Episode 34

November 27, 2023


Silent Meditation Retreats: A Journey of Self-Discovery & Inner Peace | Shaila Catherine

Hosted by

Sol Hanna
Silent Meditation Retreats: A Journey of Self-Discovery & Inner Peace | Shaila Catherine
Treasure Mountain Podcast
Silent Meditation Retreats: A Journey of Self-Discovery & Inner Peace | Shaila Catherine

Nov 27 2023 | 00:53:08


Show Notes

Have you learned the basics of meditation and wanted to take things deeper? Have you heard about silent meditation retreats and wondered what they are like? If so, you’ve arrived at the right place as in this episode we are going to discuss why we should go on meditation retreats, with a focus on the commonly available nine or ten day retreat format. Also we’ll discuss what we might expect when going on meditation retreats and some of the obstacles we might encounter and how to overcome them, and how to integrate this all into a deeper practice, leading us to deeper tranquility and insight.

To guide us into a better understanding of silent meditation retreats is our guest Shaila Catherine.

Shaila Catherine is the founder of Bodhi Courses, an online Dhamma classroom, and Insight Meditation South Bay, a center for mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom in Silicon Valley, in California.

She has taught insight meditation since 1996 in the USA, Europe, Israel, New Zealand, and Canada. Shaila draws inspiration from the Discourses of the Buddha and maintains an unwavering dedication to awakening. She is known for her expertise in guiding practitioners to cultivate concentration and the deep absorption states of jhāna, and for her enthusiasm for sutta study.

Shaila is a Buddhist author of three books on meditation. Her first book, Focused and Fearless: A Meditator’s Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity, introduces concentration practices and the absorption states of jhāna. From 2006–2014 Shaila trained in samādhi and vipassanā under the direction of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw in Myanmar. She went on to author Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhanā and Vipassanā to help make his traditional approach to meditative training accessible to western practitioners. And her third book is Beyond Distraction: Five Practical Ways to Focus the Mind which shares practical Buddhist strategies for overcoming restlessness and distraction.

Shaila has been going on and teaching meditation retreats for several decades and I feel very fortunate that she has offered her time and experience to help us understand the whys and hows of silent meditation treats on this episode of Treasure Mountain. So join us as we seek for the treasure within…


