Meditation Retreat

 
DeVermeendeComtempleerder
 
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DeVermeendeComtempleerder
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10 January 2016 09:40
 

Hello everyone,

I am interested in going on a meditation retreat in India in the summer (inspired by Sam Harris ofcourse). There seem to be many kinds of meditation facilities, some of which seem to be commercially orientated, and mainly attract tourists via the internet. My interest is in the kind of facility that is not to be found on the first pages of google(you might say: just look past the first pages then), but goes more towards esoteric circles. Does any one of you have any experience going to meditation retreats in India?
I hope my image of entering into more esoterical meditation centres is not to romanticized.

 
burt
 
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burt
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10 January 2016 19:38
 
DeVermeendeComtempleerder - 10 January 2016 09:40 AM

Hello everyone,

I am interested in going on a meditation retreat in India in the summer (inspired by Sam Harris ofcourse). There seem to be many kinds of meditation facilities, some of which seem to be commercially orientated, and mainly attract tourists via the internet. My interest is in the kind of facility that is not to be found on the first pages of google(you might say: just look past the first pages then), but goes more towards esoteric circles. Does any one of you have any experience going to meditation retreats in India?
I hope my image of entering into more esoterical meditation centres is not to romanticized.

Why go all the way to India and face not only the difficulties of learning the meditation techniques, but also the cultural differences that will get in the way. On the other hand, http://ipst.dragontrainings.com/

 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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12 January 2016 19:03
 

I figured there must be alternatives to travelling all the way to India, seeking whatever sort of spiritual enlightenment people are looking for, and decided to search the Internet for the American counterpart.  I decided to take it a step farther, for anyone unwilling to fork out the dough for a reputable retreat, and found a way to create the home version in order to achieve roughly the same result.  These are my findings.

The first thing I’d read was that a typical start to the day involved a 4am wake up call delivered by way of gong.  I opted to dust off an old alarm clock.  So far so good.

The next thing it said to do was walk in silence to the meditation centre to engage in silent meditation from 4:30am - 5:30am.  I sat on the floor of my living room, closed my eyes, and forced myself to breathe more meaningfully (as opposed to the regular and nonchalant way I’ve apparently taken for granted, from my nervous system, all these years).  Check.

Then make your way to the dining area for a low-calorie-vegetarian-meal to be eaten in silence.  I was way ahead of the game on this front.  In preparation for my new found activity I came up with a menu that can only be described as a Japanese-Prisoner-Of-War diet.  600 calories per day, mainly consisting of chicken broth, celery stalk, crackers and fruit.  This only requires a short walk to the kitchen and the brief use of a microwave.  (Note: this distance factor comes in extremely handy, primarily due to the fact that after a couple of days on this diet, your energy level plummets substantially.)  Breakfast of Champions at 6am.  As far as eating in silence goes, I put the teevee on mute.  Close enough.

They also offer things called Spiritual Healing, Progressive Counselling, Transformation Yoga and Guided Meditation.  Thanks.  But no thanks.

I opt instead to casually saunter around the property and systematically clean my house in stages.  I get in a few more sessions of meditation during which my focus teeters repeatedly as I contemplate the difference between still and idle

Lunch and dinner closely resemble breakfast but lacking the excitement.  Asleep by 8pm from sheer boredom.  A level at which I’ve never in my life experienced.

After a few days the alarm clock proved unnecessary as the hunger pains in my stomach jolted me awake by 3am.  (Note: this takes some serious concentration but if you think hard enough you may be convinced, as I was, that your “self” is offended and alarmed at the notion you are attempting to deny its existence by starving it to death!  These thoughts are fleeting and the stress will be enough to exhaust you back to sleep.)  Drifting off is another story what with the disconcerting thunder of your own rapid heart beat. 

I’m still not sure what would be an appropriate length of time to participate in such an exercise, or what would be recommended to efficiently optimize health, so to speak.  When I discovered my hair was falling out and I saw only white, for about 10-15 seconds, every time I stood up I figured it was time to call it.

After some reflection on my experience I pretty much came to one conclusion.

Smoking a joint before listening to George Harrison then taking a nap works just as well.

Maybe it’s just me.

