:34:29 PM »
Hello KN,

So good to hear from you after a long gap  :) Your writing is, as Dusko points, out truly "soothing" There is an undercurrent of patience and compassion running through your posts.

May you post more often here  :D

Warmly,
CP
"Abstain from unwholesome actions,
Perform wholesome actions,
Purify your mind"

Buddha

Andrew

  • Member
    • friends tell me things, sometimes I listen.
    • Letting Go.
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #20 on: June 09, 2011, 01:59:10 AM »
hi Kev,

Honesty is King when getting anything done on the level we are discussing. Humility is the Queen. Working together they bring Peace, one without the other brings War. (Don't know where that came from, just went with it  ::)  :))

I am glad to here you speak, I can feel a momentum in your words that leans towards understanding. KN's advice is very good, though I found I was completely unable to let go of the largest of my wrong intentions for many months after knowing that I should! Supernatural Powers are what I desired, freaky yes, but I wanted out of this mess NOW!!! Ironic really that letting it go led me to increase freedom when I felt it was a defeat to stop trying.

It is good you have awareness of yourself. I know you are working long hours, so finding how to fit formal practice in, and keeping it locked it is really the most beneficial thing right now. It will bear fruit all on it's own! Form the habit, the rest takes care of itself.

love
Andrew
getting it done

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #21 on: June 09, 2011, 02:25:10 AM »
...Helpful goals to have; I guess the same as above, more compassion and importantly more tolerance of other peoples faults- I am very critical of what I see as a weakness or a why of doing things that I disagree with, I am very intolerant and I dont like myself for this.
...
....
I hope this helps, its tricky to answer question when I am unfamiliar with the person asking (something I'd like to rectify with time) but I have been honest and open as is 'me.
....

Kev,

Intolerance of your own intolerance ... good place to start working with acceptance and developing equanimity.

KN (as others have noted) posts somewhat rarely at times, but is an absolute diamond. You can always read someone's old posts by going to their profile and looking from there if you are unfamiliar with them.

Your honesty and compassion shine through and will serve you well my friend (as do these things in KN's posting coincidentally).

Your goals are all attributes that emerge from good practice of: ethics, mindfulness and compassion.

Warmly,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Anglepen

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Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #22 on: June 09, 2011, 12:51:21 PM »
Some wise words to chew over there, I do feel I am progressing not only in my sittings but also in my personal life and development, its not plain sailing by any means but I guess anything worth having is not easily obtained.
I have periods of doubt, frustration and sometimes immense clarity but they come and go like clouds in a blue sky.

Morning Dew

  • Guest
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #23 on: June 09, 2011, 12:56:04 PM »
Quote
but they come and go like clouds in a blue sky.

This is called Impermanence :) everything is subject to change :)
The sooner you actualy percive this the sooner you will develope equinimity.
Take your time though. No rush and no forcing.

You are doing great my friend.

May no harm come to you

kidnovice

  • Member
    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: 10 day retreat questions
« Reply #24 on: June 09, 2011, 09:18:05 PM »
Thanks for all the warm praise everyone.  Its good to "see" you all too.  :)  I'm looking forward to increasing my presence on the forum for the next few months (I'm going on retreat soon, but when i get back, I will have a work schedule that puts me in front of a computer more often-- meaning more time here :D)

Ken, your honesty is remarkable. I was touched by how readily you shared your perceived "strengths" and "weaknesses." I hadn't really expected you to go into detail about your intentions for meditation-- I was more pointing to the importance of knowing them for yourself, and then allowing these intentions to guide your decisions about meditation. (whether to go on retreat, what "style" of meditation to use, how long to sit for, etc.). So, thanks for your unexpected candor.

Here are a two things I have noticed that you might find helpful:

1) Paying attention to the "feeling" of my intention is more important than the "words" of the intention. For example, if I am forming the intention to be kind, but it has a feeling tone of " Dammnit, why the hell aren't I being kind!" that's not a helpful intention to have. I may think I'm intending to be kind, but I'm actually generating anger and hatred. 

So, when I meditate, I try to focus on simple qualities that I can work on without criticizing myself when I slip up


2) As Matthew has pointed out in many different ways on this forum: When it comes to meditation, calm comes first. It is the first intention to work on, and supports all the others. In fact, you intuitively discovered this. I noticed in your earlier comment, you said:

I get a lot from my sittings now, I feel calm and relaxed and things seem so very clear and bright after, for the moment this is beneficial for me and I maybe will add a second sitting when time allows.

Why not make that your primary intention? Become really conscious about it. Before you make any decision during/about your meditation, try recalling, "Nothing matters more right now than feeling calm, relaxed, and bright." For example, when evaluating whether you should do a meditation retreat or technique, you might ask, "Will this help me develop the calm and brightness of my mind?" If you sense that it won't, then don't do it.  And if difficult circumstances arise (like depressive thoughts) you might recall, "I am stretching my capacity for calm, and if I can find even a little bit of calm in this moment, I will have planted seeds of more calm in the future."

That sort of approach has really helped me. :)
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

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