Meditation retreat?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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rolling_boulder
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Meditation retreat?

Post by rolling_boulder »

Hi, this year I am considering attending a 10-day meditation retreat at one of the Goenka vipassana centers.

Since 10 days is a big investment I have a little hesitation. I'm not used to meditating many hours a day. Also, I am uncertain whether the meditation center will have a cultlike atmosphere. Can anyone with some experience give me an honest opinion on these centers and perhaps some encouragement? Thank you
RB
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Goofaholix
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Re: Meditation retreat?

Post by Goofaholix »

You're concerns are valid, some people don't mind it and cope surprising well on their first retreat others have a very negative reaction.

I think for your first retreat something gentler like IMS or the thai forest tradition would be better.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah
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mikenz66
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Re: Meditation retreat?

Post by mikenz66 »

I found the retreat I did some time ago very helpful. It's not my normal approach but it was well organised, strict about not talking, and the "assistant" teacher was helpful. The instructions were recordings of Goenka.

There is no formal walking, which made it tough, but I spent the breaks between sitting walking to prevent myself seizing up. Before that I'd only done much less strict 2-3 day retreats.

How "cult like" it feels would depend on location and attitude. My attitude is to try out a teacher by following instructions and not arguing internally. If you do that you should be fine.

Do make sure you have your posture and attitude sorted out for long sits. You can't power your way through it like you could a single sit. It requires a combination of determination and relaxation in my experience.

Mike
Pinetree
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Re: Meditation retreat?

Post by Pinetree »

Also, I am uncertain whether the meditation center will have a cultlike atmosphere.
There is no need to use the "atmosphere" as object of meditation.
Last edited by Pinetree on Mon Apr 18, 2016 4:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
SarathW
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Re: Meditation retreat?

Post by SarathW »

What is the definition of a cult?
In which way a meditation retreat have the characteristics of the cult?
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Cormac Brown
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Re: Meditation retreat?

Post by Cormac Brown »

rolling_boulder wrote:Hi, this year I am considering attending a 10-day meditation retreat at one of the Goenka vipassana centers.

Since 10 days is a big investment I have a little hesitation. I'm not used to meditating many hours a day. Also, I am uncertain whether the meditation center will have a cultlike atmosphere. Can anyone with some experience give me an honest opinion on these centers and perhaps some encouragement? Thank you
RB
Highly recommend visiting a Thai Forest monastery instead. Much better environment. I've experience of a Goenka retreat and wouldn't readily recommend it if you have the chance to visit operating monasteries with Vinaya-following monks, and well-practising laypeople. I had a relatively positive experience, but a friend I recommended it to had a really traumatic one, and found there to be a lack of support for his problems. He then tried to leave early and was faced with aggressive opposition from the "staff". I'll never recommend it to anyone again.

You'll have a comparatively hard time finding people claiming to have been traumatised or subjected to coercive/cult-like treatment at a Thai Forest monastery. Rather you'll find glowing experiences of people experiencing the fullness of Buddhist practice: encountering kind and helpful monastics; being inspired by their good demeanour and sila; having the opportunity to practice and witness dana/generosity; engaging Dhamma-conversations with new-found spiritual friends; the opportunity to study the Pali Canon and put it into practice in the meditation hall/walking path and in your interactions with fellow residents.
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worthless man Makkhali contradicts even me, (saying,) ‘There is no
action. There is no activity. There is no persistence.’ "
AN 3.138, trans. Ven. Thanissaro
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Ben
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Re: Meditation retreat?

Post by Ben »

I have been under the guidance of SN Goenka for over 30 years, I've sat and served many courses, inc. long courses. I've also served as secretary and trustee on a meditation centre trust.
My advice to you is if you don't have a chronic or acute health or mental health issue then give it a go. Having said that - it's not for everyone.

Even though it is an intense experience the ten-day course is an introductory level retreat within the tradition. Goenkaji says repeatedly that it is the 'kindergarten of Dhamma' and as such it aims for a western secular audience. Keep that in mind. The meditation practice itself has and continues to benefit me. Don't worry too much about not meditating for very long previously as there are sufficient breaks in between sessions.
Wishing you all the best,
Ben
rolling_boulder wrote:Hi, this year I am considering attending a 10-day meditation retreat at one of the Goenka vipassana centers.

Since 10 days is a big investment I have a little hesitation. I'm not used to meditating many hours a day. Also, I am uncertain whether the meditation center will have a cultlike atmosphere. Can anyone with some experience give me an honest opinion on these centers and perhaps some encouragement? Thank you
RB
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in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
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Chi
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Re: Meditation retreat?

Post by Chi »

Hi OP,

I would without reservation recommend a Goenka retreat if you feel inspired to invest 10 days of your life to meditate. Most people are very happy after the 10 days.

good luck!
Do Good, Avoid Evil, Purify the Mind.
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