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What is a Mediation-Retreat?

Purpose of a meditation-retreat

A retreat is a period of intensive inner work.
The mind is not directed to external events, but on that, what happens inside us.
The Buddha has called this internal work bhāvanā. Bhāvanā means development. This means not only to observe the mind, but also to develop the mind.
 
Buddhist meditation retreats have the purpose to understand our existence on a deeper level and to develop the appropriate mental faculties.
These faculties are concentration and wisdom. For this the Buddha has given numerous advices.
 
Real understanding can only arise out of wholesome consciousness, because unwholesome consciousness is always connected with the root ignorance. This ignorance prevents to see and understand reality.
The Buddha compares the deluded state of mind with a sky full of clouds. One can then see neither sun nor moon. So it is with delusion, it prevents seeing things as they really are.
 
The whole Buddhist path to freedom and happiness lies in deeper and deeper exploration and understanding what life really is. Therefore, it is the goal of the entire Buddhist path to recognize and to overcome unwholesome thoughts, speech and actions.
Only in this way we can see and understand who we are or better not are. Only by wholesome thoughts, speech and actions, we can be happy and free.
Wholesome states of mind have pleasant, uplifting results, unwholesome have unpleasant, painful results.
 
So we learn in a retreat what is beneficial or wholesome and what is unwholesome, what brings us happiness and what causes suffering.
We have in a retreat the opportunity by constant awareness consciously to develop wholesomeness and also to recognize unwholesomeness.
Unwholesome are all the modes of behaviour which bring us again and again discomfort, difficulties, frustrations, etc.. By mindful and accepting awareness of these structures that we have approved for a very long time and repeatedly reinforced by repetition, we can overcome them and letting them go.
 
When we are more and more aware of unwholesome states of mind and when we can let them go, and when at the same time we strive to have a clear object of observation, we can develop strong concentration.
Right concentration arises only by wholesome states of mind and right concentration is the cause for the development of wisdom.
Each wholesome mind-moment will bring according to the law of cause and effect pleasant results in the future.
So we should use the time in a retreat to really continuously and intensively develop wholesomeness. In this way we can improve our quality of life tremendously. The more moments of consciousness we dwell in wholesome states of mind,
the more the wholesome states become a habit.
The more we practice in a retreat with full awareness, the more we'll get the chance to keep practicing.
Even if it is sometimes difficult to be alone undistracted, we should recognize this and continue to practice. It leads to our own well-being, as well as to more confidence and satisfaction.
 
Instructions
It is very helpful and supportive, in order to improve the process of developing concentration and understanding when we get regularly instructions on how we can increase wholesome states of mind, and if we can talk to someone who knows this path.
Therefore, in a retreat are daily dhammatalks about the Budhda's teachings and individual interviews about our personal experiences. In the individual interviews the individual meditation object will be discussed.
 
No other activities
To take advantage of this unique opportunity, to practice as intensely and persistently as possible, we should not engage in any other activities.
Internet should not be used, no phone calls should be made and no other literature one should read, than that which is perhaps recommended by the teacher.
We should not leave the compound on which the retreat takes place.
 
Noble Silence
We should practice noble silence and keep it in order not to distract ourselves by talking and also not to distract others. Noble silence is an essential part of the retreats to allow this inner work and to develop concentration.
Silence around us is very supportive for developing concentration and wisdom. Therefore, we should avoid any unnecessary sounds.
We therefore meet for retreats at locations that have less distraction and that offer calmness. However, if noises around us appear, we should observe them mindfully.
For concentration and understanding, it is also helpful if we move slowly and perform all activities slowly.
Schedule

There is no break in the retreat of conscious awareness, except in the period in which we sleep. Directly from the awakening in the morning, until we fall asleep at night we should always strive to have a clear object of observation. The formal exercise periods of sitting and walking meditation are the most intense times in order to gain deeper concentration. Therefore, we should as much as possible practice formally.

The daily routine in the retreat begins in the morning at 5 a.m. and ends in the evening at ± 9.00 - 9.30 p.m. with bedtime. Between sitting and walking meditation are practiced alternately.
There will be several daily group sessions of one hour duration. Yogis however, are encouraged to sit longer to deepen concentration.
At least 2 hours a day walking meditation should be practiced. The times can be determined individually by the participants.
The formal meditation periods are interrupted only by breakfast, lunch and in the late afternoon by drinking tea or juice.
After lunch, it is advisable to rest for half an hour because the day is long.
In some centers the participants are asked to do for about one hour volunteer work, to carry out the daily work which has to be done. This should also be performed mindfully as working-meditation.
 
Rules
We should follow to the rules of the retreat. These are not rules that limit us without any background, but these are rules based on experience and facilitate the process of developing concentration and insight.
These are also rules that allow a harmonious living together.

We should always try not to disturb others. To observe and judge others, can be a disturbance to sensitive people already. Therefore, we should keep looking down and not look around in the area.

In the retreat we observe the 8 Buddhist precepts (sila), since ethical behavior is conducive to the development of concentration. These rules include, among other things, that we do not take solid food after lunch. Exceptions for health reasons are of course possible.

Psychological or medical diseases

A meditation retreat is not a kind of psychotherapy or psychiatric treatment and not a substitute for medical treatment. If there are mental pre-existing diseases, it should be discussed with the teacher and the therapist whether such an intense practice time is useful or possible.

Also in case there exists a chronical bodily disease, which needs special care, it should be discussed with the teacher, whether an intensive retreat is useful. In a retreat one should be responsible for oneself and should be able to take care of oneself.

General Items

Comfortable, discreet clothes are supportive for long periods of group sittings.

It should only be practiced meditation techniques that have been discussed with the teacher.

The advantage of a group retreat is, that we support each other by our own disciplined practice. We should appreciate this opportunity and heedfully and respectfully behave towards all participants of the retreat.
Everybody should follow the schedule.

During such an intense period of practice very sublime states of consciousness can arise which go far beyond our everyday consciousness, and which give us insight into the nature of our life and existence in general.

 

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