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Thread: Retreats

  1. #1


    I'd like to get some discussion rolling about Buddhist retreats. Up to this point I have not been able to attend a meditation retreat. Fortunately, my work schedule now allows me a bit more freedom for this sort of thing.

    I'm looking at starting off with a couple of weekend retreats in June. Hopefully, I'll be practicing at Blue Cliff Monastery in upstate NY (Thich Nhat Hahn's newest Dharma Center). I'm also looking at a weekend program at Zen Mountain Monastery.

    What should I be expecting? How should I be preparing for this? I must admit that I am a little nervous about it due to my inexperience.

    Please share your thoughts.

  2. #2
    Sorry Gregor I can't really help you as I've been to a retreat myself either. But at least we've all got a subject to talk about now, I sure you'll get help off everyone.
    To be honest retreats have never really interested me too much, I just couldn't see what you could do on a retreat that you couldn't do in front of your own wall! I mean it'd be nice to have access to a teacher, but that's what Jundo is here for.

  3. #3
    Hi Guys,

    Yep, you definately do some retreats if you have the time and ability. Long, morning to night, day after day practice is an important experience. It does not replace daily sitting on one's own, or with a Sangha. Instead, it is a special experience of its own. A three day retreat is an experience. A five day retreat is a different experience. A two week retreat, etc. etc.

    You should try retreats with different lineages too, and get a feel for different groups with different styles. I mean, I have my style around here ... but you should find out what is out there and find what suits you among teachers and teachings. Of course, you will end up coming back here! ;-) (I am completely biased)

    For people who cannot travel so easily or get away from work, we will soon have live, broadcast 24 hours, multi-day Sesshin (broadcast from Japan, I hope) that everyone can participate in at home. And, if you have to work for part of it ... that is part of the retreat too.

    Anyway, we will talk about that when the time comes. Gassho, Jundo

  4. #4

    Thanks for getting the discussion going. I appreciate your point of view. As Jundo said a retreat is not a substitute for daily practice. However, I think it might be a useful experience. Not to mention that it would be a wonderful opportunity to really focus on meditation and nothing else. I suppose it can be seen as intensive zazen trainning.


    Thank you for sharing your advice. I think your point about trying retreats in different traditions is a great idea. I hope to attend several weekend retreats this year. The first two Zen retreats, then possibly some in the Theravada / Insight tradition.

    I do plan on always returning here of course. Treeleaf has become the foundation of my daily practice. The online retreat sounds like a great idea, count me in.

  5. #5
    Hi Gregor,

    I didn't mean to downplay the whole retreat thing, it would be cool to have couple of days of just sitting (in fact what am I talking about it'd be a nightmare - imagine the boredom! :shock: ), it would be helpful and I don't discount attending one. I just think your daily practice is your foundation, we can all get ourself excited and worked up for some special occasion it's the daily grind that's the challange. Let's hope Jundo can get one sorted for the rabble on here.
    I hope you have fun anyway, let us know how you get on


  6. #6
    Retreats are good because normally (before the days of Treeleaf) that would be the only time many of us could attend a zen talk or zit zazen with others. I agree that it is daily life that is the foundation of zen practice, but retreats certainly have their merit.

  7. #7
    You are both so right.

    It is the daily, moment to moment part of practice that deserves the highest regard.

    I am working at cultivating not only a stronger sitting practice but in bringing mindfulness and equanimity to everything that do. Of course most of the time I am asleep at the wheel, but I hope there is some merit in realizing this and working towards change.

  8. #8
    Don't try too hard mate. In fact, try not to try. lol

  9. #9
    Hooray!! I did it!

    I just sent in my registration for a three day retreat at the Blue Cliff Monastery.

    I'm both nervous and excited. This will be my first retreat, and is an important step for me - - but the fear of the unknown makes me a little wary.

    Blue Cliff is a brand new Monastery in the Catskills, It is part of Thich Nhat Hanh's organization. He seems to blend Zen and Theravada together, so it might be a good fit for me.

    I'm looking forward taking the time for prolonged sitting, not to mention doing mindful work with the monastics. Perhaps I'll get a chance to "do the dishes to do the dishes".

    In the meantime I'll practice by doing my dishes and painting the house in the same way.

    Off to Zazen. . .then bed. . .then work. . .then the dentist. Sounds like tomorrow will be a good day for practice.

    Love and gassho,


  10. #10
    Hi Greg,

    cool -- that sounds like a good one. Best wishes to you!


  11. #11
    Hello Folks!

    Make sure that the people at the retreat give you a thorough explanation regarding their special in-house etiquette. And don't hestitate to ask twice or even three times, in case something isn't 100% clear in your eyes. Soemtimes there are tiny little differences with regards to the etiquette, and the last thing one wants is to cause any kind of major disruption once the retreat has started. On the other hand, hey, if something happens, it happens. People at a retreat are no more or less holy than everything else in the universe.

    Just my two cents at this points. Enjoy it!



  12. #12

    Thanks for the advice. I believe that they will offer a special orientation the night that the retreat begins before diner.

    In addition I have written to Brother Nguyen (who runs the retreats) about my lack of experiance; They should be fully aware that this is my first real exposure to their tradition.