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Episode Transcript

[00:00:01] Speaker A: Welcome to Treasure Mountain, the podcast that inspires and guides us to find the treasure within human experience. I'm your host. Sol hannah have you learned the basics of meditation and want to take things deeper? Have you heard about silent meditation retreats and wondered what they're like? If so, you've arrived at the right place. As in this episode, we're going to discuss why we should go on meditation retreats, with a focus on the commonly available nine or ten day retreat format. Also, we'll discuss what we might expect when going on meditation retreats and some of the obstacles we might encounter and how to overcome them. And also how do we integrate all of this into a deeper practice, leading us to deeper tranquility and insight. To guide us into a better understanding of silent meditation retreats is our guest, Shayla Catherine. Shayla Catherine is the founder of Bodhi Courses, an online dharma classroom at Insight Meditation South Bay, a center for mindfulness, compassion and wisdom in Silicon Valley, California. She has taught insight meditation since 1996 in the USA, Europe, Israel, New Zealand and Canada. Shayla draws inspiration from the discourses of the Buddha and maintains an unwavering dedication to awakening. She is known for expertise in guiding practitioners to cultivate concentration and the deep absorption states of Jhana and for enthusiasm for sutestudy. Shayla is a Buddhist author of three books on meditation. Her first book focused and Fearless and meditator's Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm and Clarity introduces concentration practices and the absorption states of Jhana. From 2006 to 2014, Shayla trained in samadhi and papasana under the direction of venerable Par Oxayador in Myanmar. She went on to author Wisdom, Wide and Deep a Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Dupasana to help make his traditional approach to meditative training accessible to Western practitioners. And her third book is Beyond Distraction five Practical Ways to Focus the Mind, which shares practical Buddhist strategies overcoming restlessness and distraction. Shadow has been going on and teaching meditation retreats for several decades, and I feel very fortunate that she has offered her time and experience to help us understand the whys and hows of meditation retreats on this episode of Treasure Mountain. So join us as we seek for the treasure within. Welcome to Treasure Mountain, Shayla. How are you today? [00:03:10] Speaker B: I'm well, and thank you for inviting. [00:03:12] Speaker A: Me and thanks for coming along. Look, let's get stuck straight into it because in my experience, there may be quite a few of our listeners who have done meditation, but they haven't done a meditation retreat. Or maybe they've done just a weekend retreat, but they're thinking about doing a nine or ten day retreat. Could you explain what are some of the benefits of going on a meditation retreat like this? [00:03:38] Speaker B: Well, I first would say if the thought occurs to somebody to attend a meditation retreat, I would encourage them to definitely attend it. That thought has arisen. It is a rare thought most of the time we just go through our patterns, our ordinary activities of the day. And every once in a while there is an amazing thought that opens up in our minds of something that we may not even know what that path may hold for us, what it might show us. And I say if that thought arises, that is a blessing and one should act on it. So if somebody already has some exposure to meditation, then certainly there's no reason not to go on retreat for most people. There are, of course, a few people who it's just not the right time. Maybe they have very young children and it's just not the time to leave them, or they have some worldly responsibilities that they need to attend to, but there's always going to be something of worldly responsibilities. We have to learn to make space in our lives for something deeper, something more profound than our ordinary activities. If we care about our spiritual lives, we have to give it the time. [00:05:04] Speaker A: Would you say that after the end of a retreat, do people feel differently? Or is there something that they've gained or lost, perhaps? What's the drive, do you think, that would encourage people to make that decision that's worthwhile to go on a retreat? [00:05:20] Speaker B: What brings somebody into the retreat is so varied. Some people go out of curiosity, some people go on a dare. Some people go because it sounds like an exotic, weird idea. Some people go because a friend suggested it and they feel like, well, the friend suggested it, so I should try it. Some people go because their doctor prescribed it because they were stressed or they were having some heart condition or panic attacks. And the doctor said, you got to learn to chill, you got to learn to meditate. And there's no better way to learn meditate than to really immerse oneself in the experience of meditation. I do think it's good to do things, to meditate at home and to take classes so that we can learn some of the basics, get introduced to meditation, especially mindfulness. Meditation is the kind of meditation I encourage for beginners just learned to be mindful and to sit in silence, being mindful of the body, mindful of feelings, mindful of what's happening in the mind. But in a day we just might sit for what, a half an hour, an hour, once or twice a day. We don't build a momentum so that we rarely will get anything more than a little bit of calm or a little bit of a slightly different perspective on our lives. When we go on retreat, we have to step out of our normal patterns and all of the routines and interactions