Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?

Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby Paliut » Tue Jul 03, 2012 2:43 pm

I would like to hear how other people's first experience at a retreat was. :D I want to know whether it was easy for you or was it difficult your first time.

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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jul 03, 2012 2:53 pm

My first retreat I wasn't ready for fifteen hours of meditation. Mentally I could do it, but physically I was feeling ill and was forced to abandon the retreat as the rules strictly said if you don't sit on the cushion, you need to leave. Even if you were ill, you needed to be on the cushion. This was a group Zen sesshin and I simply wasn't ready for this kind of intense commitment. It was a failure on my part and felt ashamed having to leave.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby Jesse » Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:25 pm

fifteen hours of meditation


I don't know how anyone could do that.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby KeithBC » Tue Jul 03, 2012 5:52 pm

It was a long time ago, but as I recall, it was harder physically than it was mentally. It was Tibetan style, so one didn't have to sit as rigidly as in Zen style, but my legs weren't happy. There were several different activities - sitting meditation, oral teachings, walking meditation (my legs thank you!) - which broke it up the day and allowed for some mental relief.

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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby Paliut » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:21 pm

Huseng wrote:My first retreat I wasn't ready for fifteen hours of meditation. Mentally I could do it, but physically I was feeling ill and was forced to abandon the retreat as the rules strictly said if you don't sit on the cushion, you need to leave. Even if you were ill, you needed to be on the cushion. This was a group Zen sesshin and I simply wasn't ready for this kind of intense commitment. It was a failure on my part and felt ashamed having to leave.


I attended a 3 day silent illumination this weekend, being unprepared for sitting... It was tough but it was reassurance in my practice. I also got to talk to the Fashi and asked questions. In the end now I know I need to practice more so next time I am more prepared. I lacked patience and endurance.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jul 04, 2012 1:01 am

ghost01 wrote:
fifteen hours of meditation


I don't know how anyone could do that.


Most Zendos have walking meditation spaced between sitting sessions of around forty-five minutes, though the timing differs. Walking meditation is usually ten minutes.

Physically your legs need to be positioned in such a way that they maintain blood flow and don't go numb. Your tail bone also needs to be relieved of pressure. At that point it is all mind.

Sitting for extended periods without rising or stretching your legs is not so difficult once you start experiencing the joy that accompanies detachment.

However, it needs to come naturally. Having the threat of expulsion, violence (getting struck with a stick), or peer pressure for that matter, will never foster solid meditation.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby Wesley1982 » Wed Jul 04, 2012 1:32 am

Sounds like looong trip & lengthy drive & journey to get there.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby greentara » Wed Jul 04, 2012 4:55 am

Huseng, I read your comments with sympathy. Thats what I so like about Ramana Maharshi, he never asked anyone to sit in a certain way or for a set duration. When Westerners came from far away from other cultures, he'd offer a chair. He didn't seem overly interested when people arrived or departed. Self enquiry is what he taught, if you were ripe and could grasp it well and good ,if not, then the path of devotion; (which incidently most buddhists from Asia and the sub-continent gravitate towards) was quite acceptable. Ultimately he said meditation and sitting for a required period was for the merest novice.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Jul 04, 2012 5:07 am

Huseng wrote:My first retreat I wasn't ready for fifteen hours of meditation. Mentally I could do it, but physically I was feeling ill and was forced to abandon the retreat as the rules strictly said if you don't sit on the cushion, you need to leave. Even if you were ill, you needed to be on the cushion. This was a group Zen sesshin and I simply wasn't ready for this kind of intense commitment. It was a failure on my part and felt ashamed having to leave.

Was that at Antaiji or some other Sawaki-related temple in Japan?
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jul 04, 2012 5:27 am

tomamundsen wrote:
Huseng wrote:My first retreat I wasn't ready for fifteen hours of meditation. Mentally I could do it, but physically I was feeling ill and was forced to abandon the retreat as the rules strictly said if you don't sit on the cushion, you need to leave. Even if you were ill, you needed to be on the cushion. This was a group Zen sesshin and I simply wasn't ready for this kind of intense commitment. It was a failure on my part and felt ashamed having to leave.

Was that at Antaiji or some other Sawaki-related temple in Japan?