[ Edited: 15 January 2016 19:38 by LadyJane]
 
 
NL.
 
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NL.
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14 January 2016 20:08
 

I actually just got back from a meditation retreat (and am apparently going to have the song “One Heartbeat” stuck in my head until the end of time-space - a warning about retreats - you will get a random 80s song stuck in your head at some point). I think the most important thing to consider is why you’re engaging in the practice (and if the answer is “I don’t know, just curious”, totally cool, just something to consider) and take your cues from there. Different teachers, traditions, and styles will lead in different directions. When you say you’re looking for something more “esoteric”, for example, what do you mean by that? If you mean that you see it as an intense spiritual (vs. psychological, etc.) practice, that’s one thing, if you mean you’re looking for an “out there” experience, I’d caution you against that. When you go on retreat, there is a very very good chance that your mind will do at least a few wacky things, and if you jump in immediately with a particular narrative or explanation, you’re likely to get stuck on it - at least to my mind. You really go into a pretty vulnerable state when you’re meditating that intensely - personally I’ve been grateful to have teachers who put an emphasis on staying grounded in the here and now. I think you want them to be your anchors in those experiences, not the people jumping in with a narrative to explain every hiccup of perception (again, when you’re meditating for hours and hours and you’re exhausted, odds are good you’ll have something - a vivid dream, an intense emotional experience, etc., that you can create a story out of if you go in looking to do that). A good teacher can help you to see the value in whatever experience you have without insisting on a particular explanation, but my sense is that there are many people out there who do the latter, not the former. Also agree with burt that traveling outside the country if this is a first retreat (not sure, you didn’t say in your OP) is probably not the best idea.

[ Edited: 14 January 2016 20:16 by NL.]
 
 
DeVermeendeComtempleerder
 
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DeVermeendeComtempleerder
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24 January 2016 05:24
 

(Un)fortunately I dont live in the United states, and going to a meditation retreat in my own country does not appeal to me. My interest seems to go further than psychological, while I would consider myself to be secular, I am interested in both the spiritual and (semi)religious aspects of meditation. I am a student of western philosophy so the methods of contemplating things like the self and reality are quite different from the way it is done in the western tradition, namely content less experience rather than contentful analysis. Although I don’t necessarily expect to receive sophisticated classes in indian/Buddhist philosophy, I would be interested in, besides attempting to experience certain states myself, being surrounded and guided by people who are full-time devotees of this type of inquiry(the act of meditation and the religious/philosophical part surrounding it). This would indeed be my first meditation retreat, while I have a couple years of non-intensive experience (on which I expect to look down). Besides the meditation, traveling to India would also feel like an adventure or good experience at this point of my life, although I should be clear that I view meditation as the primary goal and do not see it as a byproduct of a trip to India. If it is not clear yet what I mean by ‘’more esoteric’’, I mean that I have fears of going to a tourist facility, which is more focused on providing a pleasant holiday experience than on guiding the students to the best meditative experience, however unpleasant this may be at some point. Im pretty certain that my view on some elements of my expectation is still naïve, but one has to start somewhere I guess.

 
Dennis Campbell
 
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Dennis Campbell
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24 January 2016 06:01
 
LadyJane - 12 January 2016 07:03 PM

I figured there must be alternatives to travelling all the way to India, seeking whatever sort of spiritual enlightenment people are looking for, and decided to search the Internet for the American counterpart.  I decided to take it a step farther, for anyone unwilling to fork out the dough for a reputable retreat, and found a way to create the home version in order to achieve roughly the same result.  These are my findings.

The first thing I’d read was that a typical start to the day involved a 4am wake up call delivered by way of gong.  I opted to dust off an old alarm clock.  So far so good.

The next thing it said to do was walk in silence to the meditation centre to engage in silent meditation from 4:30am - 5:30am.  I sat on the floor of my living room, closed my eyes, and forced myself to breathe more meaningfully (as opposed to the regular and nonchalant way I’ve apparently taken for granted, from my nervous system, all these years).  Check.

