Solo Retreat

Casual conversation between friends. Anything goes (almost).
Post Reply
boda
Posts: 1820
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:40 pm

Solo Retreat

Post by boda » Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:34 pm

I've been toying with the idea of going on a solo retreat lately and was wondering if anyone here has tried it and what their experience may have been like. I was thinking of camping for a few days, or maybe renting a cheep out of the way place. The basic idea being to remove as many distractions as possible in order to sustain a lengthly sitting practice so that I may possibly attain deeper level of samadhi than I've been able to achieve in daily sitting. I also speculate that this may increase the possibility of achieving an awakening experience (kensho or satori, in the Zen school).

Of course there are alway group retreats available. The longest I've done with a groups (Zen) has been only one day. I forget what they call a one day retreat.

I'm mentioning a lot of Zen terms but I'm curious about solo retreats within any framework.



Gotta love Watts.

So has anyone tried a solo retreat or have any thoughts on the idea?

Miroku
Posts: 473
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 11:18 am

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by Miroku » Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:55 pm

Honestly it depends on how long you want to stay in solo retreat. If you want to try something longer I think it is better to maybe go with longer group retreat first to have the experience and then start with a day solo, then a weekend solo, etc. :smile: Retreats can be hard on body and mind and many things can come up. It is important to go step by step and slowly explore your limitations.

Also it depends on how long you have been meditating, how strong is your will, if you follow a teacher, etc. I think that if you do follow a teacher then maybe asking him/her would be a good idea if you can. But my advice is get more experience in group setting first. Retreats are hard and it can happen that you end up just nodding off and not doing anything during the whole time.

But then again. If you are inspired and think you know what to do, then go on and don't let yourself be discouraged.
Child, if you are not hypocritical and out of control, that is conduct.
~ Padampa Sangye

You say such clever things to people, but you do not apply them to yourself.
The faults within you are the ones to be exposed.
~ Padampa Sangye

User avatar
Thomas Amundsen
Posts: 1860
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:50 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact:

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Tue Mar 27, 2018 11:08 pm

boda wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:34 pm

Of course there are alway group retreats available. The longest I've done with a groups (Zen) has been only one day. I forget what they call a one day retreat.
I think what I usually hear is"Zazenkai". Although that could be a few days, but it's shorter than a sesshin.

boda
Posts: 1820
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:40 pm

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by boda » Tue Mar 27, 2018 11:19 pm

I don't know why I didn't think of doing a search before starting this topic. There are a few but no one reporting on their experience.
Miroku wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:55 pm
Honestly it depends on how long you want to stay in solo retreat. If you want to try something longer I think it is better to maybe go with longer group retreat first to have the experience and then start with a day solo, then a weekend solo, etc. :smile: Retreats can be hard on body and mind and many things can come up. It is important to go step by step and slowly explore your limitations.

Also it depends on how long you have been meditating, how strong is your will, if you follow a teacher, etc. I think that if you do follow a teacher then maybe asking him/her would be a good idea if you can. But my advice is get more experience in group setting first. Retreats are hard and it can happen that you end up just nodding off and not doing anything during the whole time.

But then again. If you are inspired and think you know what to do, then go on and don't let yourself be discouraged.
I was thinking of trying 2 full days for the first try.

I've had a regular sitting practice for many years so it's all familiar territory, so to speak.

It could be that I end up just nodding off as you say. Have you seen this happen a lot?

User avatar
kirtu
Former staff member
Posts: 5840
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by kirtu » Wed Mar 28, 2018 12:31 am

Deeper experiences of concentration generally occur in group settings rather than individual settings (although this is not always the case either).

Outside of enlightenment, saving life or outstanding dharma teaching, sesshin is an unparalleled practice.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

Miroku
Posts: 473
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 11:18 am

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by Miroku » Wed Mar 28, 2018 8:42 am

boda wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 11:19 pm
I don't know why I didn't think of doing a search before starting this topic. There are a few but no one reporting on their experience.
Miroku wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:55 pm
Honestly it depends on how long you want to stay in solo retreat. If you want to try something longer I think it is better to maybe go with longer group retreat first to have the experience and then start with a day solo, then a weekend solo, etc. :smile: Retreats can be hard on body and mind and many things can come up. It is important to go step by step and slowly explore your limitations.