and habits that keep reinforcing the exact same worldview and expectation about ourselves. We have to step outside of that to have a wiser perspective. So if we want to understand how we're meeting our lives, we have to look at that from another perspective. And simply going on a retreat gives us a very different perspective on things. It clears a space so that we can sit and calm the mind, let go of distractions and begin to see how this mind works, how we're perceiving things, how our views are affecting our perceptions, what's happening in the moment of experiencing life. And that's very hard to do without the support of the continuity of mindfulness that builds over the course of some days in a retreat. It's not that it's impossible to happen in a daily practice alone, but really, what's more optimal is to have retreats where we step out of all of our daily routines and we go and dedicate time. We dedicate those days, those weeks, to developing the mind and really cultivating our spiritual life and clarifying our perceptions, deepening our concentration, developing understanding and wisdom. And then we return and come back to our daily lives. And during our daily lives, we continue to meditate. But just that once or twice a day is what most people do and then go back on another retreat sometime later in the year. [00:08:58] Speaker A: I did want to ask, how does one prepare for going on to a meditation retreat? And I know for myself that 30 years ago, when I did my first nine day retreat, I prepared by being incredibly busy and then going and playing a gig with my band on the night before. So that was like the worst possible preparation. It took me a long time to really get into the flow of the meditation retreat. What would you recommend for someone who hasn't done it before? What's a good way to get ready to go for a retreat? [00:09:29] Speaker B: Well, I think we can learn what not to do, and that's a good example. Of course, there are some times when we can't really control what's happening in the lead up to a retreat. And there are times when we come out and we don't know what we're going to meet and we could just come out to chaos, but we certainly can plan that. When we schedule a retreat, we can also try to schedule the time before it so that we create a period of time where we are preparing ourselves for the retreat and then after the retreat, we're creating a bridge back to our daily lives. Now, that's ideal. If we can do that, and I'll say a little bit more about the specific things we can prepare or set up, but we should know that though there's an ideal, life isn't going to always give us ideal conditions and we just have to meet the moment however it is. But what tends to happen is when the transition is extremely abrupt, what we tend to do is we just tend to block out one thing and then just focus on the next. We tend to kind of really compartmentalize and grab ahold of something. And often what the mind grabs ahold of are the very things that would actually be better to let go of. [00:10:56] Speaker A: Yeah, good point. [00:10:57] Speaker B: For example, we tend to grab ahold of things that create a sense of identity. And it really would be a lot better for most of our joy, for excessing joy and ease and letting go and destressing is to let go of some of the things that keep reinforcing who we are, how we are, what we think of ourselves in the world. To actually let some of that go. The kinds of things that I think really help somebody prepare for a retreat is, first of all, prepare physically by getting some sleep in the days before. If you come into a retreat really exhausted, then you're very likely going to sleep away the first few days and have a lot of sloth and torper in the meditation. So if you have the opportunity to actually get a good night's sleep for the three or four days before the retreat, try for that. Try for that. It makes a huge difference if you have the opportunity to reduce the kinds of entertainments and even the worldly contacts, like reading news and listening to news that keep stimulating a lot of agitating thoughts, then for the week before or even the two weeks before, you might want to do less of those sorts of things. And the entertainment. Like it's not the time to try to start a new novel and only get halfway through and then your mind is thinking about it and what's going to happen next when you're in the retreat. It's also not the time to watch some really a horror film or something like that right before a retreat because sometimes it may not seem important because we know it's fiction, but nevertheless, you're not going to want to be meditating there having visions of some zombie apocalypse or something because you saw some crazy horror movie. So whatever we put in tends to bubble up when we're in silence. And so take care what you consume with your mind in the weeks before a retreat. It doesn't mean you can't read the newspaper, but I think people know when they're entering into something that's going to agitate their mind and sometimes we just do it habitually. And this is a good excuse to opt for a quieter evening or something very simple to end the days before we go to bed or after work in the weeks before or retreat. It's a really nice way of protecting the mind. It also helps to meditate more. If you're sitting only once a day at home and then you come into a retreat and suddenly you're sitting six to ten times a day, well, whoa, that's going to seem intense and the body might even not like it. It might get really sore. So just sit a couple if you can sit a little bit more. Whatever your schedule allows in the two weeks before the retreat and similarly after the retreat, see if you can allow a little bit more time in your schedule. Most people still have to go back to their worldly