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Self-directed Meditation Retreat?

racerskaracerska Indiana, USA Explorer

Hello everyone,
I'm still new to the Buddhist meditation practice (about one year so far), I try to meditate once a day, but life and work sometimes get in the way. I'd really like to go on a retreat, like a 3 or 4 day one, because I think it would be a really helpful and insightful experience.

I don't have much money to travel, and there doesn't seem to be any retreats in my area. I was thinking about trying to do a self-directed retreat. I was thinking about going camping or someplace where I can have solitude. Does anyone have any experience with doing something like? Do you have advice on a daily schedule or how to organize a self-directed retreat? Any and all helpful comments are welcome.

Thanks in advance.

seeker242Invincible_summerdantepw

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited October 2015

    Every minute you spend awake, is a minute in which you can 'meditate'.

    Meditation is not only about solitude, silence, no distractions and a peaceful atmosphere in idyllic surroundings.

    Meditation can be washing up, waiting for a bus, painting the skirting board and peeling the potatoes.

    When you can sit in calm abiding listening to the roar of traffic and the pounding of a roadworks jackhammer - then you're meditating.

    "Life and Work" are central to meditation - to being in the moment - to being present and focused.

    The daily schedule during a self-directed retreat is to wake up, rise, and do everything with the utmost presence, avoiding any unnecessary thought or commentary.

    When you feel you can pretty well achieve 5 minutes of this, without any type of exhausting effort, then a retreat would be beneficial....

    howInvincible_summerdantepwKale4Dayz
  • racerskaracerska Indiana, USA Explorer

    I see what you're saying. Of course, mindfulness can, and should, be brought to every waking moment. Perhaps my desire to go on a "retreat" is a longing to "retreat" from the noise and distraction of my everyday life.

    how
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited October 2015

    @racerska -- Write it down and then follow the schedule you have outlined -- when to meditate; for how long; when to do walking meditation; when to chant and what if you like chanting; when to go to the bathroom; when to eat; when to bow; when to sleep; when to do cleaning; when to cook; what food to lay in ahead of time... be as specific as possible and then don't be disappointed when the whole thing goes off the tracks.

    Trying to find the perfect location is unnecessary. Just straighten up a corner of your dwelling and use that. If you can't cope with the racket in meditation practice, what good could it possibly be? Sit with the racket. Sit with the silence. Just stick to your outline. Make a promise, keep a promise.

    I suggest you try one day instead of three or four. The heroin-addict's approach to Buddhist practice (if one's good, two's better) is a mistake you don't need to make. Promise yourself a day and then keep that promise.

    If you complete the day, then take the time to reflect later: What worked, what didn't, etc.

    Be patient. Be as thorough as you can. Make a promise, keep a promise.

    Best wishes.

    Invincible_summerdantepwKale4Dayz
  • racerskaracerska Indiana, USA Explorer

    Thank you, @genkaku I'll try that.
    I had to chuckle at your addict comment. I do tend to get obsessive about things I'm excited about, but you're right, over-committing means I might be setting myself up for frustration. Small steps.

  • howhow Veteran
    edited October 2015

    @racerska

    Sometimes making a commitment to retreat is just the placing of a greater priority on the meditation/Dharmic practice than on anything else,
    but
    the external conditions of a retreat can also remind you of what you are trying to do,
    where your conditioned behaviors to do other wise might otherwise control you.

    You can set up a schedule for yourself to follow inter spacing sitting meditation with walking meditation with sitting meditation with Dharma reading with basic meal preparation with mindful eating, with clean up and a rest and then start the cycle again. Arrange the schedule with compassion in mind for yourself and then stick with it.

    Good journeys.

    Invincible_summerdantepw
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @racerska said:
    Thank you, genkaku I'll try that.
    I had to chuckle at your addict comment. I do tend to get obsessive about things I'm excited about, but you're right, over-committing means I might be setting myself up for frustration. Small steps.

    Hi @racerska - welcome!

    May I ask what tradition you follow?

  • Welcome to your NewBuddhist Retreat B)

    Self directed retreat? - sounds like a plan <3

    Most of my present retreats are solo as I am not fit for decent Buddhist company :3

    I tend to set myself a goal, for example learning a sadhana or mantra ...

    http://yinyana.tumblr.com/post/32945166677/here-is-my-practice-as-a-comic

  • @racerska said: I was thinking about going camping or someplace where I can have solitude. Does anyone have any experience with doing something like? Do you have advice on a daily schedule or how to organize a self-directed retreat? Any and all helpful comments are welcome.

    That could work quite well. I think it's good to have some structure, but not too much, allow yourself free time to just be, or go for long walks or whatever. Maybe aim to do some meditation sessions in the morning but leave the afternoons free, something like that?
    If you can get the money together eventually to travel to an organised retreat I think you would find it very useful.

    lobster
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    Solo retreats are an extraordinarily good practice! It's customary in my tradition to do 100 day solo retreats. Of course, you don't have to do for so long. Even just 2 days is still good.

    This is the typical schedule. Although, in the USA, the wake up time is not as early. More like 5 AM or so.

    http://www.musangsa.org/english/sub04/sub04_4.php

    racerska
  • Very good advice from @SpinyNorman ... it is very important to include free time, in fact that should be the majority of your retreat. You should NOT do vipassana marathons or sitting like a statue for too long - you might do yourself a mischief ... and turn into a rainbow or something ... [lobster faints]

    Structure is useful and please do consider:

    • study
    • introspection
    • walking
    • shrine building
    • prostrations
    • advising wayward cructaceans
    • listening to calming waves or gurgling streams (available as an app)
    • turning off media devices

    are all part of the retreat - to step back from ones monkey minded routine <3

    Invincible_summerracerska
  • You laid in bed till 3am!? Sheer luxury! We never even had beds, we had to snatch a few minutes of sleep in a crocodile infested swamp, but only if we were lucky, mind you.

    seeker242Invincible_summer
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    you had a swamp..?!