Then make your way to the dining area for a low-calorie-vegetarian-meal to be eaten in silence.  I was way ahead of the game on this front.  In preparation for my new found activity I came up with a menu that can only be described as a Japanese-Prisoner-Of-War diet.  600 calories per day, mainly consisting of chicken broth, celery stalk, crackers and fruit.  This only requires a short walk to the kitchen and the brief use of a microwave.  (Note: this distance factor comes in extremely handy, primarily due to the fact that after a couple of days on this diet, your energy level plummets substantially.)  Breakfast of Champions at 6am.  As far as eating in silence goes, I put the teevee on mute.  Close enough.

They also offer things called Spiritual Healing, Progressive Counselling, Transformation Yoga and Guided Meditation.  Thanks.  But no thanks.

I opt instead to casually saunter around the property and systematically clean my house in stages.  I get in a few more sessions of meditation during which my focus teeters repeatedly as I contemplate the difference between still and idle

Lunch and dinner closely resemble breakfast but lacking the excitement.  Asleep by 8pm from sheer boredom.  A level at which I’ve never in my life experienced.

After a few days the alarm clock proved unnecessary as the hunger pains in my stomach jolted me awake by 3am.  (Note: this takes some serious concentration but if you think hard enough you may be convinced, as I was, that your “self” is offended and alarmed at the notion you are attempting to deny its existence by starving it to death!  These thoughts are fleeting and the stress will be enough to exhaust you back to sleep.)  Drifting off is another story what with the disconcerting thunder of your own rapid heart beat. 

I’m still not sure what would be an appropriate length of time to participate in such an exercise, or what would be recommended to efficiently optimize health, so to speak.  When I discovered my hair was falling out and I saw only white, for about 10-15 seconds, every time I stood up I figured it was time to call it.

After some reflection on my experience I pretty much came to one conclusion.

Smoking a joint before listening to George Harrison then taking a nap works just as well.

Maybe it’s just me.

Not PC but cracked me up!

 
 
NL.
 
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NL.
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24 January 2016 07:14
 
Dennis Campbell - 24 January 2016 06:01 AM

Not PC but cracked me up!


Not PC? I don’t think meditators are a beleaguered minority or anything, although I do find the idea of people tiptoeing around meditators “Don’t make any jokes about their Lululemon yoga mats! That big U shaped thing is an important cultural symbol!” quite comical.

 
 
NL.
 
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24 January 2016 07:23
 
DeVermeendeComtempleerder - 24 January 2016 05:24 AM

(Un)fortunately I dont live in the United states, and going to a meditation retreat in my own country does not appeal to me. My interest seems to go further than psychological, while I would consider myself to be secular, I am interested in both the spiritual and (semi)religious aspects of meditation. I am a student of western philosophy so the methods of contemplating things like the self and reality are quite different from the way it is done in the western tradition, namely content less experience rather than contentful analysis. Although I don’t necessarily expect to receive sophisticated classes in indian/Buddhist philosophy, I would be interested in, besides attempting to experience certain states myself, being surrounded and guided by people who are full-time devotees of this type of inquiry(the act of meditation and the religious/philosophical part surrounding it). This would indeed be my first meditation retreat, while I have a couple years of non-intensive experience (on which I expect to look down). Besides the meditation, traveling to India would also feel like an adventure or good experience at this point of my life, although I should be clear that I view meditation as the primary goal and do not see it as a byproduct of a trip to India. If it is not clear yet what I mean by ‘’more esoteric’’, I mean that I have fears of going to a tourist facility, which is more focused on providing a pleasant holiday experience than on guiding the students to the best meditative experience, however unpleasant this may be at some point. Im pretty certain that my view on some elements of my expectation is still naïve, but one has to start somewhere I guess.


I’m trying to think of a way to say this that doesn’t sound critical, since online communication is a total tone-killer, so please keep that in mind! It sounds to me as if the whole India thing is kind of conceptual window dressing, if that makes any sense. I think that can be important - there’s a reason that at the holidays, for example, we put up festive decorations (if we are celebrating) - setting a mood and all. And if you feel a lot of motivation and excitement at the idea of India, that may well be reason enough to go. I do think that the fact that you don’t have any particular reason for going there, though - no particular tradition you’re looking for, or type of teacher you want to study with - is kind of its own guide. I would do some research, find local groups that might know about such things, ask around and find a place that has a good reputation where people report generally positive (whatever that means to you) experiences.

