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.
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725Compassionate Hands Foundation
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