Friday, February 24, 2006

No talking for ten days! shush!

I'm thinking about going here next month
Is anyone familiar with this type of "zen camp" thingamajig? any thoughts or shared experiences would be appreciated.
I don't meditate too often ( I can't seem to fit it in to my daily schedule as often as I would like to) and I thought that going to the camp might be a good way to jump start that.


At February 24, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Ten days, ten hours a day is a LOT of sitting.

I've only done one three-day retreat, and we only did four or five hours a day. Toward the end, my body was getting pretty worn out, and I had been sitting for a half-hour every day for months before the retreat. Next time I'll bring a softer and bigger zafu, or maybe two of them. Stay away from buckwheat-filled zafus, they are comfy and supportive at first, but seem hard as a rock when you've been sitting on one for hours. Fine for daily practice, but I wouldn't bring it to another retreat. If you don't already have a zafu that just fits the way you sit, go shopping for one with a zipper so you can change the amount of stuffing, and bring that to the retreat after you've got it adjusted to right where you want it by practicing with it at home.

Some discomfort and pain is to be expected, but be careful about your knees, I have heard that they can be permanently damaged if you try to get macho and push through the pain no matter how bad it gets.

If possible, I'd suggest you try a shorter, easier retreat first. Daily practice for a while will help too, it will strengthen your back muscles, and gently teach your body to sit with good posture without muscle strain.

All that being said, if you can't find an easier retreat in your area, I'd say go ahead with this one. It would be a really valuable experience and you would walk out of that place with a whole different perspective on the world.

At February 24, 2006, Blogger karen said...

I have attended retreats where we sat from 6 AM until 9 PM. They are tough but, they are great for learning how to stay with whatever it is that comes up. The first 2 days I felt like I wanted to run screaming from the place. Then it dawned on me to just watch what came up and I started to settle down. Going back to work was a weird feeling. It took me a while to talk, but I liked that because I talk too much anyway. The place where I went always had extra, various sized pillows for people to prop under their knees or wherever so that the pain did not become unbearable. I agree that buckwheat becomes like sitting on a stone. It has no give beyond the initial positioning. I attended Japanese style sittings which were pretty rigorous, with formal oryoki, etc. But I still think the retreats are great for compacting what could take months of sitting at home, to give you the experience of what it really feels like to have to sit with what is and not have a choice as to whether to run or not.

At February 24, 2006, Blogger endofthedream said...

Helo rchinn72~

In the mid-eighties I lived for six months, full time, in a Soto zen monastery. Every month one week was dedicated to sesshin, a week of non-stop sitting. The amount of time spent in meditation depended on the season (from 10 hr/day to 12 hr/day).

For some it may have benefit. One will only know when one attempts it. That's the bottom line. That's pretty much the objective facts.

You asked for comments. OK. Now my subjective take on things.

On initial examination it doesn't seem like this is a wise direction for you. You don't wanna go from zero to sixty in five seconds. I don't know if it will cause any damage, but it might be more useful for you to explore the deeper motivations behind such a drastic action.

Drastic action? To me, yes. If some doesn't have the ability to meditate on a regular basis - every day ("I don't meditate too often...I can't seem to fit it into my daily schedule"), that person is probably not prepared for a long, intensive retreat. You say you don't have the time: I know people who work two, three jobs. Twelve or more hours five or six days a week. And they find 10 or 15 minutes EVERY day to meditate (perhaps engaging in it on a subway commuting to work if necessary). So why did you want to spent 10+ hours a day doing zazen? What are you hoping to get out of it (besides jump starting something that you seem unable to jump start yourself)? Enforced meditation is pretty useless. (Just like enforced anything is. It can work, on rare occasions, but most of the time nothing valuable comes of it.)

By the way, I got in some real good nap time during those sesshins. :-))))

Other than some excellent zzzzz's, I found little benefit from long arduous retreats. Daily sitting, even in small installments, examining life in thought and non-thought, was, for this bodymind mechanism, a more effective and useful tool for waking up. But I recognize that such is not the case for everyone. There is no "one-size-fits-all." In anything.

At February 24, 2006, Blogger me said...

Here's a trick for fitting in your daily practice more regularly (at least it worked for me).

I found myself wondering how to sit consistently because timing is always tough with a family of 5 (3 daughters).

I'm addicted to coffee and always get up before everyone else to start a pot of coffee each morning. Then it dawned on me that since I was doing this regularly every day, and it was a quiet time (except for the gurgling coffee maker) why not use that time to sit?

So now I sit everyday thanks to my coffee addiction. It only takes about 10 minutes for a pot to brew but it didn't take me long before 10 minutes felt too short so I've been pushing it to 20 or 30 minutes each day.

Of course this will only work if you do something like make a pot of coffee each morning already.

Also - now that I'm doing this regularly even if I'm somewhere I don't make coffee I feel odd not sitting in the morning. So it's not like I'm tied to this coffee maker. (Now if only I could get a coffee exec, maybe a starbucks guy, to make a commercial with this idea....)