responsibilities, their work, their schedules. But if you can allow a little bit of more time for meditation, then when you emerge from the retreat, you'll be able to bring the insights from the retreat back into your life and have more of an integrated experience upon emerging. So we just want to allow sort of a gentle kind of gliding into the retreat. Warm up a little bit for it. Go really deep during the retreat when we're protected by the silence and then when we emerge still allow times in our day that are supported by silence. That are punctuated by silence, so that we just give ourselves time to let the new perspective of the retreat meet the ordinary activities of our lives. And tremendous wisdom comes that way, both in terms of the preparations, we start to recognize the activities that we do that are actually corrupting our own minds and not actually leading to the deep happiness we yearn for. And then we might get a taste of deep joy and pleasure that comes when the mind is concentrated and undistracted, when the mind is very serene and at peace. And we can enjoy that, no problem. And then when we come back into life, we can't keep longing to stay in a concentrated state where we were secluded from everything. We have to meet life, but we can just allow a little bit of quiet to increase our capacity to meet life with that wisdom. Another thing people can do to prepare would be to protect the silence of the retreat by actually taking care of whatever communications are absolutely necessary before the retreat. Sometimes people think these days, oh, well, I'll just bring my cell phone along and I'll finish this work or this conversation by text and oh, that's quiet, it's silent, right? I'll just be texting somebody. But actually it would keep the mind engaged in the world of the social activities. So it's preventing us from actually having the deep experience of the retreat. Usually we have to prepare to let go of our communications. We have to actually give the emergency number to the people who we trust and explain to them what an emergency consists of. And then we have to tell the other people who are not likely to have emergencies but might be used to reaching out to us, that they have to contact that person that has the emergency number and they're our gatekeeper. So everybody has to have their own gatekeeper outside of the retreat. So that if something really is important to me, that's life and death. Life and death. It's really as simple as that. Illness is such a strong illness or injury that somebody I love is hospitalized and they need my help. There's something I could do to help. I specify what kinds of things somebody would contact me for and then I give them a route to contact me. And every retreat center usually publishes their emergency contact number. So there's always a way to reach somebody. But once somebody in a retreat communicates with the outside, very often their concentration crumbles and it's difficult to regain the momentum. They get very distracted because these worlds collide and it happens sometimes. So that's fine. But the problem that we have more and more as people bring their devices into retreats and have access to their own hotspots is that they never let go of their devices. And I think that's a big part of the retreat is to go on a retreat and go fully on the retreat, set up your gatekeeper so that you really feel confident turning off your devices and not looking at them until the end of the retreat. And if somebody doesn't have a gatekeeper, then they don't feel confident and they don't actually step outside of their worldly responsibilities of keeping up their role and keeping up all of the same things that one does at home. We have to give ourselves the space to not do those things in a responsible way. And the responsible thing is to have that gatekeeper for the emergency contact. There's another part of this of understanding the retreat as being a layperson's form of renunciation. We're not leaving our worldly lives forever and going off into a monastery. But we are making these temporary renunciations. And it's very important to do we have to be willing to let go, to step away from I think renunciation is a very beautiful word. To be able to renounce the habits of daily life, the expectations of daily life, the comforts of daily life, the sense of identity that comes with the way that we do things in our daily lives. We have to step outside of that, renounce that. And when we go on to a retreat, we give ourselves the chance to actually let go of that for the days of the retreat and then we come back. And that's a really important part of practice for a layperson, so that we can from time to time experience that depth of calmness and peace, from deep meditation on retreats. We can from time to time step outside of the preoccupations with gain and loss and success and failure and all of the worldly conditions. But then we come back and we deal with the things that we need to deal with as laypeople. We take care of the things that we're responsible to take care of and then maybe we do a few retreats a year so we have these little times to take off. It's more than a vacation. People might say, well, it just sounds like a holiday. Why not go to some island that has sit under a coconut tree and sip your coconut water through a straw? And wouldn't that be just as relaxing, but it's different. The renunciation and the stepping away is much more than a holiday. It has a kind of rejuvenation that goes very deep. [00:22:17] Speaker A: Let's talk about what goes on in a meditation retreat. What can people expect on an average day during a meditation retreat? [00:22:26] Speaker B: Well, from the time one wakes up until the time one goes to sleep, basically, people are asked to be mindful, to be aware, to let thoughts