Home self-retreat advice

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Home self-retreat advice

Post by AleksPro » Tue May 07, 2019 12:23 pm

Hello everyone!

I have a question/request for advice regarding carrying a home self-retreat. I have some time off from my work/study (a bit over a week starting this weekend). I was hoping to go for an organized retreat but all of them were sold-out (or at the other side of the country). I decided that I would give a self-retreat a try (with some periods of meditation at my local Buddhist center). I am pretty disciplined so, although it will be (really) hard, I think I should try. If you disagree, would love to hear your thoughts.

I think, though, I should really prepare (I have been easing myself into it with 2-4h daily of sitting during this week leading to the retreat). I don't have that much time but I definitely would like to ask for recommendations/advice for this undertaking.

A quick background - I have been practicing for a 2-3 year (have been to a couple longer retreats - mostly of a week long) and have been getting more familiar with the practice mostly through the popular books and teachers. I am familiar with the basics of Dharma but more detailed knowledge of Buddhism, the understanding of different traditions, what do they imply, etc. is not yet there. Unfortunately, I don't have a teacher whom I could contact/get advice from.

I have a couple of question which I would love to hear your thoughts on:

a) general advice (no specific questions here but if you have general recommendations which would help me do this retreat that would be very much appreciated);

b) reading - there are thousands of books out there; I have my (very) small collection of books - mostly the popular Mindfulness book and some Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu translations, etc. (as well as A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life recommended by one of you); I have an access to huge library so I would like to acquire some reading that would support me on this retreat. One can go about it from different angles - I wonder whether any of you have specific recommendations of readings that would be very useful.

c) should I try and follow some specific online course during that week; there is a lot on the internet and I would be happy to invest in some Dharma teaching (seems like it could add a bit of structure). Alternatively, I could follow a specific retreat through DharmaSeed, for instance; not sure whether you have thoughts on that.

d) Do you think I should focus on, for instance, a specific aspect of meditation. I was thinking that given that I am still a very much beginner, maybe I should simplify and for the whole period of the retreat, focus solely on mindfulness of the body/breath.

These are some of my initial questions. If any of you have some thoughts, I would really really appreciate it.

Thank you!

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Könchok Thrinley
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Re: Home self-retreat advice

Post by Könchok Thrinley » Tue May 07, 2019 3:21 pm

The best advice I can give is to remember to relax. Sometimes many people want to be precise and very strict which does not have to be bad, but we live totally different lives from Tibetan yogis, or monks. We have to work. So my advice is to take it easy. Do you have a teacher? Do you have a daily practice you do?

Some shamatha and generating bodhicitta is always a good idea. Also if you like tibetan tradition (but not only that one) focusing a little bit on the 4 thoughts that turn away from samsara can be only useful (precious human life, impermanence, suffering of samsara and karma). You can find support for it in Patrul Rinpoche's Words of my Perfect Teacher or Gampopa's Jewel Ornament of Liberation or even in Shantideva I think.

If you are a complete beginner I'd suggest some form of lojong. What is lojong? That is a mind training. For example Bodhisattvacharyavatara is a very extensive lojong text. You can read a passage and think about it (having a commentary would be most useful). But that could take long so shorter lojong such as 37 Practices of Bodhisattva, or various more essential lojong texts (such as Atisha's Seven Points of Mind Training more to find here https://www.shambhala.com/lojong-mind-training/). You can find texts and commentaries online.

So really it all comes down to you, what you want and/or what your teacher if you have one told you to do. :) Otherwise developing mindfulness and bodhicitta is always only a good idea.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

Formerly known as Miroku.

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Dechen Norbu
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Re: Home self-retreat advice

Post by Dechen Norbu » Tue May 07, 2019 4:23 pm

First 2 or 3 days, sleep plenty. Usually we are more tired and strained than we imagine.

If I were you, I'd dedicate the week to shamata practice.

Good luck!

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Re: Home self-retreat advice

Post by Simon E. » Tue May 07, 2019 4:45 pm

Have a notebook and pen available so if and when things come up that you would like to ask opinion/advice about after your retreat, you can then jot them down as they arise without attempting to carry them in your head. :smile:

Don't eat too much..you will get sleepy if you do.
Eat enough..you will get edgy if you don't. Stay hydrated.