[ Edited: 24 January 2016 08:55 by NL.]
 
 
burt
 
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burt
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24 January 2016 10:51
 
DeVermeendeComtempleerder - 24 January 2016 05:24 AM

(Un)fortunately I dont live in the United states, and going to a meditation retreat in my own country does not appeal to me. My interest seems to go further than psychological, while I would consider myself to be secular, I am interested in both the spiritual and (semi)religious aspects of meditation. I am a student of western philosophy so the methods of contemplating things like the self and reality are quite different from the way it is done in the western tradition, namely content less experience rather than contentful analysis. Although I don’t necessarily expect to receive sophisticated classes in indian/Buddhist philosophy, I would be interested in, besides attempting to experience certain states myself, being surrounded and guided by people who are full-time devotees of this type of inquiry(the act of meditation and the religious/philosophical part surrounding it). This would indeed be my first meditation retreat, while I have a couple years of non-intensive experience (on which I expect to look down). Besides the meditation, traveling to India would also feel like an adventure or good experience at this point of my life, although I should be clear that I view meditation as the primary goal and do not see it as a byproduct of a trip to India. If it is not clear yet what I mean by ‘’more esoteric’’, I mean that I have fears of going to a tourist facility, which is more focused on providing a pleasant holiday experience than on guiding the students to the best meditative experience, however unpleasant this may be at some point. Im pretty certain that my view on some elements of my expectation is still naïve, but one has to start somewhere I guess.

Where do you live?

 
DeVermeendeComtempleerder
 
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DeVermeendeComtempleerder
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15 February 2016 13:18
 

@ Niclynn,  Well thank you for your honesty anyways. I will see whether google can help me after all.
@burt,      I live in The Netherlands.

 
jro
 
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jro
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07 March 2016 14:10
 
DeVermeendeComtempleerder - 10 January 2016 09:40 AM

Hello everyone,

I am interested in going on a meditation retreat in India in the summer (inspired by Sam Harris ofcourse). There seem to be many kinds of meditation facilities, some of which seem to be commercially orientated, and mainly attract tourists via the internet. My interest is in the kind of facility that is not to be found on the first pages of google(you might say: just look past the first pages then), but goes more towards esoteric circles. Does any one of you have any experience going to meditation retreats in India?
I hope my image of entering into more esoterical meditation centres is not to romanticized.

You haven’t elaborated what your current level of experience and practice is, so it is hard to give any recommendations. I am not sure either why it has to be India. One of the best known Vipassana masters is U Pandita from Burma. He is in his 90s now and he is no longer taking interviews, so one isn’t going to be personally involved with him; however, the meditation centre founded by him continues. It can be found at http://www.panditarama.net . They have a strict regime, you practice for one hour at a time (one hour sitting, one hour walking etc), you have to get up at 4 in the morning and the last meal of the day is at 11:30 AM, if I recall correctly. If they accept you, you can stay and practice there free of charge, and people stay there for a long time. A person I know has practised 2 years under U Pandita. But it must be really tough.

 
Glen MacDonald
 
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Glen MacDonald
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11 September 2017 22:55
 

Although I have been practising meditation for years, this year I attended a silent retreat (I was convinced mostly due to Sam Harris recommending retreats so wholeheartedly in his books and podcast). I really think that the quality of the teacher and having peaceful surroundings are the main aspects, so I think you should simply look for a retreat closer to home, and I’m sure there’ll be quite a few high quality retreats either in your country or nearby.  Perhaps see if there’s an “Insight Meditation” group nearby running retreats.

The retreat experience itself was very surprising – I found great benefits from everything during the event: the early morning starts, the silence, sitting and walking meditation and avoiding the distractions of everyday life. And also experiencing the joy of insights! I was expecting the retreat itself to be an amazing experience, but it’s also had a lasting effect on my life in general, in all the ways that other people here have mentioned. Here’s a nice short article that even mentions Sam -  http://zenhaven.com.au/2017/06/18/benefits-of-going-on-a-retreat/

[ Edited: 11 September 2017 22:58 by Glen MacDonald]