Poll The fruits of Retreat.

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

What fruits have you experienced as a result of retreat.

1) Very Positive
20
71%
2)Positive
7
25%
3) Negative
0
No votes
4 Neutral.l
1
4%
 
Total votes : 28

Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 11, 2011 8:40 am

In terms of your ongoing practice.....
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 11, 2011 8:42 am

This follows a useful suggestion from Phil. Just to make it clear it refers to any organised Vipassana or Samatha retreat.
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby Ben » Fri Feb 11, 2011 8:54 am

Hi Peter

Perhaps its worthwhile mentioning that positive experiences, particularly when they come to retreat experiences and evaluating retreat experiences, aren't always pleasant or are conditioned by pleasurable meditative sessions.
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 11, 2011 9:06 am

Quite so Ben...perhaps I should have been clearer that by positive I meant in terms of the energising effect on day to day life and practice...rather than it being a smooth and untroubled ride....thanks for the opportunity to clarify.
:anjali:
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby Ben » Fri Feb 11, 2011 9:40 am

PeterB wrote:Quite so Ben...perhaps I should have been clearer that by positive I meant in terms of the energising effect on day to day life and practice...rather than it being a smooth and untroubled ride....thanks for the opportunity to clarify.
:anjali:

No problem Peter!
As a matter of interest, why this and the other poll?
Thanks

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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 11, 2011 9:54 am

Curiosity mostly....when I first got into all this ..when Fred Flinstone was a lad....long before computers and videos, it was considered an absolutely natural thing to progress from books to a talk at your local Buddhist group, and then to do retreats.
I wondered if that in this computer age was still the trajectory for most, or at least many .
The first poll suggests that for a proportion of forum members it still is.
The second poll was in response to a suggestion that some may attend a retreat and it have a negative impact in terms of their daily practice...I thought that worth looking at.
For the second poll I considered having above the" Very Positive " option an " Essential" option.but seemed to have the potential to be divisive.
As there was the possibilty that it would be interpretated not simply as essential for that individual, but for for everyone.
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby zavk » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:01 am

My comments re: the benefits of retreat. When speaking to people who ask about retreat, I usually suggest that the thrust of the retreat--what brings 'benefits'--is not so much how deep one goes in meditation or what sorts of meditative experience one has. This is not to say that such experiences do not happen, but to use those as criteria to measure the worth of a retreat is unhelpful. I usually emphasise to them that it is the EFFORT--the fact the one makes a point to pluck oneself out of one's habitual patterns and follow through on one's decision with firm resolution--this, I suggest to them, is what really brings benefits. I sometimes give the analogy of running on a treadmill: there's an added sense of fulfilment and wellbeing (for me, anyway) when I can follow through on my initial decision to complete an entire session without looking at the timer counting down and without stopping.

I understand what phil is trying to get at in the other thread about not putting retreat on a pedestal, as it were. There are dangers with overemphasising meditation retreat, case in point those groups or movements who treat meditation like a kind of sport and who readily proclaim their meditative achievements (as if they could use coloured belts to signify their accomplishments like in Taekwando or something). But given our contemporary lifestyles which are so compartmentalised and regulated by the clock, the very act of removing oneself from those conditions and following through on the decision let go of distractions and to learn to be still and quiet--that in itself is very beneficial. That's how I've experienced it and that's how I explain it to people who are curious about retreat. The actual benefits of the meditation itself, well, that varies from person to person.
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:11 am

What about yourself Ed, given the obvious crudity of a poll as a measure of anything...what has been your experience of retreats in terms of establishing or maintaining a regular practice ?
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby zavk » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:59 am

PeterB wrote:What about yourself Ed, given the obvious crudity of a poll as a measure of anything...what has been your experience of retreats in terms of establishing or maintaining a regular practice ?


Oh, I didn't sit my first Goenka course till about one a half years after I got into Buddhism. Prior to that I had gone for only one weekend non-residential retreat (now that you ask, it was with Ajahn Chandako--I heard the simile 'a honed and heavy axe' re: vipassana/samatha and it was really helpful in those early days). But I don't know if I'm representative because I was so looking forward to a retreat. I had been wanting to do it for a while but had to wait for things to get out of the way. So I went into the retreat with a very 'switched on' attitude, which did cause some hinderance in terms of expectations and projections. So I'd definitely warn others about this too. Don't project too much into a retreat before sitting one.

Nevertheless, retreats in general have been very helpful in boosting momentum. Bracketing the question of meditative experience itself, the rhythm of a retreat does carry over into everyday life. But nevertheless, I think one still needs to make a constant effort at keeping up the rhythm. Still, a boost every now and then can be helpful--a boost in effort and determination, that is.
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby Ben » Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:07 am

zavk wrote:My comments re: the benefits of retreat. When speaking to people who ask about retreat, I usually suggest that the thrust of the retreat--what brings 'benefits'--is not so much how deep one goes in meditation or what sorts of meditative experience one has. This is not to say that such experiences do not happen, but to use those as criteria to measure the worth of a retreat is unhelpful. I usually emphasise to them that it is the EFFORT--the fact the one makes a point to pluck oneself out of one's habitual patterns and follow through on one's decision with firm resolution--this, I suggest to them, is what really brings benefits. I sometimes give the analogy of running on a treadmill: there's an added sense of fulfilment and wellbeing (for me, anyway) when I can follow through on my initial decision to complete an entire session without looking at the timer counting down and without stopping.