I'm just beginning really sitting though and haven't been to a retreat or temple yet. (I think it was Brad's writing that got me to finally stop reading about zen and start sitting... well, I haven't really stopped reading...)

At February 24, 2006, Blogger karen said...

You will never know what this will be like for you until you try it. If you really want to do it, I think you owe it to yourself. If you don't do it, you will wonder what it is about, or what you missed. You may even find that you actually do have time at home after you complete something like this. You may also find that for you it isn't necessary. I think the retreats are fine. I do know some people who do them with all of their free time and vacation time. I don't know how beneficial that is, because if you are not a monk, that is, if your life isn't centered in a monastery, your life would get out of balance. Buddhism is called the middle way. No extremes.

At February 24, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

The other day a monk told me that the people whose first sesshin is a long one are the people who never come back. He helps run the retreats, so he's seen it a lot.

I'd rather not fall into that trap ("It's only a trap if you don't know what a trap looks like"). I was recently invited to a fairly rigorous five day sesshin and I opted out. I'll start with a weekend thing: I can handle anything for three days.

That's just me, and I don't speak from experience. But a ten day retreat seems pretty drastic.

At February 24, 2006, Blogger rchinn72 said...

Thanks everyone! Good comments. lots to think about... or maybe I'll just go meditate!! seriously I'm going to go meditate!
(easing into seems to be the way to go. baby steps.)

At February 25, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

I'm of the view that meditation should not be forced. Fitting a little bit into your life regularily is the best way.

I have never done one of these extensive retreats but I have often dedicated weekends at home where I have chosen to be particularily mindful whilst doing the tasks needed.

I have written a bit on 'Kinky' Zazen which is basically about expanding how and where you can do Zazen so that you do not need a Zafu and a morgue to do it but can do it anywhere.

It's is something I am quite keen on because it means that I can fit little meditations into natural gaps in the day and it meant that I learnt to meditate wherever I was and whatever was going on.

At February 25, 2006, Blogger cromanyak said...

I don't see how people can sit for just a few minutes. It takes me 5 or ten minutes just to settle down and forget about getting up.

At February 25, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

I'm with you, cromanyak. Anything less than half an hour or so, I might as well not bother. It takes a little while to quiet down.

That's just me, of course. I don't know how it is for others.

At February 25, 2006, Blogger PA said...

All this talk of retreats has made me want to go again.
I've only done a day (night?) retreat - from 6pm-9pm and then from 3am - 11am, but I found it very gruelling. It helped me through a tough time though and kind of gave me a bit of perspective for a brief time.
Nowadays I tend to sit 10/15 minutes each time, once a day sometimes twice. But sometimes I spend less than a minute :-)I'm not sure how valuable that is but I feel it lets me regain a bit of balance. Just like a reminder. Better than no-zazen, I guess.
But I think it'd cause too much pain in the legs, rchininn72, if you're not sitting regularly now to do such a long retreat...
I think you're right with your baby steps!

At February 25, 2006, Blogger aumeye said...

After reading the exhaustive content on the Feeling Better thread, ten days of no talking sounds dreamy! Seriously though, whatever your decision, the best of luck to you. I don't think I could do it; at least not yet.

At February 25, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

cromanyak, rot13:

It is just a matter of practicing. The time to move into it then becomes quicker. There is nothing to stop you practicing the 'calming down' phase.

A typical session for me is less than 1/2 an hour. Sometimes I do much longer. Sometimes minutes. No rules.

As for a 10 day retreat of just sitting. It's not something I would choose to do at this point in time.

At February 25, 2006, Blogger cromanyak said...

At this point in practice I have to have rules. I set my timer and sit until it beeps. If I just did what I wanted I'd never make it till the beep.


At February 26, 2006, Blogger Bob J. said...

Please note that vipassana is not Zen, and I have to join the chorus that ten days seems a little long. There are plenty of three-day retreats around, and that will be rough for the first day, too. If you go for the ten and it doesn't work out for you, don't give up on practice!

At February 26, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

mikedoe said,

"It is just a matter of practicing. The time to move into it then becomes quicker."

Nah, in my case if that were going to happen it would've been a long time ago. Or actually, it did; but still, sometimes I can get settled right away and sometimes not. By now I just think that's the way it is for me.

But the real thing about short sittings -- it's personal, I know -- is that I just don't find them beneficial. It's like a distance runner sprinting across the street: it's not exactly training. (Not that I'm a marathon sitter. How people can sit zazen for several hours straight, I don't know.)

Again, it's not the same for everybody, but longish sittings just work better for me.

At February 26, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

bob j. said,

"Please note that vipassana is not Zen...."

Sure it is. Shikantaza ain't the only game in town: shamatha-vipassana is a regular part of Zen practice. For example, Dainin Katagiri was a big fan of it (though I'm no fan of his).

True, other sects have made more of it than Zen.


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