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View Change and the Unexpected as Practice Opportunities

We all experience unexpected events on a daily basis, these will happen during Home Retreat. Different techniques will serve different retreatants in different ways. It is important to not use unexpected circumstances to dilute the quality of the retreat with excuses or laziness. Whatever the circumstances, be prepared for surprises to arise. On Home Retreat these demand flexibility in schedule and attitude. When they do arise and you must amend your daily schedule, that’s fine. Make the needed changes with conscious intention and amend the remainder of the day to refocus towards the practice. Make flexibility and continuity your priority. Integrate everything into the practice; it’s the point of the retreat.
For example, when my day is interrupted by unforeseen circumstances (car trouble, a surprise doctor or dentist appointment, an unscheduled business-related email, etc.) which forces changes to my schedule, I typically respond by replacing my usual hour-long sits with a number of one-to-ten minute sessions throughout the day whenever the opportunity allows. This permits me to continue the momentum of my practice and even deepens my intention while still attending to the situation at hand. In this manner, the retreat does not have to be put on hold until the unforeseen event is taken care of. You may find other techniques or schedule changing strategies that work better for you. The important thing is to stay aware, experiment and stay committed. Remember: Flexibility equals kindness. This is a major part of the training. Without flexibility and a special attention towards kindness for self and others, the practice becomes a chore. Remind yourself that you are doing this for the benefit of yourself and for all beings everywhere.

The changes that arise on Home Retreat are, in fact, the very heart of this type of practice. Our everyday lives are by their nature in constant flux; the added unpredictability of big surprises are just another more intense level for us to notice something new. Switching gears while keeping an eye open to noticing how the mind switches gears allows for flow throughout the retreat. Switching gears over and over teaches us more subtle tools that assist in the development of investigation and effort. As the gears shift, ask yourself: Is there resistance? Does planning arise immediately? Is the mind able to simply be present and respond? Recognize that all events, all mind objects, in fact everything, is part of your Home Retreat. Be part of the flow of whatever is arising whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. The posture of settling back with attention will help to cultivate patience and equanimity. Another good technique to practice and develop when sudden changes arise is to cultivate the parami of patience. Always check to see if the quality of friendliness is present in the mind/heart; if not, it isn’t patience. The first step towards patience is to notice whether or not a mental tone of friendliness, acceptance and/or kindness is present when unpleasantness arises. Check and see. If they are not, simply notice, pause and see if you can allow them to enter. Forgiveness and compassionate humor are useful tools in this process. In the face of the unexpected when real patience is present, flexibility of mind/heart will be noticed and accessible. It may be helpful to keep in mind that there are no interruptions on retreat. Everything that happens, everything that is noticed, is an opportunity to observe with an intention towards attention.

Pāramis: (perfections): Ten qualities leading to Buddha-hood: (1) Perfection in Giving (or Liberality; dāna-pārami), (2) in Morality (sila), (3) Renunciation (nekkhamma), (4) Wisdom (pañña), (5) Energy (viriya), (6) Patience (or Forbearance; khanti), (7) Truthfulness (sacca), (8) Resolution (adhiṭṭhāna), (9) Loving-kindness (metta), (10) Equanimity (upekkhā). Buddhist Dictionary, Nyanatiloka. 2. Insight Meditation Society.