Thoughts on solo retreat

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Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby dimeo » Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:14 pm

For the past two months, I've been blessed with the opportunity to have extended amounts of spare time alone. I did what many of you would do, and spent lots of time "sitting doing nothing" :meditate: I considered it an opportunity to do an informal 'solo retreat'. I jotted down some of my thoughts that followed. As always your insightful thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Thoughts on solo retreat:

If someone schedules to attend a formal organized retreat led by trained experts, it can seem more like it's a legitimate & valid 'thing' to be doing. The self, family and friends might accept the idea more readily.

If you intentionally sit on your own doing 'nothing', an attitude that can arise that it's not 'valid'. It's one thing if you plan to go sit quietly for an hour to watch the sunrise/sunset (and meditate), and some people might think it's rather romantic. But "sitting doing nothing" for extended periods of time and days in a row can likely be perceived as a negative thing. You might hear voices internal and external saying things that can sound something like:

"What, he/she just sits there doing nothing, day after day? Are they depressed or something? They want to be alone? They don't want to go somewhere? They must be unhappy? What do they do with all that spare time? They have too much spare time on their hands. Seems kind of lazy, when there's so much work to be done."

Strangely enough, it seems that a fine line exists between the appearance of contentedness and unhappiness. Some of the symptomatic behaviours that arise from both are somewhat similar; solitude, stillness, inactivity, decreased desire and so on.

There's something in our western culture, (perhaps related to a history of the "protestant work ethic"?) that makes solitude and inactivity seem taboo. Many people feel purposeful as long as they are with someone, going somewhere, or seeking to obtain an object. How many people at this very moment are driving to the dollar store to get that plastic widget they're always thinking about? How often do people feel the need to "go somewhere" just because? It makes me wonder how much of our non-renewable fossil fuels have been burnt up simply because of this.

As an alternative way of living I'm not just envisioning the experience of mere survival, but discovering a thriving meaningful spiritual life. It's a rather remarkable experience to sit feeling contented for extended periods of time and experience directly the reality of a blissful conscious existence and yet require so little. I do appreciate the creature comforts and 'snivel gear' I have with me; the shirt and shorts that clothe me, cushions I sit on, the shelter from wind and rain, the water and tea I drink, the simple meals I eat. But I ask myself, what do I need really for during that mindful hour of sitting quietly? Very little!

Increasingly I have begun asking the question, what things do I really need to have with me in order to experience moments of contentedness? Will I really feel any happier or content if I go here or there? Is it really necessary to have a such-and-such, or can I just do without?

Sometimes it can be noisy around home with the neighbours yelling, electrical power tools, un-mufflered racing vehicles, thumping stereos, and more. I'm attracted to the remote woods where it's quiet. I think of it often, and frequently leave home to spend more time there.

But the annoying noises of life around me always come to an end. The discontent that arises from all phenomenon I experience, is temporary and empty of inherent existence (sunyata). Inevitably cessation occurs and I experience the beauty of quietness again for another moment. I notice how so many things exist in a continual cycle of arising and cessation.
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby muni » Tue Aug 27, 2013 6:26 pm

I read few days ago: laziness in the east is not the same as lazyness in the west. The people in India are demonstrating the Eastern laziness quiet well: sitting on the streets, drinking tea, listenening to Hindu movie-music and avoiding every possible work.

In the West is lazyness completely different: you must fill your life with compulsive occupations and time is there never. Like filling your cup of coffee till the coffee is flooding everywhere.

Both are lazinesses. To be alone without stuff is to be comfronted with own mind. That is strange domain. Very vast domain.
And a serious practicioner goes in retreat in group.

Also on the street in group we probably can observe others mind which is much easier than ones own.
In case of being alone, there is the tv and nuts and popcorn and the newspaper and the pc and books and lots of work to do.

All the best with the solo retreat. I think I go with you. :smile: First some work to do.


" *The discontent that arises from all phenomenon I experience, is temporary and empty of inherent existence (sunyata). Inevitably cessation occurs and I experience the beauty of quietness again for another moment. I notice how so many things exist in a continual cycle of arising and cessation* ".

