Additional Logistics of the Home Retreat Layout

Additional Logistics of the Home Retreat

A

The first things to determine are when best to do your retreat, how long you can commit and whether or not you can find others to do a parallel retreat with you. Much can be accomplished in a week or a ten day Home Retreat. However, shorter periods of time, even just one day, can 2also be extremely valuable.
Not everybody has the luxury of living alone and having the free time to easily go on a formal residential retreat or to plan and do a Home Retreat. Most of us have domestic partners, children, roommates, and/or aging parents living with us, not to mention pets, guests, and any number of obligatory social responsibilities that create functional difficulties in planning and following through with a Home Retreat. And, there are also those of us who work and can’t take time off which adds another layer of complications and planning. Yet, it is precisely these life factors that if addressed with skill and follow through will provide the opportunities for Wisdom and wholesome habit to become second nature.
In fact, in many ways this Guide is written for you.
Munindraji,29 while staying with a senior and very committed yogi who fit the above description, wisely taught her how to make her domestic life a segment of her practice. He taught her that while caring for her three children as a single parent, she could use the time while washing the dishes, or walking to the laundry room, etc. as periods of active walking or dishwashing meditation. Meditation in motion. Meditation as life presents itself.

B

Sure, you might say, that type of practice is doable at home, but what about trying to do it at one’s work and what about the feelings of others when all of a sudden I start acting a bit strange and doing things differently? I suggest you talk to your loved ones before the retreat and get them on board as far as they can.
On board doesn’t mean that they will do the retreat with you; it means valuable just their understanding is to the success of your retreat. You might tell them how important the retreat is for you, and explain in detail what you think will remain the same and how your behaviour will change. No surprises. Then watch your reactions in each interaction should someone do or not do what they said they would. It doesn’t matter. They are with you as far as they can be, and the rest is your responsibility to make your inner experience a field for sati-sampajañña. Allowing the opportunity to support you could soften any resistance they might have to you taking care of yourself. Being in conversation with those you will affect might even help them learn how all of us have choices on how we live. Your family might step up and offer to help you in your retreat. They might not. In either case fill the role that your family and the situation offers with as much ease and grace as you can with as much inner sati-sampajañña as you can muster.
It is more difficult to maintain sati during meals if you live and eat with others. This is especially true if we are the caregivers. Meals will be more involved with less control due to the social situation. Should this be the case, it will be helpful to your practice to have some guidelines that can be discussed with your housemates/family before your retreat begins. Without planning and setting your expectations towards what can/can’t be done with others, meals will more likely undermine your continuity.

C

Planning your meals before starting your retreat will help support sense restraint by limiting this arena of choice each and every time you need to eat. Shop for your food before the retreat begins. Cook and freeze ahead of time. Try to eat at the same time each day. Reflect on and/or chant your gratitude for the food you are about to eat. In all respects, limit choice. Keep it simple. Just cook what is scheduled, eat with careful sati, and clean up with as much continuous sati-sampajañña as possible. You might choose to take the Sixth Precept.30 Try not to admonish or criticize yourself or others if agreements aren’t holding. Adapt and move on. Keep it simple and try to stay focused.
Work is challenging in a different way and could be more difficult than at home. Unless you work in a very special place and with very special people the fact that you are doing a Home Retreat will not mean anything to your boss or your work team. Telling them might, in fact, make you appear strange and suspect and could affect their ability to see you skillfully in the future. It will be best to do your work as you normally would. And, as often as possible, commit to five minutes of practice every hour. How? You could make your commute or the walking to your work station an opportunity of starting and ending your work day mindfully. During the day leave your work situation and go to the bathroom mindfully, take a flight of stairs or a walk to the tool shed as an opportunity of walking meditation during a break. Turn your chair away from your desk or put your tool down and sit or stand quietly. To take a break walk mindfully to the refrigerator or water cooler, make your lunch an exercise in eating meditation. In other words, there are many ways a person on Home Retreat can subtly and silently make room for practice during the work day. What is important to try and create is a field where you visit your practice and your commitment to the Home Retreat as often as possible while sustaining an integrity to your work.

D

Remember that while at work, we are fitting in our Home Retreat with work.
Once you’ve decided the length and dates of your Home Retreat, the next step is to begin the process of creating your daily schedule31. First, decide how many hours of sitting, walking and formal study you will do each day. Next, set a formal sitting/walking/study schedule for yourself: when you’ll sit, when you’ll walk, when you’ll study. Then plan when you’ll do your activities of daily living such as your work-related activities of commuting, electronic and face-to-face communications, work projects. Also, consider and plan for family and community commitments and responsibilities such as meals, chores, errands, exercise, sleep, etc. If you’ll give yourself entertainment, decide when, what kind and for how long. However, make the retreat your priority! And, within the retreat, make sitting your priority! Even a person with a busy schedule can do a Home Retreat; it’ s a matter of whether or not you can make the retreat the filter for your life or not.
Prioritize a daily schedule that emphasizes continuous sati-in all activities by introducing a heightened focus towards the simplicity of sense restraint, second schedule as much formal meditation as one’s daily responsibilities permit and third, bring a re- focused intensity to your meditative goals by practicing wise reflection through applied sampajañña (clear comprehension).33 First,sampajañña32After establishing a schedule in your mind, write it down, post it or have it where you will see it. Read it frequently and share it with a spiritual friend (kalyānamitta).34 Combining these activities, the mental factor of intention is strengthened and you make yourself accountable to a greater willingness to follow through. This is critical because intention, which is part of Right View (sammā-ditthi)35 and Right Effort, is necessary for the success of a Home Retreat. After reviewing the schedule, make an internal commitment to it and share it with your retreat friend or someone who you respect in practice. Tell him or her your schedule and