I understand what phil is trying to get at in the other thread about not putting retreat on a pedestal, as it were. There are dangers with overemphasising meditation retreat, case in point those groups or movements who treat meditation like a kind of sport and who readily proclaim their meditative achievements (as if they could use coloured belts to signify their accomplishments like in Taekwando or something). But given our contemporary lifestyles which are so compartmentalised and regulated by the clock, the very act of removing oneself from those conditions and following through on the decision let go of distractions and to learn to be still and quiet--that in itself is very beneficial. That's how I've experienced it and that's how I explain it to people who are curious about retreat. The actual benefits of the meditation itself, well, that varies from person to person.


Yeah, I agree. Though I would add "right" effort. And that's not meant to be a smart-arsed correction. By right effort I mean that we are not just developing the resolution to follow through with our intentions for the mere mundane benefit of being able to finish what we start out to do. CErtainly, that benefit accrues but the benefit of right effort is that we are engaged in an activity that takes us in direct opposition to the ingrained habit of seeking satiation of sensory desires and generally living a life in ignorance of the nature of nama and rupa - and keeps us going despite the difficulties and the storms.

Another thing I want to say relates to my own experience. Following my first retreat I was euphoric. And in part, one of the reasons that I continued with practice and attended my second retreat was in response to, and to repeat, the euphoric post-retreat experience. As I continued to practice I think I have matured to an extent and fortunately I dropped the need to seek satiation of a rarified sensory desire. Thank goodness for that!
But the real benefit to me, I believe, is in day to day life. Retreats, for me, condition the stability of daily practice. And it is daily practice that produces the lion share of the positive impacts of walking the path.
There's so much more peace, happiness and a distict absence of baggage. And my relationships with others are more positive, more wholesome. I'm certainly not 'there' by any stretch of the imagination, but my confidence in the path is unshakable.

Ben
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby zavk » Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:19 am

Yeah, Right Effort is crucial. I had to relearn my understanding of effort when I first visited the hermitage where, unlike Goenka courses, there wasn't any timetable or instructions or rules apart from the sila and the serving of breakfast to the Bhante. Until then, my effort had been guided by the timetable of the courses. But at the hermitage, I had to relearn what 'Right Effort' means--I had to start by learning not to expect certain results or expect to sit X number of hours by X number of days. This is not to say that Goenka courses are bad--far from it: the timetable structuring the course and the discipline needed to complete a course are invaluable.

So I would add to that: if not for the first few years where I sat a full ten-days retreat annually as well as give service in ten-days and sit/serve in three-days retreats, I probably wouldn't be able to ease into meditation as easily as I do now. In the past six-eight months, I haven't been sitting daily. I'm slightly disappointed but at the same time not upset about it as such, because as I've mentioned before I've learnt to accept that one's life-practice changes over time in response to life situations. But I find that when I do meditate (average of four days a week?), I ease into it quite readily. When I say 'ease into it', it is not a matter of how deep or how concentrated I get. Maybe sometimes I do, I dunno.... by 'ease' I mean to say that I simply sit. However long I sit, however I feel (settled or scattered), I just sit and when the time is up, I stop. I don't dwell on it too much. This is something I had to learn of course, but that initial period of sustained effort and discipline played a big part I think. Perhaps for others the effort and discipline could be cultivated with other means, like dana/service for instance. But for me, the best way to cultivate effort is to pluck myself out of my comfort zone--the change of environment alone is a huge challenge in itself!

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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:59 am

Sadhu !
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby Phra Chuntawongso » Fri Feb 11, 2011 2:13 pm

I became a monk and teach meditation.
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Lost in time
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 11, 2011 2:35 pm

A very positive result Bhante...... :anjali:
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:46 pm

PeterB wrote:For the second poll I considered having above the" Very Positive " option an " Essential" option.but seemed to have the potential to be divisive.

Hmm, yes, that's what I would have voted, given the choice. A couple of days on retreat will sort out things for me that weeks or months of daily practise make little dent in.

One of my Dhamma friends likes to use a rachet analogy. Daily practise done well prevents slipping back, but it is difficult to really rachet forward without retreats. At least that's our experience.

:anjali:
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:11 pm

Mine too Mike...absolutely essential for my practice.
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:28 pm

I second MikeNZ on that. My first retreat did for me in 5days what took me a 5 weeks at home. I can say for myself that I see the suttas coming alive when I practice on retreat. There is nothing beyond reach, in that perfect environment for dhamma practice. Any negative experiences? A bit of frustration re lack of progress (which is a common problem for me) but that is not only in retreats! I think retreats are best utilised to catapault the mind to greater depths than we can do at home.

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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 11, 2011 8:38 pm

:anjali:
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby phil » Sat Feb 12, 2011 4:07 am

Very impressive comments, I'm glad I asked in the other thread. You know the way a comment that you read or hear can stick in your mind for years, I think something from these posts will do so and help me to do a retreat in Thailand in the the future, thanks. But I think of Cooran's signature, which I've known for years here and elsewhere: 'The problem is that you think you have time.'

edit. I could also think of doing a Goenka retreat, available here in Japan, get over any prejudices I have and give it a shot....
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Re: Poll The fruits of Retreat.

Postby alan » Sat Feb 12, 2011 4:58 am

Tell you the truth, first 3 days of my first retreat were filled with dreams of escape. I dreamed of jumping over the wall and running off!
The fruits? Learning to sit through that.
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