Author Topic: Good meditation retreat for a beginner  (Read 7467 times)

lasseespeholt

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Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« on: June 04, 2010, 05:43:08 PM »
Hi,

I have read and searched for different meditation retreats and I have become very interested in mediation. I tend to get annoyed by very small things, and my brain very often spin around in the same thoughts without getting anything done. It is a goal to get less annoyed and have less 'tensions' in my brain. Another goal I have is to experience a full blown out-of-body experience.

I know these goals properly wont happen over night - but in the long run, I hope it will. I'm not religious but have researched some scientific articles about out-of-body experiences and meditation.

Is there some retreats You will recommend? I have looked at www.vri.dhamma.org and have read various forum posts. Both negative and positive. I live in Denmark, but will/can travel for it. The US is properly not ideal because both flight tickets and stay costs. I'm a student. I'll appreciate a scientific meditation approach but otherwise I guess I can abstract it away (if not overly religious).

Best regards
Lasse

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: Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2010, 08:08:54 PM »
Lasse,

Welcome to the forums.

Drop the goals and learn to be. Meditate. You can do it at home with ease. There are plenty of instructions on here to follow and if you need specific advice you can ask for it.

It will cost you nothing, save you time (time you can use to meditate longer), and when you are ready for a retreat, it will make the retreat much, much more powerful and life changing.

I teach meditation at a University - a simple technique (described in several threads here) that takes about 5 minutes to explain to staff and students. They "get it" almost every time, first time and write very glowing reports. You have to commit for 20 minutes a day to begin with. It is based directly on the teachings of the Buddha and is rational, scientific and empirically verifiable - by your own use of it, if you choose.

Warmly,

In the Dhamma,

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

lasseespeholt

  • Guest
Re: Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2010, 09:48:06 PM »
Lasse,

Welcome to the forums.

Drop the goals and learn to be. Meditate. You can do it at home with ease. There are plenty of instructions on here to follow and if you need specific advice you can ask for it.

It will cost you nothing, save you time (time you can use to meditate longer), and when you are ready for a retreat, it will make the retreat much, much more powerful and life changing.

I teach meditation at a University - a simple technique (described in several threads here) that takes about 5 minutes to explain to staff and students. They "get it" almost every time, first time and write very glowing reports. You have to commit for 20 minutes a day to begin with. It is based directly on the teachings of the Buddha and is rational, scientific and empirically verifiable - by your own use of it, if you choose.

Warmly,

In the Dhamma,

Matthew

Thanks for reply...

'Drop the goals' - I have to have a carrot ;) but 'learn to be' does not sound that bad. I'll try to dig the method out of your post history then :) In my meditation research I have sound several methods and different people say different things about them so it is really hard to distinguish between pseudo-science and 'real'-science (what we know :/).

lasseespeholt

  • Guest
Re: Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2010, 09:52:10 PM »
Can you tell me the name of the technique so I can search for it? 'Lasts posts' is not very clear :/

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: Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2010, 08:35:59 AM »
The scientific basis is outlined here:

http://www.uel.ac.uk/chaplaincy/events/meditation.htm

The method is this:

Sit so you are not using the back of a chair or anything to support your spine, but your back muscles. This can be on a chair with your feet firmly on the ground, ankles under knees and thighs roughly horizontal. Or you can use a cushion or folded blankets sitting on the floor. Put them under your bum until your knees can touch the floor and make a stable tripod. Or a bench .. there are posts about how to sit comfortably in the forum. The important thing is to have a firm base and an upright back with relaxed and open chest and abdomen.

Place your attention firmly on the sensations of your entire body. Don't "scan" or follow any pattern, feel all your body all the time. As you breathe in train your mind to be sensitive to the sensations of the body and calm any tensions you find in the body. As you breathe out train your mind to be sensitive to the sensations of the body and calm any tensions you find in the body.

Relax, but stay awake and aware by training your mind to be sensitive and ardent in paying attention to bodily sensations, without judgement or criticism or thinking about the process. Just be, breathe and feel the body.

