Author Topic: Shamatha retreat (Or substitution for one) in the US during COVID-19?  (Read 817 times)

NewPathForward

  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Beginner in Vipassana / The Path
Hello everyone, I hope all is well for you today!

In the past few weeks I have learned quite a bit about Vipassana and Shamatha.  I have learned that it is (For me) much better to practice shamatha before getting on to insight meditation for the sake of my well being (I am young and have periods of emotional instability as is, I have been told it is probably best for me to cultivate equanimity before moving on to vipassana).  I have been practicing anapana and metta bhavana for six weeks now as well as pausing throughout day-to-day life and observing sensations of breath, thoughts, emotions, and surroundings. 

I am curious if it would be wise to seek proper guidance in the form of a short retreat.  My college finals are finishing up and it gives me a month before summer school, so now would be a great time.  There are several problems surrounding this idea:

1)  I do not believe it would be wise to be ambitious and jump straight into an intense vipassana practice, and am unsure as to whether there are even public shamatha retreats in the Southeast US (And international travel is out of the question for now)

2)  If there are shamatha retreats in my region, they are unlikely to be operating due to COVID-19

3)  I am not sure if a retreat, even if available, would be the wisest decision at this point.  My experience tells me that it couldn't hurt and might even open up some potential relationships (None of my friends are buddhist or practice meditation seriously), but I am learning of how powerful meditation truly is and don't want to open up a can of worms that I'm not prepared to deal with at this point.  (What are your thoughts / experience)

I am absolutely open to being patient and just continuing my practice as is.  I believe I am seeing results in my life, but I figured there is no harm in asking those who have trudged this road long before me :)

So does anybody have knowledge of open retreats geared toward Shamatha practice in the Southeastern US at this time?  Is this something I should even consider in the first place?  Thanks for your time  :)

Goofaholix

  • Member
  • Write something about yourself here
    • Theravada / Insight Meditation
A lot of people sign up for a vipassana retreat with much less preparation that you have done already.  I think you are being unusually cautious, if you have found your practice beneficial so far you shouldn't shy away from the opportunity to deepen it.

Shamatha retreats are rare in the west and most vipassana retreats will give you a healthy dose of shamatha as generally they both go together, it's better to do a retreat that is available rather than wait around for the perfect one.

Covid 19 of course means most retreats will be cancelled right now and I don't know much about what is available in SE USA but you could try Bhavana Society in West Virginia.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
These people offer Shamatha teachings. Centres are mostly closed at the moment due to the public health situation, however, many are offering weekly or twice weekly online sessions for free.

They're good people on the whole. You can find a centre near you from here, and see how it feels: https://shambhala.org/centres/find-shambhala-centre/

They will basically be teaching what is on the homepage of this website. I lived and worked in the French retreat centre for eighteen months.

The community is going through a bit of a dark patch at the moment due to yet another of it's leaders having inappropriate sexual relationships with students (third one in a row). But, ss I say, good people in the whole and you have to decide for yourself as it varies from place to place.

Maybe that is the good thing about coronavirus and everywhere shut? You're safe meeting online and getting a feel for the people.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2020, 02:20:08 AM by Matthew »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

NewPathForward

  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Beginner in Vipassana / The Path
These people offer Shamatha teachings. Centres are mostly closed at the moment due to the public health situation, however, many are offering weekly or twice weekly online sessions for free.

They're good people on the whole. You can find a centre near you from here, and see how it feels: https://shambhala.org/centres/find-shambhala-centre/

Wow Matthew, thank you!  Reading their website, it seems like this may be exactly what I need in my practice.  I just got attached to their mailing list, so hopefully I can find zoom links from that as I can't find any on the website.  Regardless, I will be connecting with them.  I was also sent a link by a woman online for a local church (Non-utilitarian, so they also have buddhists, atheists, agnostics etc) where they do group sits.  I'm glad that people were kind enough to send me all of these resources! 

My new concern is that I will give into social anxiety and not make a serious effort to get involved.  Nothing I can do about that at this moment though.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
My new concern is that I will give into social anxiety and not make a serious effort to get involved.  Nothing I can do about that at this moment though.

