Author Topic: Concentration and retreat questions  (Read 2323 times)

Aristée

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Concentration and retreat questions
« on: November 22, 2012, 10:45:56 PM »
Greetings fellow path-threaders

Since I'm new on this forum, let me take a few words to introduce myself. I took interest in Mindfulness meditation after listening to a dvd course on the subject by The Teaching Company. I am practicing meditation since January 2012. I try to sit as daily as I can. I usually sit for 45 minutes on saturdays, sundays and mondays, since I can do it in the morning, before noon. The rest of the week, I try to sit for 20 minutes because I can only do it in the evening, and I found that for longer than that, sleepiness overcomes me.

I also listen to dharma talks on in my car from the Insight Meditation Center, wich I found on iTunes (Zencast). Since I drive for at least 4 hours a week alone in my car, that's the amount of time I spend learning about Buddhism and meditation weekly, so I think I at least have a good theoretical knowledge base on that subject. But as in everything, theory is only a small part of the practice...

Now for the questions.

Since some weeks (months ?) I find it more and more difficult to keep my mind focused on my breath. It tends to start planning a lot, or daydreaming too. When I notice it, I try to tell me "Well, here is a planning mind. Let's observe what it changes in my body or breath". But the planning or the wandering mind is too strong and I have a lot of difficulies to take it back to the object of attention. So I can spend almost all my sitting quite unattentive to my breath.

But I don't feel down because of it, and I try not to judge my sittings as good sittings or crappy sittings...

If you have some suggestions to help me, it would be greatly appreciated.

Now for the retreat question.

I know that going to a retreat would be one way to help me. And I would very much like to attend one. I could the meet other practitionners and also talk with a teacher. But I live in a somewhat remote area in Québec, where there is no sitting groups no retreat opportunities nearby. So what would you suggest in that situation ? I heard of self-retreats, but don't really know how to do it and how to make it helpful.

Can one manage to overcome his indrances without a teacher or retreats ?

Thank you in advance,

Hugo

Mpgkona

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Re: Concentration and retreat questions
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2012, 11:21:58 PM »
Hello Hugo,

So, have you ever been on a meditation retreat? If so in which tradition? When I manage to find the time to meditate I always listen to an SN Goenka guided meditation I found on the internet. If you have taken this course I can find the link and post it. However, if you have not been to a Goenka retreat I recommend NOT listening to Goenka until you have done the retreat.

As for your problem with finding a location close to you. Well...you MUST attend a retreat. If you have to travel far then make the effort to do it. It has been the single most important thing I have ever done in my life. Even when I stray from meditation I still have all the learned techniques at my disposal when I come back to it. So I highly, highly recommend doing a retreat. You will learn ALL you will ever need to learn to meditate. As for the hindrances, you just have to find your own way to overcome them. There is an immense amount of Buddhist and meditative literature dealing with the "Hindrances." Buddha recognized them, and I myself know they are the most difficult part of a meditative life. Just keep on at it Hugo.
When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.

Aristée

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Re: Concentration and retreat questions
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2012, 01:43:23 AM »
Hello Hugo,

So, have you ever been on a meditation retreat?


Hi Mpgkona. Thanks for your answer.

No, I have never been to a retreat. And I can't see myself attending one in the near future, being as I said in a northern region of Quebec where there is no sitting groups.  :'( 

I have listen to some guided meditations by Gil Fronsdal on Zencast. It works to a certain degree. Sometimes I find that the guide distracts me more than it helps me.

DarkNightOfNoSoul

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Re: Concentration and retreat questions
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2012, 04:38:22 AM »
Hi Hugo, it sounds to me like you are doing extremely well. As Mpgkona said, the hindrances are normal and we all experience them. I'm going through a similar phase of having gotten myself into the habit of daydreaming when I sit, instead of working properly. I've noticed for myself that these phases come and go depending on what other stuff is going on in my life. At quieter, less stressful times I find it easier to keep returning to the object of concentration.

I don't want to nag you about the retreat thing, so if a retreat is completely out of the question for you, please ignore this paragraph! My personal experience is this. Basically I don't think I learned to meditate "properly" until I attended my first ten-day retreat. Retreats are carefully designed to bring together all the conditions you need - the elimination of distractions, the lack of need to do chores such as preparing meals, the noble silence, sitting many hours each day, the detailed coaching, the beautiful natural setting, and just the whole atmosphere of being surrounded by 80 or so other silent meditators. Being there for ten days allows one to reach very deep levels of concentration that a couple of days just wouldn't allow. I agree with Mpgkona that it was one of the most important experiences of my life. Although I don't feel I have progressed very far in my practice as yet, I still think the retreat helped me learn a lot in a short time. So if it's possible to take some time off (like a holiday - though it's actually quite hard work!) then I'd recommend a retreat. Looks like there's a Goenka centre in Québec (though I realise it's a huge province!):

http://courses.dhamma.org/en/schedules/schsuttama

Anyway, that's just my own opinion based on what I found helped me. I think others here might say that working on your own is just fine. Maybe it's more a matter of adjusting your expectations around progress, and allowing the technique to work at its own natural pace.