Also it depends on how long you have been meditating, how strong is your will, if you follow a teacher, etc. I think that if you do follow a teacher then maybe asking him/her would be a good idea if you can. But my advice is get more experience in group setting first. Retreats are hard and it can happen that you end up just nodding off and not doing anything during the whole time.

But then again. If you are inspired and think you know what to do, then go on and don't let yourself be discouraged.
I was thinking of trying 2 full days for the first try.

I've had a regular sitting practice for many years so it's all familiar territory, so to speak.

It could be that I end up just nodding off as you say. Have you seen this happen a lot?
I have done it a lot. :D I am not very strong willed.
Child, if you are not hypocritical and out of control, that is conduct.
~ Padampa Sangye

You say such clever things to people, but you do not apply them to yourself.
The faults within you are the ones to be exposed.
~ Padampa Sangye

User avatar
seeker242
Posts: 1289
Joined: Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:50 pm
Location: South Florida, USA

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by seeker242 » Wed Mar 28, 2018 1:20 pm

I have done solo retreats at home over weekends. Solo retreats are great! However, they do require more discipline than group retreats, but that's what makes them good practice! It's best to have a prearranged schedule instead of just doing whatever. Essentially, you just take the temple retreat schedule and use that by yourself. Korean style zen has a tradition of doing 100 day solo retreats and they are considered great practice.
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!

User avatar
Ayu
Former staff member
Posts: 6914
Joined: Mon Oct 29, 2012 8:25 am
Location: Europe

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by Ayu » Wed Mar 28, 2018 2:53 pm

I had a 10 day's solo retreat in a hut on a Dharma property. It was more intense than group retreat for me.

Camping would be no option for me, because I think nature is able to keep us busy all the time (cooking, moskitos, equipement, too hot/too cold ... etc).

My aim in that retreat was to deepen my practice and to understand some passages from difficult teachings. Some books I can only understand in a remote environment and atmosphere of concentration.
I found the result successful - although maybe I didn't achieve much. :yinyang:

I also had retreats for a weekend in my home. I told my family I was in retreat and I wouldn't talk. Then I locked the door and sat in my room. Somehow it was good to spend time with more intense practice - on the other hand all those things were still there e.g. distraction, quarrel outside, thoughts, duties...

Ten days in a hut were better. Maybe this was because the period was longer also. :shrug:
I have decided to stick with love.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. -

boda
Posts: 1820
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:40 pm

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by boda » Wed Mar 28, 2018 5:59 pm

seeker242 wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 1:20 pm
It's best to have a prearranged schedule instead of just doing whatever. Essentially, you just take the temple retreat schedule and use that by yourself.
Yeah I was thinking of doing it just like this, and with all meals worked out and everything.

boda
Posts: 1820
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:40 pm

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by boda » Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:11 pm

Ayu wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 2:53 pm
Camping would be no option for me, because I think nature is able to keep us busy all the time (cooking, moskitos, equipement, too hot/too cold ... etc).
All the chores could be part of the mindful practice. But yeah, nature can be unpredictable and potentially distracting. On the other hand, there's something about being in nature that calms the mind, I believe. I remember going on a camping trip years ago with a group and a day after arriving at the destination unexpectedly having to hike out by myself. It was a two day hike and by the end of the trip back I recall having a deep sense of samadhi-like peace, quite inexplicably.
I also had retreats for a weekend in my home. I told my family I was in retreat and I wouldn't talk. Then I locked the door and sat in my room. Somehow it was good to spend time with more intense practice - on the other hand all those things were still there e.g. distraction, quarrel outside, thoughts, duties...
This would be impossible for me. The honey-do's at my house are endless. :?

User avatar
kirtu
Former staff member
Posts: 5840
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by kirtu » Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:37 pm

kirtu wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 12:31 am
Deeper experiences of concentration generally occur in group settings rather than individual settings (although this is not always the case either).

Outside of enlightenment, saving life or outstanding dharma teaching, sesshin is an unparalleled practice.
For some reason I thought the original posting was made to a Zen forum which was the reason for the particular take on my response.

Group practice usually helps people concentrate deeper. Additionally there is more merit created in a group setting that an individual setting. Group closed retreat is really unparalleled excellence.

Individual retreats can be much harder for the reasons given. Also less merit is created. Nonetheless, individual practice can also be quite excellent.

