I was wondering if anyone has plans to do an extended retreat and what format the retreat would take.
Retreats are good for Dzogchen practice. I would like to do more dark retreat when I have the opportunity.
Also do you think that in order to properly integrate we need to do retreat? No, if you are distracted in retreat it is the same as if you are distracted in the world. If you enjoy instant presence in retreat, it is the same as enjoying instant presence in the world.
I have an opportunity in the near future to spend a year in retreat if I so wished. I'm wondering if there need be any set practice except GY?
Ask your root Teacher.
Do you guys have the aspiration to do retreat in the same way that Therevadans do or 3 year retreatants do in Vajrayana?Some yes and some no. As a Dzogchen practicioner you can take on whatever practice form is useful to you. A Dzogchen practicioner can take on the vows of a Therevadan monk or nun if he /she thinks it will be good for their practice. There are no limits in this respect. If you feel that you want to do a three year retreat in Vajrayana form - go for it. Do what ever you think will help your practice.
Is there a history of formal retreat in Dzogchen or is it that the practitioner takes themselves away from the hustle and bustle and practices whatever arises?Whatever works for you. Nothing prevents you from maintaining instant presence while doing formal practice.
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Your thoughts, experiences and suggestions are most welcome.
More follows which I am leaving in black type because some people think it is easier to read.
All the other posts on this thread are very good and right on. Here is my 2 cents.
You are most fortunate!!! To have the leisure and opportunity to practice is a rare
and great blessing. They say it is like the chance of a drunken turtle sticking his head through a small hoop that you toss into a stormy sea.
I think you are well advised to contact your root teacher and ask them what to do. Assuming you are a student of ChNNR, if that is not possible, it is certainly safe to do the accumulations /study of whatever level of the SMS you are on and then break retreat to get the next level.
The key point is to find a comfort level that allows you to make progress in your practice. They say it should be like tuning the string of a musical instrument, not too tight and not too loose. Then it works well. In general, I like the idea of doing a practice until you get the results, rather than having a set number of mantras or recitations. This makes more sense to me than "cranking out" accumulations with poor visualization or recitation. If you are doing accumulation, then it is helpful to get a little mechanical push counter like the ticket takers use in movie theaters. You can keep also keep track by making a count on a piece of paper with a a counter icon for five rounds of the mala using four small vertical lines and then a diagonal line through the four: then repeat. At the end of each day you can add up your 5 round counters and enter the amount in a notebook. I recommend the big "bodhi bead" malas that are easy to use. You should find one that you are comfortable with. I use 111 beads (Including the head bead) just in case I mess up a few. You can re-thread your mala using multiple strands of dental floss. If you are doing a Dzogchen retreat that does not include accumulations, you don't need any of this.
If you are in a place without electricity, make sure you have enough batteries for your cd / dvd player/ flashlight. Always bring more than you think you will need. Have an emergency bag of your favorite granola bars / trail mix, so that if you find yourself feeling glum, you can have an easy warm fuzzy. Give yourself space if you need to break the retreat early. You are in this until you realize and so you don't want to provoke a bad reaction to practice, by forcing yourself beyond your limit.
For guru yoga I would ask a friend who knows Tibetan to write an Om Ah Hum, in Tibetan,, in black ink, with "thick letters, about 3 inches high, vertically on a piece of cardboard, spaced about 7 inches apart. Then cut them out with an exacto knife and put white red and blue cellophane stage gel behind the cut outs. Then mount the card board in an otherwise blacked out window, or on an otherwise blacked out light source. Using this device allowed me to develop a very stable visualization of the Om Ah Hum, which is very useful in Guru Yoga.
Make sure you have 2 copies of any practice book you need (a xerox is ok for #2). Also, large pictures of whatever Thankas you are going to be using for your visualizations. PM me if you want some suggestion of where I would suggest going for retreat.
In retreat, try to immerse yourself, to sink into the practice, and then it will go well. If you get agitated do the 9 breathings and Vajrasattva. If you are sleepy, rest until you are not. Try to keep to the the time frame of day light. Try to keep present to your daily tasks and if your mind wanders to thoughts of your past life or your future life, gently bring it back to the tasks in front of you. Forgive any mistakes you make and try to recover quickly from any disaster. Perseverance Furthers.
Make sure you have a back up plan,to call help, if something goes badly wrong. (cabin fire, bear/ wasps in cabin, snake bite, mishap requiring major first aid, etc.) Have a back up for your back up plan (2 cell phones). If you can be in an area near where your root teacher is, or where there are other practitioners, that would be also useful. Murphy's Law was invented on retreats.
If you can arrange for someone else to cook for you, or live on boil water only, freeze dried food, canned food, this minimizes the distractions from practice of food preparation and clean up. If you can arrange to have someone deliver fresh fruits and veges - this helps. Bring vitamins and supplements. Try to keep conversation to a minimum.
Each of us has the responsibility, and some like you, the opportunity, to seek out our realization with diligence.
Enjoy your rare opportunity.
Hope this helps!!!
Good fortune to all and All!
Long life to the Dzogchen Masters, may they live long, in good health, and with success in all things.