It was at Antai-ji in Hyogo prefecture.

Again, my failure and nobody else to blame.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby seeker242 » Wed Jul 04, 2012 12:41 pm

My first retreat was an intensive 7 day zen retreat (Korean Kyol Che). It was actually a 90 day retreat but I only went for 7, the minimum participation period. It was interesting because it was the first time I ever even attempted any meditation practice, ha! It was difficult to just sit there doing nothing! I did not have any physical issues though as I was quite young and very physically fit. Mentally though was a different story. Sometimes it was very boring. Sometimes it was very frustrating. Sometimes it was very challenging. Sometimes it was quite effortless. Sometimes it was very peaceful. Sometimes it was very chaotic. What was interesting though was to watch those mind states change, apparently randomly, from one, to the next, to the next, to the next. Even though I was doing the exact same things day after day and nothing else changed. So it was very interesting because I thought to myself "Well, all I was doing was sitting there, the same as before, but before I was frustrated but then everything was peaceful." Why is that?! I left the retreat very energized. I had so much energy I didn't know what to do with myself when I got home, lol. I remember my girlfriend looking at me and I looked at her and she said "Wow, you look so happy". I said "That's because I am happy!". :smile:

The above process is one of the great benefits of retreats IMO. Because when you sit there just for 20 or 30 minutes your mind may not change all that much but when you do a retreat, the back and fourth changes become much more pronounced. Watching your mind go from complete frustration to complete peacefulness, in a instant, there is something very valuable to be learned from that IMO.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby Paliut » Wed Jul 04, 2012 4:22 pm

seeker242 wrote:My first retreat was an intensive 7 day zen retreat (Korean Kyol Che). It was actually a 90 day retreat but I only went for 7, the minimum participation period. It was interesting because it was the first time I ever even attempted any meditation practice, ha! It was difficult to just sit there doing nothing! I did not have any physical issues though as I was quite young and very physically fit. Mentally though was a different story. Sometimes it was very boring. Sometimes it was very frustrating. Sometimes it was very challenging. Sometimes it was quite effortless. Sometimes it was very peaceful. Sometimes it was very chaotic. What was interesting though was to watch those mind states change, apparently randomly, from one, to the next, to the next, to the next. Even though I was doing the exact same things day after day and nothing else changed. So it was very interesting because I thought to myself "Well, all I was doing was sitting there, the same as before, but before I was frustrated but then everything was peaceful." Why is that?! I left the retreat very energized. I had so much energy I didn't know what to do with myself when I got home, lol. I remember my girlfriend looking at me and I looked at her and she said "Wow, you look so happy". I said "That's because I am happy!". :smile:

The above process is one of the great benefits of retreats IMO. Because when you sit there just for 20 or 30 minutes your mind may not change all that much but when you do a retreat, the back and fourth changes become much more pronounced. Watching your mind go from complete frustration to complete peacefulness, in a instant, there is something very valuable to be learned from that IMO.


That seems quite accurate. I felt energized to practice more and progress more. But i must agree i am young too 19 to be more exact and all the states you mentioned are accurate there were moments where i was like "oh this is easy" other where i wanted to 'break free' and other of full sheer frustration due to my inability to let go of certain sensations. Sadly at times i was putting my self down for not being able to concentrate. This changed when i spoke personally with the Nun giving the retreat she said i should be glad i caught myself dwelling away from the method, and not beat myself up for it. Since some other people let their thoughts get the best of them and take a longer time to come back to the method. It was like you said intense but productive. Retreats do have a certain feel from our regular every day practice.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby Nemo » Wed Jul 04, 2012 4:50 pm

Sore legs.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby kirtu » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:19 am

Paliut wrote:I would like to hear how other people's first experience at a retreat was. :D I want to know whether it was easy for you or was it difficult your first time.


I don't remember my first retreat but it was a Zen retreat and was 4-8 hrs of sitting with walking meditation.

The challenge was physical as I had sat the previous year daily doing a Taoist meditation which is outwardly very similar to Zen meditation.