of past and future fall away, and to actually practice meeting this present moment continuously throughout the whole day. For most of the retreats that I'm involved in, there's a schedule that starts wake up, whatever the wake up time would be. Some are very early, some are later, like 06:00. Some start at 430, some start at 04:00, some start at 630, whatever the wake up time is. And some don't even have a wake up time. And they just leave it up to the individual to set their own alarm. And it doesn't really matter. The point is not what time somebody wakes up. The point is that from the moment that one is conscious in the morning, that one establishes mindfulness. One is very present, and then one continues to cultivate mindfulness through every activity. Brushing your teeth, showering, dressing. Then one goes to the meditation hall because the only structured activities are basically sitting, meditation, and then walking, meditation, some meals and a little work period, and then a dharma talk, a little teaching, and once in a while you meet with the teacher to discuss your practice, either in a group or individually. But that's about all there is. So the schedule might look like wake up, sitting, meditation, walking, meditation, breakfast, a work period, sitting, meditation with a guided meditation or instructions from the teacher. Then walking, sitting again, maybe a question and answer period, or another sitting before lunch. Then there's lunch, a little breaks. People like to rest or do exercise. Or maybe there's another work period for some people to clean up after lunch. And then maybe 02:00, there's another sitting period, and then a walking and a sitting and a walking. And then maybe there's a meeting with the teacher in the afternoon, and then a sitting and a walking, and then a dinner. Some retreats follow a monastic custom where food is not really eaten after dinner. So if somebody was to attend a retreat led by monastics, they might not get any dinner. But if it's a retreat led by laypeople, there's a really good chance there'll be dinner. And the instruct, the information about the retreat will tell them what's going on there. So maybe there's a dinner and then another meditation, an evening dharma talk, a walking period, another meditation, and then bedtime. And then people go off to bed, and then they wake up, and it's the same thing. So it's basically alternating sitting and walking, sitting and walking, sitting and walking, punctuated by meal times and a little tiny bit of volunteer work to help the cooking and to help the cleaning of the retreat center. All done in silence, all in silence, with the exception of the questions, with the questions and answers for the teacher. So though you might be cleaning carrots or peeling carrots with somebody, you're not talking with them, so you're not going through the social interactions that tend to bring up all our personal identities and patterns and attachments and reactions and judgments infuse we're just peeling carrots, mindful of peeling carrots. And then we go back to do the next sitting meditation. And some retreats will have shorter sittings, like 35 minutes, 30 minutes. Some retreats will have longer sittings, an hour and a half, 2 hours, most will be somewhere in the middle, 45 minutes to an hour. But again, it depends upon the teacher. And the same with the walking periods. Some teachers give a lot of emphasis to walking meditation, and it's more or less equal time sitting, meditation, walking meditation. And other teachers will give more emphasis to the sitting meditation and the walkings will be slightly fewer or slightly shorter and it just depends upon who the teacher is. But the essence, the point of it is that one is practicing from the time one wakes up in the morning until the time one goes to bed. And that our activities are simplified, really simplified. We're just doing the basics that have to be done. We're sitting, we're walking, we're dressing and showering and eating and cleaning up and then the same thing, because what we're interested in is looking at how the mind meets experience in a moment of contact. We're cultivating mindfulness of this experience of the present moment. So we're not trying to contemplate and reflect on past things or anticipate future things, we're mostly just being mindful. And then one might periodically undertake a specific practice. Like one might go to a particular retreat that was focused on maybe cultivating lovingkindness and compassion. So then they might not give as much emphasis to being mindful in a moment of contact. They might give more emphasis to cultivating the practices of lovingkindness and compassion practices. Somebody might go on a retreat that was oriented towards concentration and samadhi, using the breath as the primary object perhaps, and then one would focus primarily on the breath. But similarly, it wouldn't be wildly different, it would still be very simple, just the activities that are absolutely necessary. And everything from the time you wake up in the morning until the time you go to bed is intended to be every moment used for that mindful exploration of the meditation practice. So we don't sit there, kick back, sipping our coconut, fantasizing about something else. No, we're mindful right then and there, whether we're drinking our tea or walking on a path. [00:29:13] Speaker A: I think a lot of people might hope or imagine that a meditation retreat involves lots of calm or blissing out. And whilst that can definitely happen come about as a result of going on a retreat. It can also happen that we get stuck for a while in a negative frame of mind. What are some of the obstacles that can come up in the course of a meditation retreat and how might we deal with those? [00:29:39] Speaker B: Yeah, one of the