    Hopefully, common sense and willingness to try will go along way for me.

    If it does not work it, it will be alright. I'm planning to attend another retreat the following month in the Vipassana tradition - - -It is going to be a good summer for discovering the practice of different traditions first hand.

  13. #13

  14. #14

    And right now, It's a good May. Don't you just love the spring?

  15. #15


    Dear Gregor:
    How did the retreat(s) go? I'm really interested in your experience and impressions. Let us know!

  16. #16


    Dear Gregor:
    How did the retreat(s) go? I'm really interested in your experience and impressions. Let us know!

  17. #17

    I never went on the retreat, the monastery never confirmed my registration.

    I'm looking around for one or a couple to do in the next year, maybe the next few months.

    I'm planning to be in Santa Monica in the Spring, I might try to attend one of Brad Warner's "All Day Zazen" mini retreats at the Hill Street Center, but need to think it over.

    I'd like to plan a weekend and week long retreat sometime in the near future but cannot decide where to go. . .perhaps I should try Blue Cliff again, or perhaps Zen Mountain Monastery (both are sorta close by).

    Anybody have some recommendations for the North East US( New York State / New England )?

  18. #18
    My advice for retreats - learn to stretch properly.

    Maybe Jundo could put up a video (or a link) with some demonstrations of good stretching exercises to do before long periods of sitting?

    I learnt by watching the "old timers" at my temple. It makes a huge difference.

  19. #19
    Im not sure if these stretches are considered stretching properly, but someone posted this link on the blog a while back and the stretches it shows have been helping me out. ... glish.html

  20. #20
    Very helpful! Especially since I get uncomfortable sitting even 30 minutes.


  21. #21
    That's a great link PaxAnimi. It seems some good Yoga advice for people who have trouble getting into Lotus.

    It's good that they stressed: Do not ignore knee pain! I've met people who've permanently damaged their knees by sitting incorrectly for long periods.

    But those aren't the stretches I do before every sit. I wouldn't have enough room at the zendo to lie down, for one thing. Hmmm, will look around to see if anyone's written out the recommended exercises I've learnt.

  22. #22
    Sun Salutations are great, they are a wonderful yoga practice. . . I should work on them into my daily routine.

    I remember reading (somewhere) that all of Yoga is a preperation for the full lotus posture. So perhaps the awnser for me is less thinking more action (Zazen, Yoga, running).

    Gassho to the whole crew,


  23. #23
    I was not logged in, oops.

    In case anyone was confused I'm the guy going to Kripalu in September.

  24. #24

    Sorry I won't be making it to Japan this year, someday I'd love to make the trip and we'll meet then!

    I'm going to be spending some time in Santa Monica this coming spring and hope to do one of Brad's all day sittings.

    Thanks for suggestions.


  25. #25
    Hi Renfeld,

    Thank you for asking if I will make it to Tokei-in this year. Well, I have been trying. I am not sure if I can stay the extra week in Japan, because I do have a Sesshin I promised to attend in the US that is overlapping. I also have to get back to Florida one more time to close up my late mother's household affairs, sell our small apartment and ship everything we accumulated back to Japan on a slow boat. But if I can figure out the impossible schedule, I would like to.

    I will discuss it with Gerhard Sensei when I see him.

    For those who don't know, Tokei-in is the Japanese monastery that is the historic home of the Niwa-Nishijima lineage. Have a peak here (and, connecting with our discussion on syncretism on another part of this Forum: You will notice the statue of Fudo Myo-o!!!!! See pageNo.8 ).

    Gassho, Jundo

  26. #26
    Forever the waffler. . . .

    I just canceled my reservation at Kripalu. After thinking things over I decided that I donít want to confuse things by studying Vipassana practice. It would have been a great and relaxing weekend, but not really the right step for my practice. Iím going to put the money to better use, I lost a $50 cancelation fee, but thatís okay.

    I may do a Zen retreat at Mount Tremper instead. Iíll need to make sure I can get the time off from work. Before scheduling anything Iíll do some sitting at their satelite Zendo in Albany. Weíll take things as they come.


  27. #27
    I just got off the phone with the registrar at Zen Mountain Monastery. Iíll be attending their Introduction to Zen Training retreat Sept 28th - 30th.

    I think it will be a better fit as I will be developing my Zazen practice during the weekend, instead of experimenting with Vipassana a technique that I donít do in my day to day life.


  28. #28
    Hi Ren,

    Yes, I am sorry too. I have to get back to Florida on September 15th to sell our little condo, ship all our accumulated junk back to Japan, and say "Farewe;; Sunshine State". So, I will have to miss the Tokei-in Retreat this year.

    But, I hope to see you there next year and most years after that!

    Gassho, Jundo

  29. #29
    Now that I've gotten my doctor's blessing, I'll be offline and at the monastery from tomorrow morning (Saturday) until Wednesday.

    Wish me luck!

    There are already more than 50 people there, who came early for the repentance ceremonies. They've run out of mattresses so some of the monks are sleeping on plywood benches. :shock:


    Well, I only made it 2 days....decided I wasn't feeling well enough to make the bus trip to our sister monastery. Bummer. But just the 2 days were good I think.

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