E

Once you have a list of what you do in a day and what you must do for the time you are on retreat make sure you keep those appointments and chores on your list that are necessary and jettison any activities that can be postponed such as that art or writing project you’re working on, or the morning coffee with friends at the coffee house, reading/watching the news, or going online for email or Facebook more than scheduled. These are activities that are normal and acceptable in everyday life but will be distractions and added burdens to you maintaining continuity of restraint and attention. Take notice if there are days, for instance on the weekend, where you can adjust your schedule for more sitting. Always keep an eye to how you might refine your understanding of sampajañña when examining all those appointments, tasks and activities of daily life.
Remember, this is a retreat and, as with all retreats, you will be assisted by restraint and continuity. In order to create a balanced approach, your situation and your skills must be carefully assessed.

E

Once you have a list of what you do in a day and what you must do for the time you are on retreat make sure you keep those appointments and chores on your list that are necessary and jettison any activities that can be postponed such as that art or writing project you’re working on, or the morning coffee with friends at the coffee house, reading/watching the news, or going online for email or Facebook more than scheduled. These are activities that are normal and acceptable in everyday life but will be distractions and added burdens to you maintaining continuity of restraint and attention. Take notice if there are days, for instance on the weekend, where you can adjust your schedule for more sitting. Always keep an eye to how you might refine your understanding of sampajañña when examining all those appointments, tasks and activities of daily life.
Remember, this is a retreat and, as with all retreats, you will be assisted by restraint and continuity. In order to create a balanced approach, your situation and your skills must be carefully assessed.

F

Sure, you might say, that type of practice is doable at home, but what about trying to do it at one’s work and what about the feelings of others when all of a sudden I start acting a bit strange and doing things differently? I suggest you talk to your loved ones before the retreat and get them on board as far as they can.
On board doesn’t mean that they will do the retreat with you; it means valuable just their understanding is to the success of your retreat. You might tell them how important the retreat is for you, and explain in detail what you think will remain the same and how your behaviour will change. No surprises. Then watch your reactions in each interaction should someone do or not do what they said they would. It doesn’t matter. They are with you as far as they can be, and the rest is your responsibility to make your inner experience a field for sati-sampajañña. Allowing the opportunity to support you could soften any resistance they might have to you taking care of yourself. Being in conversation with those you will affect might even help them learn how all of us have choices on how we live. Your family might step up and offer to help you in your retreat. They might not. In either case fill the role that your family and the situation offers with as much ease and grace as you can with as much inner sati-sampajañña as you can muster.
It is more difficult to maintain sati during meals if you live and eat with others. This is especially true if we are the caregivers. Meals will be more involved with less control due to the social situation. Should this be the case, it will be helpful to your practice to have some guidelines that can be discussed with your housemates/family before your retreat begins. Without planning and setting your expectations towards what can/can’t be done with others, meals will more likely undermine your continuity.

G

send it to him or her in an email. Include how many days you intend to be on Home Retreat, how many sits a day you intend to do, how long you intend to sit, and any particular formal study focus you might want to pursue. Solicit this friend’s advice. Consider all new ideas and previously not-considered points of view and see if what is being offered might serve you. All too often in practice we fall prey to thinking we know best and forget we frequently confuse ourselves by thinking what is best is really only that which is easy or pleasant. Allowing new notions and new perspectives to be tested can open not only our eyes but can also open the horizon to new skills and new perspectives.
Once you have a list of what you do in a day and what you must do for the time you are on retreat make sure you keep those appointments and chores on your list that are necessary and jettison any activities that can be postponed such as that art or writing project you’re working on, or the morning coffee with friends at the coffee house, reading/watching the news, or going online for email or Facebook more than scheduled. These are activities that are normal and acceptable in everyday life but will be distractions and added burdens to you maintaining continuity of restraint and attention. Take notice if there are days, for instance on the weekend, where you can adjust your schedule for more sitting. Always keep an eye to how you might refine your understanding of sampajañña when examining all those appointments, tasks and activities of daily life.
Remember, this is a retreat and, as with all retreats, you will be assisted by restraint and continuity. In order to create a balanced approach, your situation and your skills must be carefully assessed.