Many thanks. :namaste:
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby dude » Tue Aug 27, 2013 8:15 pm

"What, he/she just sits there doing nothing, day after day? Are they depressed or something? They want to be alone? They don't want to go somewhere? They must be unhappy? What do they do with all that spare time? They have too much spare time on their hands. Seems kind of lazy, when there's so much work to be done."


I have caused myself a great deal of trouble worrying about what other people think of my practice.
Even more by not paying strict attention to the thought that often arises "don't I have something better/more enjoyable to do?
I need to work harder on those.
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby Ayu » Tue Aug 27, 2013 8:24 pm

Once i did a solo- retreat only for one day... But a friend accompanied me in 400 km distance. We had a schedule and did it at the same time, both solo.
It was a nice idea. Inspiring.

I also enjoy free time for to do sadhana and studies. There is so much to read and to understand - i will not make it in this lifetime. So i'm glad about every step i can do. It enriches my life.
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby greentara » Wed Aug 28, 2013 1:56 am

muni, "The people in India are demonstrating the Eastern laziness quite well: sitting on the streets, drinking tea, listening to Hindu movie-music and avoiding every possible work" I sometimes wonder if people are asleep? There would be many millions of people looking for work at any one time....so those people drinking tea and sitting around on the streets have been unable to find work! In India there is no real safety net so the extended family have to support one another, which can mean great hardship, for parents and other family members.
As for people sitting around in the west....Ireland, Portugal,Greece and huge numbers unemployed in America as well.... don't want to be sitting around either.

I don't know about sitting around... but sitting with awareness is on a completely different level
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby RikudouSennin » Wed Aug 28, 2013 5:29 am

do a solo retreat.
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby smcj » Wed Aug 28, 2013 5:44 am

I do Tibetan style practice. It's hard work. "Doing nothing" isn't meditating in my tradition.
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby muni » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:00 am

greentara wrote:muni, "The people in India are demonstrating the Eastern laziness quite well: sitting on the streets, drinking tea, listening to Hindu movie-music and avoiding every possible work" I sometimes wonder if people are asleep? There would be many millions of people looking for work at any one time....so those people drinking tea and sitting around on the streets have been unable to find work! In India there is no real safety net so the extended family have to support one another, which can mean great hardship, for parents and other family members.
As for people sitting around in the west....Ireland, Portugal,Greece and huge numbers unemployed in America as well.... don't want to be sitting around either.

I don't know about sitting around... but sitting with awareness is on a completely different level


Of course.
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby Ayu » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:10 am

In addition: there is a tremendous amount of work done in Asia. So the perspective of Asians hanging around doing nothing must be some kind of biased. :tongue:
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby muni » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:38 am

:namaste: Ayu, I cannot count the people hoping for work in order to feed their families. So you are so right.

While then the examples have not been given to point to fellows, nationalities and so finding faults with others, in which samsara is qualified.
As far as I understand, it are compassionate 'Asian' examples to point to explore own mind. Filling our life/mind/free time so that no any space can be seen to get rid sometimes temporary of our suffering, in order to look/run away from mind itself. That itself is laziness and not different from doing nothing. Laziness because we don't use this life fully in our possible way. We are always looking out there.

A retreat in own mind as solo retreat.
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby lobster » Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:30 pm

I have done solitary retreats, both formally and through my own planning. In essence we always sit alone, even with community. The dynamic is different.
I feel it is quite natural to become more self sufficient as we mature. We practice for the sake of others, whether in a group or in isolation. Most of us do a mini retreat into solo practice each day . . . :twothumbsup:
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby greentara » Wed Aug 28, 2013 1:44 pm

Lobster, "We practice for the sake of others, whether in a group or in isolation" I certainly have great admiration for people who meditate and go on long retreats but you say you practice for the sake of others. Are you being completely honest when you make that statement? Not something you have read in scripture but whole heartedly sitting not for yourself but for others?
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby Ayu » Wed Aug 28, 2013 2:54 pm

greentara wrote:Lobster, "We practice for the sake of others, whether in a group or in isolation" I certainly have great admiration for people who meditate and go on long retreats but you say you practice for the sake of others. Are you being completely honest when you make that statement? Not something you have read in scripture but whole heartedly sitting not for yourself but for others?