Thoughts will arise. They always do. Treat them like you are watching waves wash up on a beach and then disappear back into the sea. Step back from them without interfering. Keep your attention firmly yet lightly on the physical sensations of your body. Do not become or follow your thoughts, or let trains of thought follow. When you do, and this will be frequent at the beginning, then when you notice, do not be harsh or judgemental or critical with yourself. Just notice that you have noticed, then return your full attention to the sensations in the body, as you breathe in and as you breathe out and as you relax the body - all the while keeping the mind awake and aware, alert to the sensations of the body.

Hands can be folded in your lap, placed either facing up or down on your thighs - whatever feels right and opens your chest effectively. Eyes can be closed, gently as if you are sleeping, or half-open, looking down at 45 degrees to the floor, whilst maintaining an upright posture of the head. If you feel sleepy try opening them, looking without focussing necessarily, at the floor. If you still feel sleepy raise your gaze a little.

If still sleepiness persists, then you have not found the middle line between relaxation and awakeness and need to exert yourself a little harder to the task of sensing the body.

Twenty minutes once a day will change much. Half an hour is what I recommend as a minimum start for someone who wants to gain the most - aiming to increase that to one hour after a while. Sitting without a time limit if you have the chance is rather useful. Twice a day is more than twice as good as once a day.

This practice, when mastered, can quickly change your brain chemistry, reaching a new equilibrium of calm and clarity - to benefit the most you also pay attention to other things in your life such as use of intoxicants, diet, attitude towards others and the world and work issues.

Attached is a zipped file of a 20 minute meditation mp3 - three gongs ... 20 minutes of silence .. then three gongs. I have it on my laptop for when teaching sessions at the Uni and on my mobile phone for when I want to meditate anywhere.

Warmly,

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: June 05, 2010, 08:39:54 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Crystal Palace

  • Member
  • "Move on Bhikkus, Move On" - Buddha
    • Thai Forest Tradition
Re: Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2010, 09:38:40 AM »
Dear lasseespeholt,

I would personally recommend going on a retreat before you formally start a daily practice regimen. A retreat sets a solid base for the beginning of the meditative and contemplative practice.

My first retreat was a Goenka one and it changed my view on what I thought was meditation. You might have heard both positive and negative comments regarding it, but you should understand that they are only opinions of others - just as my review of the technique is entirely my opinion.

For you to come to your own conclusion of whether it is positive or negative or a bit of both, you will have to go for a retreat yourself. What works for the Goenka Vipassana Retreat is that it is free, scientific and unconditional, i.e nothing is imposed on you. What does not is that it could be too strenuous for beginners with an 11 hour a day meditation practice regimen.

Nonetheless, I would recommend the Goenka retreat to you - just so that you have an idea and get to know the environment of deep meditative practice - as well as to understand just how unruly your mind is  :D

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

Buddha

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: Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2010, 10:00:47 AM »
My first retreat was a Goenka one and it changed my view on what I thought was meditation. You might have heard both positive and negative comments regarding it, but you should understand that they are only opinions of others... 

Crystal,

Without opening any cans of worms the technique I have described is that in the Suttas for meditation practice, and Goenka's technique diverges from Sutta. It's not a matter of opinion. I also know from teaching this at the University that it is highly effective and there is no need to do a retreat - the important thing is the discipline of doing it daily. Now a retreat can help one gain discipline, yet I would argue doing that alone is also the way the Buddha taught it ... "There is the case where a Bikkhu has gone to a secluded place, to the foot of a tree etc. etc.." starts almost every meditation Sutta.

Warmly,

In the Dhamma,

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

Crystal Palace

  • Member
  • "Move on Bhikkus, Move On" - Buddha
    • Thai Forest Tradition
Re: Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2010, 10:50:52 AM »
Dear Matthew,


Without opening any cans of worms the technique I have described is that in the Suttas for meditation practice, and Goenka's technique diverges from Sutta.


I cannot confirm or deny what you say - yet, since I have not read the suttas. But what I can say is that so far it has been so good for me.