“You don’t know it. You just know about it. That is not the same thing.”

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to me.

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Re: Home self-retreat advice

Post by SunWuKong » Tue May 07, 2019 9:12 pm

Yes Yes - a practice journal is a great idea, but do'nt add creative writing on the to-do list.

Naturally as with any retreat you are observing 5 Precepts. Maybe open and close retreat with special chant.

Keep a balance with meditation practices: sitting, walking, standing, lying down.

If you are planning longer sitting times try to get the exercises that will support it. Such as yoga that leads to better lotus-type position. sDon't wreck your body sitting.

Select the passages you want to go into deeply and avoid an academic style of study during the retreat.

Basic chores are okay to do; they too can be crafted into meditation practice.

I find YouTube dharma talks to be helpful, but otherwise steer clear of internets.

Does that make sense? Just a few suggestions.
"We are magical animals that roam" ~ Roam

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Re: Home self-retreat advice

Post by weitsicht » Wed May 08, 2019 10:52 am

I rejoice for your motivation!

Doing a retreat means: setting boundaries for yourself. Usually this goes best in writing.
I am just giving examples here: I undertake to reduce internet activity to zero, I undertake to speak only as much as utterly necessary. etc.

Then it's also good to plan a structure of the day and then see how it goes.
Your text doesn't say much about your interests in Buddhism and what you've done so far. If you have no clue yet, you may want and use this retreat and check and compare, find a bit your flavour. - Informed reading and recorded teachings 2h a day or such alike.

Usually you start each morning with the refuge and end each evening with the dedication. You can also do a little ceremony by yourself to open your retreat and close it.
Ho! All the possible appearances and existences of samsara and nirvana have the same source, yet two paths and two results arise as the magical display of awareness and unawareness.

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Re: Home self-retreat advice

Post by seeker242 » Wed May 08, 2019 12:04 pm

Home retreats are great. I've done a couple.

a) Get a schedule from a temple retreat, and follow that schedule.

b) no reading, only meditation

c) no courses, no computer, no internet, no phone, only meditation

d) simple breath following is perfect.

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!

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Re: Home self-retreat advice

Post by Vasana » Wed May 08, 2019 1:58 pm

Echoing some of the above, allow the first few days to be flexible. There's usually some residual momentum from the pace of daily life and habits when you shift gears.
Sometimes gritting your teeth and sticking to a strict routine or set practice is needed but if you notice yourself feeling tenser than before, don't feel bad about changing your pace or approach as you settle in to the new schedule.

Some people are sharper in the mornings and some in the evenings. If you're engaging with lectures or reading, choose the best time for this but get a good practice balance.

Having a rough idea of the food you're going to cook and eat in advance can also save a lot of time. Bonus if you can eat according to your constitution.

Appropriate physical exercises, stretches, yoga, qi-gong can also help.

Setting very specific boundaries and/or limits with any regular object of distraction or indulgence is a good idea. e.g food, phone, internet , books.

Let anyone who may contact you know that you're on retreat or will be 'busy' in advance if it's appropriate.

In short, work with circumstances and be aware of factors that drive dullness, agitation etc.
ཨོཾ ་ མ ་ ཎི ་ པ ་ དྨེ ་ ཧཱུྃ ། འ ་ ཨ ་ ཧ ་ ཤ ་ ས ་ མ །
Om Mani Peme Hum ། 'A Ah Ha Sha Sa Ma
'When alone, watch your mind,When with others, watch your speech' - Old Kadampa saying

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Re: Home self-retreat advice

Post by philji » Wed May 08, 2019 6:25 pm

Alan Wallace has some excellent guided retreats online. Here is a link to one.

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Re: Home self-retreat advice

Post by AleksPro » Thu May 09, 2019 12:44 pm

Thank you very much Everyone! Very much appreciate it! I am just planning my retreat and definitely going to use your advice! :)

We will see how it goes - will post a small update afterwards to let you know how it went!

Thank you so much!

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Re: Home self-retreat advice

Post by weitsicht » Fri Jul 26, 2019 8:08 am

So how did it go?!?
Ho! All the possible appearances and existences of samsara and nirvana have the same source, yet two paths and two results arise as the magical display of awareness and unawareness.

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