H

It’s helpful to stay aware of which activities create choice and encourage preferences, and which will provide support for a successful investigation of your Home Retreat. Do activities that are important in your life. If exercise is important to balance your energy or to sustain good health, get your exercise. Don’t exclude all pleasant, nurturing daily activities. Try to create a schedule that is doable and balanced and kindly towards both your goal and towards this unique type of practice. The goal is to limit distractions and situations that create choice or situations that cultivate the opiated buzz of distraction as much as possible.
For those types of activities where choice is part of the situation, bring heightened attention to the choices and watch your preferences while they are in the process of arising. To clarify, preferences will arise in almost all activities. They will arise in the most mundane of activities such as using the left leg to start walking instead of the right, all the way to picking your favorite ice cream. They will also arise in more important situations such as deciding whether to purchase a new car or stay with the current one, change jobs, get married or stay married, plans/hopes for the kids, if it’s time to move into a retirement home, and on and on. Whatever the situation, with as little judgment as possible bring heightened investigative examination to the choices and preferences as they are in the process of arising. Just notice with as little identification as possible. Notice the difference between being in the story and observing the story as merely a thought. Try to avoid making big life decisions while on any kind of retreat. The mind is not geared to these levels of consideration. Wait until after the retreat.
This particular part of the practice starts by our becoming aware of preferences as they present themselves. The sooner we become aware of

I

our preferences and the more familiar we are with how our minds behave in the face of our likes and dislikes, the sooner we will become skilled in being able to pause before speaking or acting which offers us a greater potential of allowing wisdom to become the greater part of our process.
The more we investigate preferences, the more we will see how they arise and howour they affect our lives. Hint: As soon as you notice a pattern occurring, whether in thought, speech or action, immediately bring your investigative focus to whether or not there is a feeling tone (pleasant, unpleasant or neutral) concomitant with the pattern in either or both the body and the mind. Ask yourself, ‘Does this pattern comfort me? How? Why?’ Then ask yourself, ‘Does this object/experience create further sequences of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral feelings in the body or the mind?’ The less we allow preferences to move from pleasantness to liking, to wanting/not wanting, the greater the potential for Wisdom to arise.
Take another careful look at your list of activities of daily living and the schedule you made, especially look at those activities that define you as a human being. As an example, all humans must eat. We must sleep. We must attend to our bodies with cleaning, toileting, addressing sexual impulses, maintaining health/strength. And we must attend to our surroundings in regards to safety and interaction with other humans and other species, to name just a few examples. These are the types of hard-wired necessities that our entire lives are built upon. A Householder’s activities are a construction of these basic human needs. Genetically we are hardwired to do certain things. How these activities manifest will be different depending on

J

the society, history, context and the character of the individual.
The roots of these types of activities are the most difficult to watch or understand with our rational minds. It takes special meditative effort to break through the veils of these basic habits. It is helpful and important to pay attention while on retreat because they will affect your choices and behaviors. Pay particular attention to hunger, tiredness, pleasantness and/or anxiety/fear. What do they feel like in the body and the mind? How do they affect our thoughts, speech and behaviors? Are they mixed with pleasantness or unpleasantness? The more intimate and familiar we are to such basic human experiences, the stronger the probability of not succumbing to them and reacting out of habit rooted in desire/aversion/ignorance. Hunger or sleepiness might arise but instead of grabbing an apple, having a cup of tea or taking a nap, we continue with our commitment to the schedule.

Right Intention (sammā-sankappa): ‘The Noble Eightfold Path’. Bhikkhu Bodhi. Chapter Three.

Munindraji: 1. Was an Indian lay teacher most often associated in the West as being Joseph Goldstein’s and Dipama’s teacher. His impact on how Theravada Buddhism is understood in the West cannot be overstated. In the book Living This Life Fully: Stories and Teachings of Munindra, 2010, by Mirka Knaster the reader is given a most extraordinary example of how to live a Home Retreat as a layperson. allan cooper.

Vikāla-bhojanā veramanī sikkhāpadam samādhiyāmi’, I undertake the Precept to refrain from eating at the forbidden time (i.e., afternoon till the sun rises the next day). I will eat with an attention towards sustenance with applied mindfulness and clear comprehension during all drinking and eating.

[1] See template in index.

[1] Sati-sampajañña: 1. Sati and sampajañña are two terms combined to mean one thing. Sati is the function of the mind that can bring meditative focus on any conscious object and get to know it without self-referencing or preference. Samapajañña is the wholesome attempt to understand what an object is. Without sampajañña sati is simply a function of the mind without understanding. Sampajañña without sati is speculation. Combined these mental functions can de-condition and reorient the mind towards freedom from unwholesome patterns of mind, speech and action. allan cooper 2. Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta: MN:10.

Sampajañña: Clear Comprehension: 1. Attending to four categories of attention: Purpose, Suitability, Domain, and Reality. allan cooper. 2. ‘The Heart of Buddhist Meditation’, Nyanaponika Thera. 3. Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. MN:10.

Spiritual friend (kalyānamitta): 1. SN 45:2 Upaddha Sutta. 2. Access to Insight, ‘Admirable Friendship: Kalyanamitta. 3. In common usage ‘a spiritual friend.’ In a traditional sense it means a teacher or a knower of the way. allan cooper

Right View (sammā-ditthi): 1. ‘The Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering,’ Chapter Two. Bhikkhu Bodhi.