Being on Retreat
During residential meditation retreats, participants are asked to follow basic guidelines and practices. They are a primary and preliminary part of undertaking a meditation practice. These basic principles are honored throughout the course of the retreat.
At the beginning of a residential retreat, each participant takes the vow of the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts. These guidelines were practiced at the time of the Buddha and are still used in Thervadan Buddhism to this day. To take refuge means to take guidance, to reflect on, to find comfort in - the Buddha (who represents the spirit of compassion and wisdom), the Dharma or Dhamma (the ultimate Truth, also ultimate reality), and the Sangha (the spiritual community that is kind and compassionate). The Buddha, The Dhamma and the Sangha are known as the Three Jewels.
Retreatants will also be asked to undertake the five precepts. These were created by the Buddha to promote non-harming in any community. The retreantants recite these five precepts as follows:
1) For the purpose of training I undertake the precept of not harming.
2) For the purpose of training, I undertake the precept of not taking anything that is not freely given.
3) For the purpose of training, I undertake the precept of being wise and careful with speech.
4) For the purpose of training, I undertake the precept of refraining from sexual misconduct. (Sexual misconduct is sexual activity that can hurt another person.)
5. For the purpose of training, I undertake the precept of refraining from intoxicants that cloud the mind.
The precepts are seen as a practice "for the purpose of training." We learn and grow as we work to keep the five precepts. At the end of a meditation retreat, a teacher may talk about continuing the precepts in everyday life. The benefits of the insights gained become a part of life and is taken into the world.
Daylongs and Residential Retreats
There are two kinds of retreats in the Insight meditation tradition which are practiced at Mountain Stream Meditation/Nevada City Insight Center. (These are also practiced at our sister organizations: Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, CA, at Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA.)
One is a several day silent retreat, often residential, and the other is a single day retreat, or daylong, which has instruction and talks. Both of these are usually conducted in "Noble Silence." This means retreatants refrain from talking except for moments when talking is necessary. This practice is not meant to ‘silence’ anyone, but is a practice of supporting the practitioner to ‘drop the social mask’, and have the time, space, and support to focus primarily on their own process of inner transformation.
Both the daylong and the longer residential retreats are times of quiet to still the mind and to reflect on how the mind operates. This allows for the heart to open which deepens compassion. There are few distractions except for the activity of the mind! A typical daylong goes from 9:00 or 10:00 am to 5:00 pm with alternating periods of walking meditation and sitting meditation, with a break for lunch and a Dharma talk. Sitting and walking periods are usually around 40 minutes.
A longer retreat begins at 6:30 am and goes to 9:30 pm with alternating times of sitting and walking meditation, also around 40 minutes. There breaks for meals and times to check in with a teacher every few days. Each person has a work meditation, a part of mindfulness practice, while he or she chops vegetables or sweeps floors. Healthy vegetarian meals are provided with great care.