great things about retreats is we have to deal with our obstacles. [00:29:44] Speaker A: True. [00:29:45] Speaker B: And if we are at home, something comes up, we get irritated or we experience some desire. Well, people often don't deal with their own obstacles. They just satisfy their desires and get angry at whatever they're annoyed with. They express their defilements and act on their hindrances. So if there's restlessness and agitation, people might just get more restless. If there's thoughts, they might let the mind wander. So in daily activities, people don't really take care of their mind so much unless they're already well established with their meditation practice. On retreat, if you don't take care of your mind, you're going to feel it, it's going to sting, you're going to experience the pain of anger, and you're going to be in silence. So you're not going to be just venting. You have to see what the mind is doing, and that's a good thing. You're in a safe environment. A retreat is basically a safe place to be. So any problems that are happening are problems because of what's happening in your own mind. And when we know that, we then are motivated to actually see what our mind is doing. If we get upset because we didn't get something that we wanted, we can start to see how attached we are to what we want, how attached we might be to our views about how things should be, to our comforts, to our preferences. We can see desire operating in the mind instead of just trying to get what we want. Now, of course, in daily life, there's nothing wrong with if you have to make a choice, why not make the choice for the thing that you like rather than the thing that you don't want? Okay, that's fine. But in retreat, it's a different thing. In retreat, we're there to learn about our own minds and we're there to purify our minds, to abandon the forces that keep us distressed. So we want to let go. We want to see desire operating, see aversion operating if they arise in order to let them go. If the mind goes into dullness or restlessness, if it goes into confusion and speculation, if it gets attached to views and opinions, or it builds up a strong sense of arrogance and conceit, we want to see that. And when you're sitting in silence with no TV to turn on, no internet to scroll, nothing to do but to look at your mind, you will see its patterns and then you'll be able to learn how to work with them. And this is a big part of meditation. We don't just sit down and bliss out in the depths of concentration. The bliss comes when we have done the work to let go of the hindrances. And the reward we get is phenomenal. The joy, the pleasure that comes from an undistracted mind is so superior to any kind of pleasure that can come from any sensory experience and people get a taste of that after they've done the work. So there does need to be enough confidence that people will come into the retreat committed to do the work, committed to see what their minds, what their habits are and let go of the desires, the aversions, the restlessness. The doubt, the conceit, the arrogance, all those the envy, the jealousy, all of those forces that really keep if they're not abandoned, they just keep the mind caught in distractions. So yes, there is bliss, there is bliss, but you kind of have to earn it. [00:33:39] Speaker A: Well, I think you've also hit upon a really important point just now because I think a lot of us, when we go on a meditation retreat, we're in a very subtle way, which is not always easy to see, we're driven by that sense of ego. It's like, I'm going to attain something, I'm going to get something. And that can sometimes be an obstacle. I think you've just hit upon a point where you've said to get to the calm, the blissful states of mind, it's about letting go, it's not about attaining. So it's like letting go. If you let go of those wants and those things that you dislike and like and once all that goes away, the mind calms down. Have I said that correctly or did you want to add anything to that? [00:34:22] Speaker B: Oh, I think you've said it very well. It's all about training the mind to let go. So, so many times in life, in the past, people train themselves to hold on, to find security through you're grasping and it doesn't work. Trying to get more pleasant experiences and avoid the unpleasant and thinking that lasting happiness can come through that. And it doesn't. It can't. So we learned to let go. We practice letting go and we start to train the mind to actually trust the experience of letting go. And when we are in retreat, it's a perfect opportunity to practice letting go. Because for the most part, there's nothing that we should be doing. There's really not that much to accomplish. We're sitting there breathing and feeling the experience and keeping it simple. The problem is most people don't keep it simple. They turn it into a story of personal accomplishment. They turn it into a story of personal anguish, of a cathartic emotional experience that's going to be this or that and they turn it into a story. But the simpler we allow our experience to be, the greater wisdom we gain about how this encounter with life actually works. What happens in the mind in. A moment of contact, not a story about what great spiritual experience we're going to have or maybe we long for some spiritual experience of emptiness. Well and then we start thinking about what it's going to be like and we create this whole fantasy of it and we imagine ourselves telling other people about it. Well, that's just a story, it's nothing. But what happens in a moment of such profound letting go that we're no longer distorting the experience with the conceivings of my story and who I am. And we have a genuine experience of experience being empty of self, of really the pure encounter with