Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

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Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby twelph » Fri Aug 03, 2012 4:10 am

Due to financial constraints, my aspirations to visit Myanmar for a month to go on a retreat will have to be put on hold. So, next week I will be going camping on public use land in Colorado for a month with the sole purpose of intensive meditation. I have all my supplies ready, and am pretty excited. I've stayed at several monasteries for a month or so, but nothing that can be considered a retreat. Therefore I understand I should be gentle to myself, especially without a teacher present. I don't foresee any huge problems, but who knows. I plan on trying to follow a retreat schedule if possible and refrain from eating past noon. The two books that I will be studying are "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi and "Dhamma Everywhere" by Sayadaw U Tejaniya. I'm already intimately familiar with the latter, but I find re-reading it over and over has helped re-align my meditation habits whenever I develop some sort of obstructive view about how I'm supposed to be practicing.

Anyways, the purpose of this post is to ask if anyone might have any suggestions for me? The stronger the feeling that I have everything figured out, the more usually goes wrong :) .
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby Ben » Fri Aug 03, 2012 4:32 am

Hi Twelfth,

Have you had any experience attending meditation retreats? If not, then you may wish to develop a timetable and stick to it.
And watch out for bears!
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 4:45 am

Hi Twelph,

Good luck with the retreat!

One thing you might consider is getting together a series of retreat-oriented talks relevant to your particular practice approach, so you can listen to a talk each day, as you might on an organised retreat.

For example, if you look on http://dharmaseed.org/teachers/ then for some teachers there are series of talks given on retreats. As an example, if you look at Steve Armstrong's talks http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/170/ or U Vivekananda's talks http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/186/ you'll see some sets that have clearly been given sequentially at a retreat. The same will apply to many posts there.

:anjali:
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby twelph » Fri Aug 03, 2012 4:53 am

Ben wrote:Hi Twelfth,

Have you had any experience attending meditation retreats? If not, then you may wish to develop a timetable and stick to it.
And watch out for bears!
kind regards,

Ben


Nope, no experience. Found a schedule on Sayadaw U Tejaniya's web site that I will probably be using as a rough draft:

From To Activities
3:30 Am Wake up time
4:00 Am 5:00 Am Sitting meditation
5:30 Am Breakfast time
7:00Am 8:00 Am Sitting meditation
8:00 Am 9:00 Am Walking meditation
9:00 Am 10:00 Am Dhamma talk by Sayadaw and sitting meditation
10:30 Am 12:00 Pm Lunch time
12:00 Pm 1:00 Pm Walking meditation
1:00 Pm 2:00 Pm Sitting meditation
2:00 Pm 3:00 Pm Walking meditation
3:00 Pm 4:00 Pm Sitting meditation
4:00 Pm 5:00 Pm Walking meditation
5:00 Pm 6:00 Pm Sitting meditation
6:00 Pm 8:00 Pm Interviews with Sayadaw
8:00 Pm 9:00 Pm Walking meditation
9:00 Pm Bed time

As for bears, thankfully I will be developing my faculties of "bear attention" :jumping:



mikenz66 wrote:Hi Twelph,

Good luck with the retreat!

One thing you might consider is getting together a series of retreat-oriented talks relevant to your particular practice approach, so you can listen to a talk each day, as you might on an organised retreat.

For example, if you look on http://dharmaseed.org/teachers/ then for some teachers there are series of talks given on retreats. As an example, if you look at Steve Armstrong's talks http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/170/ or U Vivekananda's talks http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/186/ you'll see some sets that have clearly been given sequentially at a retreat. The same will apply to many posts there.

:anjali:
Mike


I was considering something like that, need to grab myself an MP3 player with a decent battery life, thanks!
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Aug 03, 2012 4:58 am

Greetings,

I'm just curious as to why you've decided to go "solo" than to do it at a monastery?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby twelph » Fri Aug 03, 2012 5:28 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

I'm just curious as to why you've decided to go "solo" than to do it at a monastery?

Metta,
Retro. :)


I do not have the funds to travel out of the county, and month long meditation retreats in the states cost almost the same. I have visited and stayed at monasteries such as Abhayagiri, along with Mahayana monasteries like Deer Park and CTTB all in Cali. I am unaware of any monastery that has all of the following retreat criteria that I am looking for:
1) Little to no cost, around $12 a day max for setting up camp.

2) Month long stay available on first visit. Had I been able to schedule a stay at Wat Metta while I was in Cali, the second time I scheduled a visit I might have been able to stay longer, but no luck :(

3) Emphasis on meditation and minimal speaking

4) No working in kitchens for long hours or working on a farm for 8 hours a day (CTTB, my back is still not the same). I have absolutely no issues with doing my part to contribute, but it's hard for me to maintain mindfulness while doing more than a few chores throughout the day.

Unless there is somewhere I can just show up at next week that fits somewhat into those criteria, I'm thinking meditation in the forest is the best I can accomplish. Though I wouldn't mind suggestions!