One more thing - elsewhere on this forum Delma54 recommended an online course that might be helpful (I haven't yet tried it, but it looks interesting):

http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,2001.msg20842.html#msg20842

Wishing you all the best!

Re: Concentration and retreat questions
« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2012, 05:20:03 AM »
its good to see that you are having such a good awareness of self, and have good amount of interest in meditation of vipassana without a retreat.
retreat will give u a clear picture of hindrances. it will multiply a hundred times and there is nothing we can do about it. so try it. 

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Concentration and retreat questions
« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2012, 07:29:18 AM »
Since some weeks (months ?) I find it more and more difficult to keep my mind focused on my breath. It tends to start planning a lot, or daydreaming too. When I notice it, I try to tell me "Well, here is a planning mind. Let's observe what it changes in my body or breath". But the planning or the wandering mind is too strong and I have a lot of difficulies to take it back to the object of attention. So I can spend almost all my sitting quite unattentive to my breath.
I wouldn't get too discouraged by this, as it's natural for a mind so accustomed to thinking.

From my experience with practice, I found it a lot easier once I stopped trying so hard to pay attention to the breath. You read many things that talk about counting breaths, or noticing various stages with the breath, it's all very breath centric and it can create a bit of pressure on the meditator that you should be doing it a specific way and feeling a specific thing. Try forgetting about the breath specifically, and instead just notice whatever's there, your thoughts, sounds, your body whatever. The breath will always be there for you to come back to, it's not going anywhere.

Aristée

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Re: Concentration and retreat questions
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2012, 11:19:57 PM »
Thanks for the links. I definitively want to attend a retreat someday, but not in the near future. Family obligations prevents me to leave for so long a stretch (3 school age kids).

But what about self-retreats ? I can manage to spend 3 days alone somewhere to do it. Anyone with experience of it ?

I know I can find lots of informations elsewhere, but if you could describe in a few words what's different or particular in Goenka's Vipassana compared to others would be helpful.

Hugo

Mpgkona

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Re: Concentration and retreat questions
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2012, 05:03:00 AM »
Hey Hugo.

I have never been on another retreat. My only experience is the Goenka retreat, so I can only speak to those. The retreat is set up so the ONLY thing you do besides meditate is eat, shower, sleep, and go to the bathroom. There are so many practical reasons for it too. First, when learning Vipassana, being able to do literally nothing will help you immensely with the technique. Locking yourself away somewhere will (unfortunately I believe) not help you at all in terms of learning Vipassana. There may be other meditation techniques that this would be beneficial for; I just don't know what they are. The Vipassana technique, and more specifically Goenkas technique, has nothing to do with counting, saying mantras, fingering beads, visualizations, etc. That stuff, while useful with other techniques, is not used at any time during the retreat or with the technique. This technique relies solely, 100% on observing breath and then bodily sensations. Nothing more, nothing less. You simply observe yourself as you are, not how you wish things to be. The technique is actual quite simple. However, this technique can ONLY be learned at a retreat. I myself thought I could read about it beforehand, which I did. But reading about it it is absolutely futile. Unfortunately, you can only learn Goenka's technique through a retreat. I am a teacher, so I was fortunately off for the summer. Obviously most people will find it extremely hard to go on a retreat because, after all spending 11 days away from home is impractical. My big knock on the technique is that while its a totally free course available to any willing person, it ironically excludes a huge amount of people because it is so long. Goenkas technique though is just one of many many techniques. If I were you I would search for another technique based on Vipassana as well. I have read about other non-Vipassana techniques which are in itself good and worthy, but to really understand, or I should say in order to scratch the surface of understanding the reality of things, only Vipassana offers this. Studying Buddhism, reading meditation books etc. will NOT help you with what you are seeking. As Goenka says, and I am guilty as sin with this too, it is purely intellectual entertainment to study but not practice.

Sorry for the rambling. I too have two small children who were so sad when I left for the retreat. But since I have been back my relationship with them is 1000 times better. A retreat would be the most extraordinary gift your wife or spouse could give to you. I'm not tryi g to pressure you, but just the mere fact that your life has brought you to this forum means that somehow the universe will provide you with a retreat someday. Whether its this year or n 20 years, make the leap and go on the retreat.

With Metta,

Mike
When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.

Delma54

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Re: Concentration and retreat questions
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2012, 04:26:32 AM »
Hi Hugo. if you can't go to a retreat, the next best thing is an online course. That will give you plenty time to look after the kids. You practicing when you are available. I have done a course an this is not the first time I am recomending it.
Metta

 

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