My judgement on the effectiveness of any 'technique' is not by the technical details of it but by the behaviour of the people who practice it. And, as I have said before, I have found more good (and happy) people there than elsewhere.

Quote

It's not a matter of opinion.


Why do you say it is not a matter of opinion? I'd like to think it is entirely an opinion. And I say that because-

a) You have never attended a 10 day Goenka retreat.
b) You have never personally met or seen Goenkaji, and therefore have not seen his behaviour from up close.

Since I have done both, I have the authority to speak about this. Now you have a wonderful agnostic attitude towards rebirth, karma and other Buddhist concepts that I admire because that is the stand the Buddha advised people to take. And what is the agnostic stand? That you do not believe something howsoever believable unless you have personally verified it. Do you not think that by not having done the above two, and then claiming your opinions as facts, you are violating the agnostic belief system of yours?

You may be right in saying that you have disagreements over the technique but simply by virtue of never having attended a retreat you cannot say that you are 100% certain that the technique is wrong because you cannot verify the malpractices (if any) that go on.

Quote

the important thing is the discipline of doing it daily.


I agree completely.

Quote

I also know from teaching this at the University that it is highly effective and there is no need to do a retreat


There might be no need to do a retreat, but I am still inclined to think it is easier to establish a daily practice after a retreat than simply reading about it on the net. Also, I think a formal and guided induction into meditation is better (and less dangerous) than going solo.

On a retreat you get to understand the true gravity of the Dhamma, and can come back with a solid determination to maintain the practice, whereas if you simply read stuff online, chances are that your meditative practice would be shallow - something like a football being kicked around by the ups and downs of daily life.

Nonetheless, since you have taught many students at the University, you know better.

Warmly,
Crystal Palace

« Last Edit: June 05, 2010, 10:52:59 AM by Crystal Palace »
"Abstain from unwholesome actions,
Perform wholesome actions,
Purify your mind"

Buddha

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: Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2010, 02:57:00 PM »
Dear Crystal,

I'm sorry I poked the bees nest and will not enter into refutation.

Warm regards,

Your friend,

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

lasseespeholt

  • Guest
Re: Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2010, 05:28:11 PM »
Thanks for both advices. The discussion just demonstrates that it is hard to know what to do etc. I think I will start with some meditation on my own and then move on.

I have looked for an out-of-body experience book but I'm having a real hard time finding a book which is non-religious and where the author actually have scientific background. Susan Blackmore's Beyond the body is properly the closest but I don't know the quality of it. The religious books properly work just fine, but I would prefer reading a book where the 'what it is' is not based on subjective opinions and where there is a 'how to do it' section. Post if you can recommend one :)

kidnovice

  • Member
    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2010, 11:01:05 PM »
Personally, I think its a real shame that even discussing the sutta-basis of Goenka's style of Vipassana should somehow be a taboo. Matthew, allow me to respectfully suggest that if your comment "poked the bees nest," it is not because you questioned the validity of Goenka's teaching. Rather, it was HOW you did it.

You said:
Quote
the technique I have described is that in the Suttas for meditation practice, and Goenka's technique diverges from Sutta. It's not a matter of opinion (emphasis added).I also know from teaching this at the University that it is highly effective

I realize that you probably just wanted to cut short this discussion, but your comment came across as implying two things: (1) Your interpretation of Goenka's consistency with the suttas is absolutely authoritative, and anyone who wishes to question you simply has a wrong "opinion." (2) The fact that Goenka's teaching may "diverge" from the sutta's makes it automatically invalid (regardless of how effective it may be for a practioner on the path).

Its easy to see how either of those implications is bit off the mark. Personally, I agree that when you look in the suttas, you find no description of "body-scanning" as taught by Goenka and MANY other Theravadan teachers). However, many meditators (for probably several hundred or more years) have found that the technique is an incredibly powerful tool that cultivates tremendous insights with great speed and depth. These insights (into the three characteristics) are precisely what the suttas advise. Moreover, if the "body scan" is understood as a "preparatory" practice for whole body-breathing (which is precisely what Goenka says during his Sattipathana course), it is actually an incredibly efficient way for a meditator to reach a point where he can do as the Buddha suggests for a monk:

Quote
He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.'


