What is covered in this blog is a lot to learn! How do you absorb it all? If you are overwhelmed, no worries. It is almost impossible to realize these teachings without going into a retreat. For over 1,000 years, the way these teachings were realized has been by going into deep silent, solitary retreat. This is exactly what my teacher advised me to do after going through the Lamrim once as we did through these blogs.
I just returned from doing a 10 day solitary retreat in my neighbor's empty home. They had gone away and offered me to use their home. There are several things to do to prepare for retreat.
1) Do not do it in your home! It is too distracting. Be in a place where you feel comfortable and safe.
2) Have plenty of food. You can have a caretaker, but, I think it's best to cook for yourself and keep it simple. I lived on rice and beans/daal and fresh fruits and vegetables. You will most likely be eating quite light.
3) Take plenty of clean clothes so you don't have to worry about laundry while on retreat. Take a fresh, new notebook that you will enjoy journaling in. Take anything you feel you would want for an alter if you choose to have one. Take a little chocolate or anything you feel you might crave while in retreat. No need to be super strict about diet. The idea is to be comfortable. You can even take a bag of potato chips in case you get the munchies. I took one bar of dark chocolate and ate a little piece of everyday and was very happy :)
4) Have a caretaker check up on you once a day. A good system that works (as you will be in complete silence) is to leave a note for your caretaker in case you need something or are feeling sick. If you are fine, don't leave a note (the less communication, the better). If there is no note, the caretaker will know that you are fine. I had my caretaker bring me groceries once during the ten days. No other notes were exchanged as I didn't need anything else and though I felt fluish one day, it passed and I was fine without even mentioning it.
5) If you do decide to do retreat, there are some other details to be aware of, so please ask your teacher for advise and if you don't have a teacher yet, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to go over a few more things.
In the retreat my teacher advised me to do four meditations per day which is a classic system where one meditation takes place before sunrise, one meditation before noon, one before sunset and one before midnight. Each meditation can be anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours. Mine were 45 minutes to an hour. Below is my schedule. Again, if you are planning to do a retreat like this, please talk to your teacher or feel very free to email me.
My schedule changed a bit during retreat as I was figuring out what felt best to me. So, feel free allow yourselves flexibility as long as you get your 4 meditations in during the time slots mentioned above.
It's not exactly a vacation of free time. It's hard work, but amazing as you get to know your mind and heart very well! If you have been following this blog, then you will understand that there are so many meditations...so how do you structure the retreat? My teacher advised me to do one emptiness meditation/day, one tonglen meditation/day and two bodhichitta meditations/ day which go through the seven step cause and effect to bodhichitta (beginning with equanimity and then wanting to be enlightened for the benefit of all). You have to spend a lot of time with this blog or read Pobangka Rinpoche's books Liberation In Your Hands Parts 1,2 and 3 to understand what all that means. It is a lot of preparation, but, so worth it.
3:30- 4am Wake Up!
4:30-5:30am Meditation (7step cause and effect)
10-11am Meditation (Emptiness/Mahamudra)
12-1 Lunch - first and main meal of the day
1-2pm - Study
2-3pm - Sing!
4:45-5:45pm Meditation and Pranayama (specific sequence with Tonglen)
6-7pm Light Dinner
7-9pm Study, rest
9-10pm Meditation (specific)