this moment of life, body, mind, feelings, just as they are utterly changing. Nothing solidified into my concepts, my views, my opinions, just the dynamic flow of experience as it is. Empty of self, empty of attachment. The mind has to be letting go at that. Non clinging is occurring when we have that clarity of seeing the nature of experience. [00:37:20] Speaker A: Well said. Look, there might be some people who think that they can take themselves on a meditation retreat by themselves even though they may have not been on a retreat before. Why do you think it's important, at least in the beginning, to go on retreat with a teacher? [00:37:40] Speaker B: Yeah, I do think, I do recommend that if people want to go on retreat that they go to a group retreat, a retreat that's guided by a skilled and reputable teacher. And I would recommend mindfulness being the base, some kind of insight meditation or mindfulness. Those are good basic practices, satipatana practices, good basic trustworthy practices and that's as a place to start. These days there's so many teachings available through online sources that people think they can just collect a bunch of recordings and then go off to a cabin in the woods and listened to their guided meditation in the morning and their dharma talk in the evening and sort of put together their own retreat. But I have not seen that that is terribly fruitful. It can be delightful but it falls much more in the realm of a holiday in my mind where people still will be reaching for their comforts, still attached to their patterns, doing things exactly the way they want to do them. Where's the renunciation? Where's the letting go? People also don't see their own patterns. So if they don't interact with the teacher periodically, they're very likely going to just keep not only doing things the way they want to externally with their actions, like the way they want to have their food the way they want to have their sleeping arrangements the way they want to have their exercise or their walking, but the way that the mind works. They're going to still follow the same patterns that build up a sense of self and attach to this and that. They're going to very likely still be following the same patterns of attachment. And teachers can point out places where we cling that we don't see, we just don't see them ourselves. And putting ourselves into a retreat environment also itself points out places where we are attached to how we think things should be that we may not even realized before. So, although solitary retreats can be very pleasant, I do think of them as spiritual ish vacations for most people. Most people. It's not to say that there isn't a rare person who really can use them, but the people who can use them usually are very skilled already. Which means they've already trained either in monastic life or trained through many, many retreats. [00:40:49] Speaker A: Right? Look, I'm coming up to my last question now and it relates to what to do after going on meditation retreats. In our conversation prior to this interview, you mentioned to me about the importance of deep practice. What do you mean by deep practice? And how can we keep the momentum going with our practice after going on a meditation retreat? [00:41:14] Speaker B: Well, to me, deep practice involves deepening our concentration for sure to really settle so the mind is not distracted. If the mind's not concentrated, we might get a certain degree of insight into our restlessness and our personal stories. But most of our insights will probably be in the ways we're habitually distracted. A concentrated mind will be able to see more deeply than the habits, just the mere personal habits of mind. So people can have a lot of personal insights in daily practice and also in retreat. Insights into why I did that, why I said that, what kind of person I am, what happened to me and how I'm healing from it. We can understand the dynamics of the way our emotions interact with our thoughts and how the various, the things we take to be important, how they play out and affect us. So there's a lot to be learned about ourselves and that's an important part of practice. But that's not liberating in sight. That will make us a better person, it'll make us more functional wiser. In many ways it's wonderful. But meditation goes much further than the personal. To me, deep practice develops the level of concentration that allows one to see beyond the personal and to have insights into the universal characteristics of experience, the utter impermanence and emptiness of things. To have deep penetrative insight into the deep patterns, not just the personal preferences, but the deep patterns that perpetuate attachment and cause suffering and those that lead to liberation and freedom. And so those insights, they need to be supported by concentration. The concentration needs to be supported by the silence and the seclusion of retreat. So stepping out of our daily lives is almost like one step already on the path to nibbana. And then letting the mind get concentrated takes us deeper. Having insights that go beyond the personal stories and see just the way perception functions, the way we encounter experience takes us yet deeper and the letting go continues until we can have such profound insight and letting go that we really do free the mind from the causes of suffering. We really can realize nibana, we really can let go of underlying tendencies towards defilements, and we really can do a tremendous amount to purify the mind of habits that obstruct. So I feel like a deep retreat is one that gets beyond our personal stories and that needs some degree of concentration and then the skills of insight to keep the momentum of our investigation going so that we can really see very deeply what's beyond this story of