Intensive Meditation Retreat Tips

In this post you will be introduced to common sense that applies to intensive meditation retreats.

There are also many pointers that can help you tackle retreat challenges skillfully and maximize your meditation progress.

Let's start out with some straightforward dos and don'ts while in retreat. You may be surprised how many meditators lack basic common sense...

Retreat Dos And Don'ts

- Wash your clothes regularly (not to smell or look dirty)

- Shower and wash your hair as usual (personal hygiene is important while in retreat)

- Men without a beard should shave on a regular basis (to look clean)

- Be punctual (arrive in time for chanting, meditation talks, interviews and meals)

- Always be polite (rudeness is frowned upon)

- Be patient and wait your turn (this forms a vital part of your practice)

- Strive to be mindful at all times (slowing down makes it a lot easier)

- When you experience an energy burst - high mental energy, motivation and concentration - focus 100% on your meditation even if you are tired or bored with your practice (energy bursts are wonderful opportunities to make fast progress)

- Make as much effort as you possibly can for the entire length of the retreat (sincere meditation practice makes for steady progress)

- Don't rest your elbows on the canteen table (which is a sign of laziness and lack of mindfulness)

- Don't intentionally burp, slurp, fart, or clear your throat loudly (avoid disturbing and irritating your fellow meditators)

- Don't walk too close to other meditators, keep your distance. Moreover, don't block entrances or walkways. This applies to walking meditation as well as casual walking and standing around.

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Retreat Challenges

The first 1-3 days of an intensive meditation retreat can be truly challenging both physically and mentally. You have to wake up early, meditate for many hours per day and eat fewer meals than you're used to. Physical pain alone, from sitting down on the floor, is a major distraction. However, you will quickly get used to the routine, so don't even think about giving up!

It's challenging for novice and experienced meditators alike to meditate at four o'clock in the morning. The mental energy level, motivation and concentration are usually poor at that time of the day. The best remedy is to make more effort. In this case, more effort means to literally shower your meditation object with relaxed attention. Trying too hard only results in physical and mental tension.

While you're in retreat, you're likely to only get breakfast and lunch. Since it's normal to be afraid of hunger, it becomes a big issue for some novice and intermediate meditators. I suggest you eat substantial healthy meals without overeating. Power eating only makes you sleepy. Then, you can drink plenty of fluids when you start to feel hungry in the afternoons and evenings.

If you feel sleepy during sitting meditation, change to standing or walking meditation. You can even do walking meditation backwards. The final remedy for sleepiness is to take a nap. You will wake up feeling refreshed if you do lying down meditation until you fall asleep.

Even a 10-day retreat can feel like a lifetime, regardless whether you are struggling with physical discomfort, unpleasant emotions or boredom. Physical pain is best dealt with by changing body postures or applying deep heat. While unpleasant emotions should be given loving and caring attention.

In the long run, intensive meditation retreats are really monotonous. The best antidote is to make more effort. Keep in mind though that it's easier to motivate yourself during a meditation retreat than at home, much thanks to the teacher, group energy and the pressure of having to be in the meditation hall. Personally, I find the retreat environment very supportive.

It's quite natural to be attracted to other meditators as well as having negative thoughts about lazy or selfish individuals. Always do your utmost not to engage in that kind of thinking. Instead, focus on your meditation practice.

Doubts about your meditation may arise during the retreat, which is perfectly normal. Recognize it and carry on with your practice. Whenever you get the opportunity, bring it up with your teacher.

Most novice and intermediate meditators cling to their teachers. It feels so good to talk to her and be in her presence. Strive to become an independent meditator. So, be aware of your clinging tendencies. Mindfulness is the key.

Masturbation is a form of release or escapism. It's not a good idea to indulge in sexual pleasures whilst in intensive meditation retreat. Restlessness and boredom are skillfully suppressed by making more effort. Likewise, don't engage in endless planning or obsessive thinking, which also are common ways of escaping boredom.

At times, you may get tired of the tradition or religious practices. If that's the case, I suggest you take a mental note of it and make more effort to be mindful.

Meditators that normally drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes face even more challenges while in retreat than health conscientious people. Again, focus on your meditation practice and double your efforts.

One day you may love the retreat, the next day you may hate it. You may even consider to give up and go home. I suggest you make more effort and recognize that your feelings and thoughts fluctuate from one moment to the next.

Best of luck!

Related:   Retreat Strategies   Retreat Preparations   Mahasi Meditation

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