OK. So you are mindful of the fact you do this to yourself. Next step? Choose not to as often as you can .. one step at a time. It's all good.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

dharma bum

  • Member
  • Certified Zen Master (second degree black belt)
    • vipassana
Quote
3)  I am not sure if a retreat, even if available, would be the wisest decision at this point.  My experience tells me that it couldn't hurt and might even open up some potential relationships (None of my friends are buddhist or practice meditation seriously), but I am learning of how powerful meditation truly is and don't want to open up a can of worms that I'm not prepared to deal with at this point.  (What are your thoughts / experience)

From my own few retreats and conversations with fellow-retreat participants after the retreat, for most people, the hardest things to deal with are
1. pain in the back/legs
2. not talking - this is particularly hard on Indians. :)
3. boredom
4. inadequate sleep (might depend on the hosting org)

There isn't any socializing in retreats for the most part.
Mostly ignorant

Dhamma

  • Member
  • May we all fulfill our deepest wish for happiness
    • Zen/Tibetan/Theravada
Quote
3)  I am not sure if a retreat, even if available, would be the wisest decision at this point.  My experience tells me that it couldn't hurt and might even open up some potential relationships (None of my friends are buddhist or practice meditation seriously), but I am learning of how powerful meditation truly is and don't want to open up a can of worms that I'm not prepared to deal with at this point.  (What are your thoughts / experience)

From my own few retreats and conversations with fellow-retreat participants after the retreat, for most people, the hardest things to deal with are
1. pain in the back/legs
2. not talking - this is particularly hard on Indians. :)
3. boredom
4. inadequate sleep (might depend on the hosting org)

There isn't any socializing in retreats for the most part.

LOL.

My problem is neck cramps.  I have them 60-70% of the time.  And I meditate at 20-30 minutes a day. My back and legs are pretty good, although at first, I had leg numbness, which improved greatly over time.
You are already Buddha

May we see clearly the emptiness of all phenomena

NewPathForward

  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Beginner in Vipassana / The Path

From my own few retreats and conversations with fellow-retreat participants after the retreat, for most people, the hardest things to deal with are
1. pain in the back/legs
2. not talking - this is particularly hard on Indians. :)
3. boredom
4. inadequate sleep (might depend on the hosting org)

There isn't any socializing in retreats for the most part.

I assume 2/3 are part of the process itself and can be dealt with.

However, I am worried about #1.  I personally sit my zafu on the ground vertical, put my ankles on each side of the zafu, and sit the zafu on my rear while putting my weight on my knees and bum and sitting up vertically.  I forget what position this is (Certainly not Burmese) but even a beginner position like this can product neck, shoulder or back pain for me (Generally shoulder as I have my hands lightly interlocked, it is the position recommended in the video on this forum).

I am wearing this back/shoulder strap thing that helps with shoulder posture over time and also deep stretching my legs and hips every other day.  Hopefully this will help with time.  What recommendations do you have before attending my first retreat to prepare for the pain (Besides developing equanimity toward it, am working on this)?

dharma bum

  • Member
  • Certified Zen Master (second degree black belt)
    • vipassana
I hesitate to give any advice on this because I'm not sure it would be the right one.

In general, your posture should be symmetrical. At one point, my neck started to hurt, which was when I realized that I was sitting with my neck inclined. I grew up not completely unused to sitting on the floor in a semi-lotus posture, but still that is no preparation for sitting for more than 10 hours a day in a retreat. I had a sharp pain in my back which was actually helpful in my meditation because my mind was so focused on the pain, it wouldn't wander very much.  Over the course of the years I've come to believe that your posture doesn't matter so long as it doesn't cause you damage. You can sit on a chair and that's fine.

I'm not being helpful here but maybe others can give better advice on posture.
Mostly ignorant

NewPathForward

  • Member
  • Who are you?
    • Beginner in Vipassana / The Path
I hesitate to give any advice on this because I'm not sure it would be the right one.

In general, your posture should be symmetrical. At one point, my neck started to hurt, which was when I realized that I was sitting with my neck inclined. I grew up not completely unused to sitting on the floor in a semi-lotus posture, but still that is no preparation for sitting for more than 10 hours a day in a retreat. I had a sharp pain in my back which was actually helpful in my meditation because my mind was so focused on the pain, it wouldn't wander very much.  Over the course of the years I've come to believe that your posture doesn't matter so long as it doesn't cause you damage. You can sit on a chair and that's fine.

I'm not being helpful here but maybe others can give better advice on posture.

Well that makes plenty of sense as is.  Whilst I knew that it was pretty much inevitable to experience some kind of pain during a retreat, I didn't know that everybody goes through it.  I am just hoping that it isn't too much to cause me to leave early. 

 

Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
42 Replies
23241 Views
Last post June 10, 2011, 02:37:36 AM
by Jeeprs
6 Replies
4919 Views
Last post August 11, 2010, 09:34:12 PM
by Maria-Yasmine
27 Replies
8221 Views
Last post May 18, 2011, 05:14:28 AM
by Morning Dew
4 Replies
1920 Views
Last post September 24, 2011, 05:50:37 PM
by Vivek
10 Replies
3505 Views
Last post February 11, 2014, 09:28:00 AM
by floyd
3 Replies
1611 Views
Last post April 11, 2015, 11:13:29 AM
by Alex
3 Replies
1003 Views
Last post August 10, 2019, 05:59:18 PM
by VipassanaXYZ