However Zen winter retreats are quite challenging physically and spiritually as they can last 12 or more hours. The spiritual challenge is that you not only face physical issues but they are so intense that your lack of compassion and wisdom easily come to the fore. You can kind of sleep through 4-8 hour sits but not 12+ hr sits.

Later Tibetan Buddhist retreats posed their own issues. Physically they are much easier that Zen retreats. But just different things happen. On one purification retreat as soon as we started reciting mantra my mouth began to be inflamed with sores. I considered going to a hospital immediately. This continued for two days. On the third day exactly as we wound the retreat down the sores began to disappear. When we ended the retreat the sores disappeared entirely.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:31 am

kirtu wrote:Later Tibetan Buddhist retreats posed their own issues. Physically they are much easier that Zen retreats. But just different things happen. On one purification retreat as soon as we started reciting mantra my mouth began to be inflamed with sores. I considered going to a hospital immediately. This continued for two days. On the third day exactly as we wound the retreat down the sores began to disappear. When we ended the retreat the sores disappeared entirely.
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That's quite inauspicious. :thinking:
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby Clarence » Thu Jul 05, 2012 10:31 am

Huseng wrote:
kirtu wrote:Later Tibetan Buddhist retreats posed their own issues. Physically they are much easier that Zen retreats. But just different things happen. On one purification retreat as soon as we started reciting mantra my mouth began to be inflamed with sores. I considered going to a hospital immediately. This continued for two days. On the third day exactly as we wound the retreat down the sores began to disappear. When we ended the retreat the sores disappeared entirely.
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That's quite inauspicious. :thinking:


Traditionally, I don't think it is considered inauspicious. When one does a Vajrasattva or any other purification retreat these things can happen. Some people get sick. Same with initiations I remember the first time I got initiation in a Hindu tradition. Afterwards I puked and puked. Granted, I might have had altitude sickness a little but it was considered a good sign that something was working. :smile: Similarly with Tibetan wangs. Some people become very aggressive and there are often quite a lot of clashes.

Anyway, my first official retreat was vipassana Goenka style for 10 days. I also had a lot of pain in my body. Definitely an interesting experience. Also had some cool dreams and other stuff.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jul 05, 2012 1:56 pm

Clarence wrote:Traditionally, I don't think it is considered inauspicious. When one does a Vajrasattva or any other purification retreat these things can happen. Some people get sick. Same with initiations I remember the first time I got initiation in a Hindu tradition. Afterwards I puked and puked. Granted, I might have had altitude sickness a little but it was considered a good sign that something was working. :smile: Similarly with Tibetan wangs. Some people become very aggressive and there are often quite a lot of clashes.


My peculiar experience, somewhat related, was entering Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya and breaking down into tears for a good ten minutes. It came out of nowhere and I had to sit down.

Had the same experience in Kushinagar, Sarnath and Lumbini.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby KeithBC » Thu Jul 05, 2012 4:50 pm

Huseng wrote:My peculiar experience, somewhat related, was entering Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya and breaking down into tears for a good ten minutes. It came out of nowhere and I had to sit down.

Had the same experience in Kushinagar, Sarnath and Lumbini.
Me too. Not to the point of having to sit down, but I definitely felt the "presence" of the places.

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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:47 am

KeithBC wrote:
Huseng wrote:My peculiar experience, somewhat related, was entering Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya and breaking down into tears for a good ten minutes. It came out of nowhere and I had to sit down.

Had the same experience in Kushinagar, Sarnath and Lumbini.
Me too. Not to the point of having to sit down, but I definitely felt the "presence" of the places.

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I met a bhikkhu who lives in Bodhgaya. He said that kind of thing is quite common.
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Re: Your First Retreat & Your experience.

Postby greentara » Sat Jul 14, 2012 1:15 am

Hi Huseng, Ramana Maharsh's realisation was based on experience and was nothing to do with the traditional revelations of Advaita Vedanta. Advaita consolidated by (Shankara) is a calcified, redundant expression of life in liberation. Ramana's legacy is an enigmatic Cheshire cats smile that stirs our imagination like a whisper in the wind. Ramana inspires but what he speaks of eludes us because religious traditions try to formularise and capture that which can never be expressed. Primordial freedom has no crossed legs or straight posture. There is no truth to enunciate and no lineage to claim.
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