Essentially I am looking for this experience:
"There is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, and setting mindfulness to the fore.[1] Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out." :anjali:
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Aug 03, 2012 5:50 am

Greetings,

Thanks for sharing your reasons. I have no drama with them... I was just interested in how you came to the decision.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby twelph » Fri Aug 03, 2012 6:00 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Thanks for sharing your reasons. I have no drama with them... I was just interested in how you came to the decision.

Metta,
Retro. :)


I just used your question as a way to make sure I didn't overlook something when coming to this decision :) .
Last edited by twelph on Fri Aug 03, 2012 6:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Aug 03, 2012 6:01 am

Greetings,

twelph wrote:I just used your question as a way to make sure I didn't overlook something something when coming to this decision :) .

Yep, I can dig it. 8-)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby marc108 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 7:07 am

this is awesome. may your retreat be productive :anjali:
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby James the Giant » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:26 pm

Good luck!
Personally, I would not attempt a month-long solo retreat. Camping in the woods sure, or hiking, but meditating by oneself, with no support for feedback and supervision, no thanks.
A teacher or sayadaw is very useful to ask what's happening when the weird stuff starts happening.

Also, I seem to require a group of others to motivate me... I get lax and am overcome by one or other of the hindrances unless there's someone else there who will notice me being lazy or agitated or whatever. The other people don't need to say anything, or even notice, but my sense of "hiri" (moral shame) is usefully activated when there are others around.

I did a 3-day solo retreat, and even by day three I noticed some slackening of discipline in myself.
Maybe you're different, but don't beat yourself up if you can't manage the whole 30 days.
A month is a long time.

But don't let my words dissuade you, just be ready for Mara to come gunning for you.
What a great opportunity you have!

Can you describe what you are taking in terms of camping gear, food, etc? What will the weather be like?
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby Ben » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:48 pm

Nice post by James.
Like James I would hesitate to do a month long solo retreat - and that is after 27 years of regular yearly retreats of ten days up to one month.
In the event that you haven't considered it - have you thought about doing ten-day retreats in the Goenka 'tradition'? They are almost completely silent and are run on a non-obligatory dana basis. Many 'students' attend retreats back-to-back for months at a time, alternating between attending as a 'student' and as a 'server'. There are over 100 centres worldwide and there could be one relatively close to you.
http://www.dhamma.org
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby twelph » Fri Aug 03, 2012 7:34 pm

James the Giant wrote:Can you describe what you are taking in terms of camping gear, food, etc? What will the weather be like?


I actually enjoy camping quite a bit, and will have no shame in just being mindful while camping/hiking if I find I need to take a break from a rigorous schedule. The weather seems to be about 50/50 during the time I'm staying there, it's a little bit hard to find 28 consecutive days in that part of the country with perfect weather. I have no problem setting up tarps to protect myself from wind/rain while cooking and cleaning. As for supplies: tent, fuel/stove, water and filtration system, gps, compass, cookware, lot's of freeze dried and dehydrated vegetables, beans, meat-like products, seasoning, pasta, bran cereal, sleeping bag/pad, clothes for varying weather, a way to secure my food high up in a tree, zafu and rectangular cushion, products for cleanliness. I'll be dividing my time between two separate national forests about 3 hours away from each other, 14 days at each, while doing laundry and reassessing supplies in between. I might possibly stay at a campground once or twice to clean up more thoroughly and test my mindfulness around other people.

Ben wrote:have you thought about doing ten-day retreats in the Goenka 'tradition'?

I have heavily considered it, but several factors have dissuaded me including the preference for camping, length of stay, and the fact that I wouldn't even be considering this solitary retreat if it were not for my confidence in my current practice. I have practiced body scanning techniques in the style of Goenka with recordings from their retreats, but my current practice is so vastly different now that I am not in a hurry to switch away from something that is working so well for me. It is an excellent option though, and if I find I am unable to do things on my own then I will possibly seek out one of these retreats.

Thanks for the food for thought people! :anjali:
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby SamBodhi » Fri Aug 03, 2012 8:19 pm

mikenz66 wrote:...
One thing you might consider is getting together a series of retreat-oriented talks relevant to your particular practice approach, so you can listen to a talk each day, as you might on an organised retreat.
...
:anjali:
Mike


I would second this suggestion. If you don't have an mp3 player with a good battery life, might I suggest finding the transcribed and published versions, print them out, take it with you and read one a day. If you think this might be too much reading with the books you already have, maybe the talks would take precedence. :shrug: Anybody agree/disagree?

Also, I would love to hear how it went afterward. I am going to do a three-day solo camping retreat in Southern Missouri and I could use some pointers I'm sure. If it stays this hot through August, I will probably use a vastly different schedule than yours. :)


with Metta,
S.
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unentangled knowing,
All outward-going knowing
cast aside."
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Aug 03, 2012 8:41 pm

I too am interested to hear how you get on. Will you be keeping any kind of diary?
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby twelph » Fri Aug 03, 2012 9:41 pm

SamBodhi wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:...
One thing you might consider is getting together a series of retreat-oriented talks relevant to your particular practice approach, so you can listen to a talk each day, as you might on an organised retreat.
...
:anjali:
Mike

I would second this suggestion.
S.