    S-h-e-e-r luxury.....!

    Invincible_summer
  • We used to dream of a retreat in a crocodile infested swamp.

    We used to get up half an hour before lights out, chant dharma to the luxurious demons, fast on moonbeams and crave for rebirth as an insect, if we were lucky ...

    ... and you try telling that to the new buddhists of today and they won't believe you ...

    Invincible_summerracerskaWalkerDairyLama
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    there is value in both retreat and every day life, of course. I try to go at least once a year, camping by myself. I just take the kayak and minimal gear. I don't worry about a schedule, I just stay mindful of my reasons for going. Setting up camp and living in that environment is a peaceful experience even if you aren't sitting on a rock meditating. I just spend time collecting myself and regrouping. Nature is very grounding for me and I spend a lot of time in it both alone and with family/friends. I do meditate a lot, but I don't set timers or anything when I am camping. I spend a lot of time just breathing. But when you camp, keep in mind that there is a lot to do all the time. Tending a fire and planning and making meals takes up a significant amount of time even for simple meals.

    I love the reminder of what it takes to keep us alive. Our lives are so different outside of survival. I like remembering and having that connection to providing for myself and doing everything that is necessary to keep me safe. I don't usually bring a tent because of how much space it takes in my small kayak. I either hammock camp or sleep in my sleeping bag (I have a military system sleeping bag that is designed to be used out in the open with protection from rain). I keep my meals pretty basic, but I like to eat well so no freeze dried meals for me. I eat real food, lol.

    lobster
  • racerskaracerska Indiana, USA Explorer

    @Bunks said:
    May I ask what tradition you follow?

    Hi @Bunks
    I attend a Theravada temple for Metta Meditation, but I don't "claim" any particular tradition. I'm exploring different techniques and ideas to see what seems best for me.

    Invincible_summerlobster
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @racerska said:
    I attend a Theravada temple for Metta Meditation, but I don't "claim" any particular tradition. I'm exploring different techniques and ideas to see what seems best for me.

    Understood.

    In the Tibetan tradition I follow we are encouraged to follow Lamrim (the Gradual Path to Enlightenment).

    http://thubtenchodron.org/meditation/06-lamrim/

    If I were to undertake a week long retreat I'd attempt to cycle through the whole series once. Perhaps undertaking 4 or 5 meditations per day.

    racerska
  • I would like to set up a cyber retreat based on this real life course ...
    http://www.actionforhappiness.org/media/498423/exploring_what_matters_course_leader.pdf

    ... but do not have the inclination ...

    Self retreats Mahayana style should involve participation in saving others as saving ourselves is so passé ...

    racerska
  • I would suggest starting with a one day retreat first but if you know you're ready for a longer one go for it.

    I've done a bunch of retreats on my own. Its important to have a schedule for the whole day and stick to it. I usually do something like this:

    5am wake, drink coffee, bathroom stretch
    5:30 - 7:30 meditate
    7:30 - 8:30 make and eat breakfast
    8:30-10:30 some kind of work practice cleaning something in the house, working on a simple project, gardening etc
    10:30-12:30 meditate
    12:30-1:30 make and eat lunch
    1:30-3:30 a break. Make sure to keep the mind quiet durring the break. Often I'll just sit in a chair instead of my cushin, do yoga, go for a run, a walk, sit in the park. Don't read or do anything to stir up thoughts.
    3:30-5:30 meditate
    5:30-6:30 make and eat dinner
    6:30-8:30 meditate

    I break up those big 2 hour chunks of mediation with 10 minute walking meditation periods

    This practice brings up both physical and emotional difficulty, it is hard to sit still and face our minds and feel our pain, it requires determination to sit through it especially if on your own.

    Also it is important to be clear about what you're practice is. What is it you're meditating on? If your breath, what part of your breath, your belly or nose or chest or whole breath? Its important to be clear, if its your belly stick to your belly and don't deviate from it, stay with it and when you get distracted come back over and over and over and over and over and if a polar bear crashes through the wall and starts eating your furniture don't get distracted! Just keep doing your practice, trust in your practice. Be as a aware as possible, if you are feeling your breath feel it in great detail, be passionate about it, feel the sensation as closely as you can, feel every little tiny movement of the breath and keep returning. Keep your body as still as possible and pay attention to the object of your mediation!

    Personally I find retreat practice is essential. If you do it whole heartedly it will transform you in ways you can't imagine.

    Going camping or something isn't that important, just choose a room that is clean, you can face the wall or look at the floor try not to have distractions in your view like pictures of your mother in law around and go for it.

    As you continue to practice it will be important to have a teacher. It is wonderful to have a community to practice with as well and very beneficial to our practice. There is probably some type of sitting group near you if you look hard enough.

    Bunksracerska
  • As you become aware, everything and everybody becomes your teacher.

  • racerskaracerska Indiana, USA Explorer

    @Simplify thank you! That seems like a very doable program.

    lobster
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @Simplify thank you! That seems like a very doable program.

    I have a hunch it may seem very "doable" right up to the moment you do it. :)

    lobster
  • @genkaku said: I have a hunch it may seem very "doable" right up to the moment you do it. :)

    Yeah, a programme like that would be very demanding on an organised retreat.

    lobster
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