It is a training. The more one trains to think of the others, the more he/she thinks of others. The more one trains this, the more it will become true.

If i should answer this question i would say "50:50"...
Sometimes i practice, because i am afraid of being reborn in lower realms. Sometimes i practice for to become more calm and peaceful, and that is a benefit for me and for the others. Sometimes i care very much about the people who are suffering around me - then i wholeheartedly offer my practice wholy for them.
Every Wednesday I do medicine-Buddha-practice, only for the sake of others.
Every friday I do Tonglen, what is good for my understanding, good for me and good for others...

Just wanted to say: to practice for the sake of others is not something far away. And it is not difficult. :smile:
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby greentara » Thu Aug 29, 2013 12:27 am

Ayu, Thanks, at least I found your answer direct and honest. Of course we sometimes have fear in us......to wax lyrical and ignore the many emotions that are playing within us is to be overly idealistic at best and at the other end of the spectrum totally deluded. Inner thoughts define you and then there's the public persona.
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby dimeo » Thu Aug 29, 2013 3:21 am

smcj wrote:I do Tibetan style practice. It's hard work. "Doing nothing" isn't meditating in my tradition.


I say "doing nothing" to be facetious. Regularly performing long periods of seated meditaiton can be perceived by others to appear that way.

Ayu wrote:But a friend accompanied me in 400 km distance. We had a schedule and did it at the same time, both solo. It was a nice idea. Inspiring.

I like that idea, a group retreat could transcend distance, space, perhaps even time.
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby Ayu » Thu Aug 29, 2013 9:19 am

dimeo wrote:...
I like that idea, a group retreat could transcend distance, space, perhaps even time.

Yes, it gives more shape and responsibility to the project.

greentara wrote:Ayu, Thanks, at least I found your answer direct and honest. Of course we sometimes have fear in us......to wax lyrical and ignore the many emotions that are playing within us is to be overly idealistic at best and at the other end of the spectrum totally deluded. Inner thoughts define you and then there's the public persona.

:smile:
Nothing can be ignored. The healthy aspects must be cultivated, the unhealthy behavior (also in thoughts) should be avoided.
Delusion is part of this life - or one can even say: it is made of delusion.
So, if one understands the causality of thoughts in ones life and behavior, and understands the importance of the inner processes - he/she will also understand the unimportance of the image. The appearance of public persona is as stable as dust in the wind. At some times people praise the things I do, at other times they call me insane. It depends on too many factors. :rolleye:
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby muni » Thu Aug 29, 2013 12:35 pm

The word work in my post means not job. It is useful occupations like we should say in free time to make the contrast in always busy. My mistaken translation. Sorry.

All the best. :namaste:
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby lobster » Thu Aug 29, 2013 12:55 pm

greentara wrote:Lobster, "We practice for the sake of others, whether in a group or in isolation" I certainly have great admiration for people who meditate and go on long retreats but you say you practice for the sake of others. Are you being completely honest when you make that statement? Not something you have read in scripture but whole heartedly sitting not for yourself but for others?


I think Ayu has given a fair answer. :namaste:
In a group situation I would say for me personally the percentage goes up to maybe 90% for others in the room, whether meditating or not. In a solo situation this percentage is reversed. The closest I can perhaps say is ideas of other are not different to self development . . .

My mind to your mind... my thoughts to your thoughts...
Professor Charles Francis Xavier . . . and of course Mr Spock :woohoo:
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Re: Thoughts on solo retreat

Postby Karma Tashi G. » Thu Oct 17, 2013 8:30 pm

solo retreats are very good, but pure intention will determine the outcome! Going in just to help oneself, or experience meditation states, is a form of greediness and luxury! Dedicating merits to the benefit of all beings is the solid floor for retreats..then one can meet all challenges that arise!

Small group retreats are also very good! Different feeling all together, but some of the obstructions from being by oneself disappear.

I practiced in retreat with a group of monks once and they were so talkative! They sat like stones and chattered like monkeys! I felt so superior in my purity! As you can see I had slipped off the tracks completely! So groups pose challenges of their own especially if one's practice is weak (like mine).
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