Many meditators' following Goenka's tradition quickly find that they are cultivating the brahmavijara's and seeing into the impermanence of phenomena. But at the same time, virtually every experienced meditator in this tradition reaches a point where they have attained the ability to be aware of each and every sensation anywhere in the body, no matter how tiny or subtle it may be . At that point, breathing in sensitive to the entire body becomes quite feasible and natural.

I have no doubt that other practices reach this same attainment, but its unfair to simply claim (without room for disagreement) that Goenka's style of vipassana is somehow leading somewhere besides an experience into the suttas themselves.

Sorry to bring out the "bees," but this is a dialogue that I think is worth having. :) (though perhaps in a separate thread? Oops)

With metta,
KN
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.

kidnovice

  • Member
    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2010, 11:40:04 PM »
lasseespeholt,

Despite my deep appreciation of the Goenka style of Vipassana, I should mention that I really agree with Matthew on the issue that matters most: starting a daily practice should be your priority, and I honestly wouldn't recommend attending a Goenka retreat for awhile.
 
Of course, I have met people (like Crystal Palace) who had not meditated before, attended a Goenka retreat, and by the end, were firmly established on the path for life, just like that. Its awesome. But I think these people have ridiculously good karma, and are not that common (though I wouldn't say it is rare).

As Crystal points out:

Quote
it could be too strenuous for beginners with an 11 hour a day meditation practice regimen.


In my observation, this is not something that can be overemphasized. Many people new to meditation attend a Goenka retreat, and find the retreat to be quite grueling, far more than you might imagine. As a result, the entire experience (with all its rules and strict time-table) can fee quite "imposed" even though you agreed to it all ahead of time. This can turn some people off to meditation, and even leave them with a "hellish" memory of what they thought would be a pleasant "retreat."

On the other hand, I have met countless people who attended a Goenka retreat with a pre-existing meditation practice, and thus a full understanding of the difficulties that would probably arise. (I was one of those people). Of these people, virtually everyone has agreed that this style is amazingly beautiful in how it trains you.  Its truly special. You would be quite fortunate to one day have this experience.

But for now, I have to concur with Matthew that you should start with yourself. He has given all the instruction you need. You can feel blessed to have such clear guidance. Most people aren't so lucky. And so now, if you can summon the determination to actually make it a daily practice of your own, you will have cultivated the sort of potent intentions that will never stop supporting you on the path.

KN

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: Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2010, 07:54:23 AM »
Quote
I have looked for an out-of-body experience book

We maybe not aware of it but most of us are already out of our body or far away from our own body and that is where all problems start  :)  In Shamatha meditation we learn to be with our body, to unite MIND-BODY to gain calm.
I would friendly advice against such books you mentioned above  :)  There are many "methods" out there conditioning us into thinking that we can become special by entering certain states of mind but all we do is divide even more our mind from our own body.
I say unite the mind and body by sitting with your own self as you are every moment.

Wanting to go out-of-body is a desire! Desire to get out of problems, suffering! Understand that it is your conditioned mind which is wanting to get out of the body to experiance happiness, calmness, relaxation, etc ... Such mind is leading only into the very same mind, nothing new will happen. People do this (escaping one selves) by using other means likie drogs, alcohol, partying, indulging in sexual pleasure, you name it.

Stay with your self instead  :)

Remain relaxed  :)

« Last Edit: June 06, 2010, 08:08:18 AM by Morning Dew »

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: Good meditation retreat for a beginner
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2010, 12:39:58 PM »
Thanks for both advices. The discussion just demonstrates that it is hard to know what to do etc. I think I will start with some meditation on my own and then move on.

I have looked for an out-of-body experience book but I'm having a real hard time finding a book which is non-religious and where the author actually have scientific background. .....

Starting on your own is a good idea. I would not recommend reading much but instead try to establish a regular practice as I have described above. Out of body experience books are frankly pure entertainment at this point. You need to actually experience your body without thinking before it will be of any relevance.

Warm regards,

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

 

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