Retreat Advice by XX (Shargrol)

Jenny,

Probably the best way to think of where you are is still in the “progression through nanas is good, progression through jhanas is going to happen too” domain, which is what second path and the early part of third path are all about. When fruitions hit, they probably won’t make as a big difference, but they are a nice sense of “ahhhh, that was good. I’m done for the time being and it feels good.” You’re doing the right thing, watching how the mind naturally sees and, as important at this stage, how practice seems to lead itself onward into new experiences and new sensitivities to old experiences.

I know what you mean about not being eligible for longer/advanced retreats because of not going through the system. But, in the same way you hit stream entry in a half hour sit instead of a 3-month IMS retreat (which is the usual “system” approach), just take what retreats you can, and simply commit to fully experiencing them. Success on retreat is more about getting out of your own way, rather than length or even format. Daylong retreats are worth a week of sitting, weekend retreats are really helpful, 5 days is good, 7 days is really good, 10 day is great, but, paradoxically, only if you really show up as an open questioning/experiment, approach each day sit-by-sit, approach each sit moment-by-moment rather than thinking that time really matters.

That attitude will also keep you from getting the delusions of grandeur that happen when you think “Oh, I’m going to go on this retreat, kick ass, get paths, and be awesome.” Too many of us have gotten too hardcore on IMS retreats, felt destabilized, and, to rub salt in the wound, realize how bad it was to be without recourse to having a teacher be able to talk with us about maps. Ironically, the IMS retreats are perfect for making healthy progress if we drop the “awesome meditator” quest and just do the schedule and let things happen.

Answer to Another Querent

Little Time Required to Attain to Stream Entry

My sits are generally an hour now, but before stream entry (SE), they were around only 30, and I practiced only once a week, and only samatha, during that last dark night. It seemed to make no difference what I did or didn’t do. But once I  entered Desire for Deliverance, I made a fervent promise to myself to prioritize awakening and not to lose equanimity if it emerged, which I felt it would. 

Suffering as Setup for Equanimity

It is really odd to say this, and I have no proof whatsoever, but I feel that because my knowledges of suffering (Dark Night) were so intense and long, that alone set me up for EQ. So if EQ emerges, I definitely would be consistent. I did one or two 20-minute sits per day in HEQ. Shargrol told me that the sits can take a lot of energy, so shorter ones are fine at that stage. SE happened toward the end of a 30-minute group sit at my workplace. (We have a Friday lunchtime meditation club. So if you have lunchtime, that can be meditation time.)

Metta at Meetings

I actually “meditate” at odd moments during the day. For example, in unproductive meetings, I sit at the back of the room and practice some fairly intense metta for everyone in the room with me. It is peaceful-blissful. I like to think it helps everyone and raises the energy in that collaborative environment.

Sleep and Practice

I tend to be high on the energetic side of spiritual faculties, so I deliberately stay up late and meditate when I’m fairly sleepy. I’ve never dozed off on the cushion, so I probably cannot speak to that problem. I think I’m actually meditating while I’m sleeping. Ever since that event of August 8, I wake up with total loss of sense of body (though I can move and function) and intensity of felt spaciousness. Lately, I purposely observed where I was when falling asleep, and I’m pretty sure I’m falling asleep most nights while in rather spontaneous Boundless Space. I don’t know where you are with jhana practice, but worth a try to go into those states as you go to sleep, if possible.

Retreats

I’ve never been on retreat, but I’m suddenly compelled to go on retreat. Unfortunately, the ones I would spend my vacation time on won’t let me in because I don’t have a retreat resume already. The beginner classes I don’t fit the description for, and they tend to be short. So I’m a bit frustrated about that. I have a friend at work who describes his practice as spotty and full of doubt (I think he is in the Dark Night), but he has done retreats and so can get into these more intermediate retreats that I’m turned away from. I feel that my extensive classes in the Tibetan tradition and my 4 years of daily meditation with results should count for something, so that system is screwed up. 

The Choice to Be Mindful

Okay, I’m off topic, but just saying—steal any moment you can to be
mindful. Be creative with finding those moments. You are living out moments. You have some choice about how fully to be with them.