me? What's beyond our personal preferences, that little slice of our identity through which we view the world that can no doubt blind us sometimes. But there's much more to be known about the body and mind that I think can really only be known in silence. [00:45:30] Speaker A: Yeah, that's a really deep point because especially today we live in a noisy world, but also internally we can be so noisy. I think the point you made earlier about don't take your mobile or your device on retreat, or if you do, switch it off because that's a form of noise and busyness internally as well. So we really do need that, would you say? We really need that dedication to the higher goal of the Buddhist path to Nirbana that gives us that impetus to go on the retreat, but also we come off the retreat and we're still from day to day trying to find the peace within side ourselves, but also to see clearly what's going on inside the mind. [00:46:21] Speaker B: Yeah, I think that dedication is really important, but it's something that is developed over time. It continues to mature and deepen. For most people, what brings somebody to their first retreat may not be what brings them to their third retreat or their 30th retreat. Sometimes people come to retreats, like I said initially, perhaps out of curiosity or because their doctor sent them. Maybe they just want to relax a little bit and destress. Well, that's great, that's great. That's no problem. If that's the motivation, they should still go on the retreat, relax a little, destress. But when they've accomplished that, they will probably sense that there's a lot more potential there and they might then come back for the next retreat with a different motivation, motivated to understand a little more about their own minds. And then they'll go through a phase where they might really be working with the emotional life, with the personal insights, great, no problem. But after that settles a little bit, they gain some understanding about that or interspersed with it. There may be times when they see a potential to also see beyond that. The Buddha taught a path that's liberating, that ends the causes of suffering that uproots greed, hate and delusion. It's not that you sign up for a retreat and they promise that you're going to end greed hate and delusion for all time. I wish it were that simple. But whatever brings us in, whatever inspires us, we work with that. But we can sense that the path goes further and then we continue to develop it, we continue to go deeper, we continue to explore. Personally, I'm very motivated with the thought of completely uprooting greed, hate and delusion. It doesn't matter to me if that happens today, tomorrow, the next day, the next lifetime, who knows? It's not for me to judge. When it matures, it's like fruits, they ripen. And you don't force that to happen. It ripens when the conditions are there. But I can, and I am feeling very dedicated to cultivating the conditions that would lead to the ending of greed, hate and delusion. And I feel that that's not only important and worthwhile as a dedication within my life, but I can't help but think it would be good in the world. And the more people that are committed to something beyond personal gain, beyond material gains, beyond their own personal story, the greater peace there will be in the world. So there's dedication for awakening, but it's not a personal awakening. A person is never awakened. That's a leading to letting go, a freedom. But we're not going to be free unless there's a desire to be free. We have to be dedicated to liberation. We have to want to be free, even if we don't quite know what that means, we sense or what that will be like. We'll sense little experiences along the way where letting go has opened the mind to a profound sense of peace or joy. And it's something that we trust and that encourages us to let go. A little more, a little more, a little bit more, a little bit more. And so we see, and we gain a sense of trust in the path. It strengthens the dedication you spoke of because we see the little improvements along the way and we allow it to continue to develop. [00:50:22] Speaker A: That's a really inspiring place in which to end our interview. Thank you, Shayla, for joining us on Treasure Mountain podcast today, and I wish you all the very best for your path and for all your students as well. Thank you very much. [00:50:36] Speaker B: Thank you. [00:50:39] Speaker A: Thank you to the listener also for joining us for this episode of Treasure Mountain in which we had Buddhist author and meditation teacher Shayla Catherine talk about the benefits and approaches of silent meditation retreats. Please note that there are links in the show notes below to Shayla's books and upcoming retreats. And if you like what you've heard in this episode, you should check out those links. If you enjoyed this podcast, I'd appreciate if you'd share this episode with your friends or other people who you think could benefit from its sage advice. Treasure Mountain podcast is part of the Everyday Dharma Network. You can find out more about the Treasure Mountain Podcast by going to everydaydammer. Net. There you can find out about previous episodes and guests, as well as transcriptions of eridviews. You'll also find out about the other podcasts on the Everyday Dharma Network. If you've benefited from this podcast or any of the Everyday Dharma podcasts, you can support this work through making a donation. I'm making all of these resources available free of charge, but making them comes with a cost. I'd really appreciate it if you could offer a gift of a few dollars to keep the podcast going. I hope you'll join us again for our next episode of Treasure Mound Podcast as we seek for the treasure within.

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