The more I consider it, I will most definitely be grabbing myself an MP3 player that takes AAA batteries for $25 from office depot and filling it up with retreat material. Going on an extended solo retreat will be tough as it is, but not even hearing the voices of other people might be a whole different adventure. I don't want to convince myself that I'm the only person left in the world :thinking: . I'll also be including some Q&A with students from retreats. What I'm considering so far:
http://dharmaseed.org/retreats/1446/
http://www.audiodharma.org/series/2/talk/3111/
http://www.audiodharma.org/series/2/talk/3142/
Along with a random assortment of talks from Gil Fronsdal, Steve Armstrong, and some of my other favorite teachers and monks on dharmaseed and audiodharma.

dharmagoat wrote:I too am interested to hear how you get on. Will you be keeping any kind of diary?

Most likely not. I prefer to avoid the pitfalls of writing experiences down and possibly giving them more meaning than they deserve. Especially without a teacher present, my plans are to not give any significance to particular experiences.

When moving from one location to the other during my halfway mark, I might find myself some wifi and post an update on this thread just for the curious.
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby marc108 » Sat Aug 04, 2012 12:51 am

are you bringing a cell phone with you (you should)? i think i remember you making a post that you like Taan Geoffs teachings... i believe you should be able to arrange daily or near daily talks with him for a personal retreat. 619-813-8461 between 6 and 7pm pacific.
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby James the Giant » Sat Aug 04, 2012 1:04 am

marc108 wrote:are you bringing a cell phone with you (you should)? i think i remember you making a post that you like Taan Geoffs teachings... i believe you should be able to arrange daily or near daily talks with him for a personal retreat. 619-813-8461 between 6 and 7pm pacific.

Wow, that's a great idea if there's cellphone reception! And that the cellphone stays OFF for the rest of the time!
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby twelph » Sat Aug 04, 2012 1:39 am

marc108 wrote:are you bringing a cell phone with you (you should)? i think i remember you making a post that you like Taan Geoffs teachings... i believe you should be able to arrange daily or near daily talks with him for a personal retreat. 619-813-8461 between 6 and 7pm pacific.


Dont know if there is cell phone reception out there, but if there is then that would be a good reason to turn it on, good idea.

Slightly related, last year I was backpacking in Cali for 8 months staying at monasteries, and realized I was close to his Monastery when I was visiting Deer Park. Sadly he was filled up for several months, so I got it into my head that I could camp out in a forest over a mile away and walk into the monastery every morning. Needless to say, someone found out and told on me, and Thanissaro Bhikkhu politely asked me to wait till there was a spot available. I guess there is such thing as too much determination :) .
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Re: Month Long Solitary Meditation Retreat

Postby twelph » Sat Aug 25, 2012 5:14 am

My retreat was shortened to two weeks for personal reasons, I just finished the last day yesterday. I probably would have made an excuse and stopped after the first two weeks anyways, as having to relocate to a different forest after 14 days would have taken a long time to get re-situated. I had decided to get away from roads and hike out a little ways to immerse myself in the wilderness.

Because of it raining sometimes a couple days at a time, along with small animals harassing my tent while I tried to sleep during the second week, having a set schedule seemed impossible. I have to admit that during a period of intense raining lasting two days I succumbed to desire and drove down the mountain to acquire an internet connection and get myself a meal at a restaurant.

I checked out the forums during that brief time on the internet, and was instantly drawn to the Thanissaro Bhikkhu ; Right Mindfulness thread. Having had my own issues with some of his previous teachings, my mind felt intensely strained and constricted while reading the thread after having just been in a very good place. My own aversion to the subject became fascinating to me, and my solution to studying the process further was to download the book to my e-reader and study it during my retreat. I'll go ahead and post directly in that corresponding thread my thoughts on the book so as not to derail this thread.

All in all I was extremely over-prepared for the trip, and the only difficulties came from the rain, night time critters, and my own discipline. I tried my best to switch constantly between walking, sitting, and studying. I probably averaged about 45 minutes during my sits, never going past an hour except for meditation before bed while waiting to get sleepy. Interestingly there were about a half dozen times where I would feel like I needed a break and would tell myself to "stop meditating". This would be followed by some of the most joyful and insightful moments of the retreat, though it didn't take very long before I would realize it was time to start putting forth some effort again so as not to sacrifice the momentum that was there.

Other than that I'll answer any questions anyone might have if they have ever considered doing something similar. I can't comment on the effectiveness of the retreat, as I don't have much to compare it to besides a few times living at non-retreat monasteries in the states and regular personal practice. I still feel like I'm on retreat, so that's nice :). I will say that the most important thing to consider (and I had realized this before even starting the retreat) is that while being secluded from everyone and everything, if you do not make an extra effort to be friendly to yourself you will not be a happy camper :jumping:
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