Kirt
Last edited by kirtu on Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

User avatar
Thomas Amundsen
Posts: 1860
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:50 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact:

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:41 pm

kirtu wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:37 pm
kirtu wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 12:31 am
Deeper experiences of concentration generally occur in group settings rather than individual settings (although this is not always the case either).

Outside of enlightenment, saving life or outstanding dharma teaching, sesshin is an unparalleled practice.
For some reason I thought the original posting was made to a Zen forum which was the reason for the particular take on my response.

Group practice usually helps people concentrate deeper. Additionally there is more merit cre4ated in a group setting that an individual setting. Group closed retreat is really unparalleled excellence.

Individual retreats can be much harder for the reasons given. Also less merit is created. Nonetheless, individual practice can also be quite excellent.

Kirt
Can you expand upon this a little more? Like, where have you heard this before? And if it's true, why are there so many namthars of Tibetan teachers who do isolated retreats?

I know there is a precedent of drupchods and drupchens being more effective than three year retreats, but I've always had a hard time understanding this since there is such a precedent for isolated retreat.

User avatar
kirtu
Former staff member
Posts: 5840
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by kirtu » Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:57 pm

Thomas Amundsen wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:41 pm
kirtu wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:37 pm
kirtu wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 12:31 am
Deeper experiences of concentration generally occur in group settings rather than individual settings (although this is not always the case either).

Outside of enlightenment, saving life or outstanding dharma teaching, sesshin is an unparalleled practice.
For some reason I thought the original posting was made to a Zen forum which was the reason for the particular take on my response.

Group practice usually helps people concentrate deeper. Additionally there is more merit cre4ated in a group setting that an individual setting. Group closed retreat is really unparalleled excellence.

Individual retreats can be much harder for the reasons given. Also less merit is created. Nonetheless, individual practice can also be quite excellent.

Kirt
Can you expand upon this a little more? Like, where have you heard this before?
1. Experience
2. My Sakya and Nyingma lamas
And if it's true, why are there so many namthars of Tibetan teachers who do isolated retreats?
Individual retreats are usually like finishing school. Most of the lamas did not start with individual retreat.
I know there is a precedent of drupchods and drupchens being more effective than three year retreats, but I've always had a hard time understanding this since there is such a precedent for isolated retreat.
As for why, beyond lamas explictly saying that the merit accumulation is greater and the blessing is greater, perhaps Jamgon Kongtrul or another lama addresses the exact reasons somewhere.

If you can't do serious group retreat then do individual retreat.

Kirt
Last edited by kirtu on Wed Mar 28, 2018 11:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

User avatar
Thomas Amundsen
Posts: 1860
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:50 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact:

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Wed Mar 28, 2018 11:12 pm

kirtu wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:57 pm
Individual retreats are usually like finishing school. Most of the lamas did not start with individual retreat.
Ah, I see. This definitely makes sense. Thanks!
kirtu wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:57 pm
If you can't do serious group retreat then do individual retreat.
I don't have the time to do serious group or individual retreat any time, unfortunately. Just drupchod/drupchen, week-long retreats, and such. Perhaps one day... I hope I can do it before I retire.

boda
Posts: 1820
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:40 pm

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by boda » Wed Mar 28, 2018 11:30 pm

I recall reading some research about how people generally perform better when in the company of others, and that this finding extends to other species. They say even ants have an extra spring in their step when around other ants. So there's that.

User avatar
Thomas Amundsen
Posts: 1860
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:50 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact:

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Wed Mar 28, 2018 11:40 pm

boda wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 11:30 pm
I recall reading some research about how people generally perform better when in the company of others, and that this finding extends to other species. They say even ants have an extra spring in their step when around other ants. So there's that.
I do remember seeing that before. Good point.

pemachophel
Posts: 1089
Joined: Sat Dec 25, 2010 9:19 pm
Location: Lafayette, CO

Re: Solo Retreat

Post by pemachophel » Fri Mar 30, 2018 7:47 pm

TB SOP: when doing group practice, the merit is multiplied by the number of people doing that practice, with each individual participant gaining the total amount.

however, ime, to enter samadhi, solo practice usually better/more easily achieved.
Pema Chophel པདྨ་ཆོས་འཕེལ

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: conebeckham, Google [Bot], Wayfarer and 30 guests