As I prepare to enter a six week silent retreat, I decided to remind myself of the six conditions that are essential for meditation – both for daily practice and for meditation retreats. The source for these is Master Kamalashila who wrote the Stages of Meditation around 750 AD. These six conditions are also given in detail in the Lam Rim Chen Mo by Je Tsongkhapa.
1. Stay in a Good Place
What is considered good?
- Everything you need to be comfortable should be there: food, clothing, heat, water
- Safe place: no wild animals or danger
- Good environment: mild climate, quiet
- If there are people around they should be supportive and with good morality.
- Having goodness: not a lot of people around, quiet, no visual distractions, no books or internet or things to do
2. Have Few Desires
Have an attitude that you do not need much to be satisfied.
(As I prepare for retreat I keep thinking I need more supplies, perhaps I need to apply this advice now.)
3. Be Satisfied
Have an attitude of being satisfied with what you have.
(I have known people to “violate” the retreat boundaries in order to walk a couple miles to get the chocolate bar they were craving.)
4. Give up Extra Activities
Ahhhh, yes. I actually do not have the capacity to just do sitting meditation, so I usually incorporate other spiritual practices such as internal arts practice (chi gung, tai chi, etc), reading of “scripture” that I have selected before the retreat, and recitation of mantras. The key thing for me is that I select what are okay activities before I start. This way I ensure that I am not engaging in extra activities on a whim because I want more excitement.
5. Maintain Pure Morality
Do not do anything that might cause you to wonder whether you did the right thing. Wrong action can agitate your mind. Further, “right” action can contribute to the purpose of your meditation and support mental clarity.
Speaking of agitation, I was doing pretty good until the airbnb host I stayed with in Boulder over the weekend charged me with killing her kitten this morning. Apparently it was not okay for me to the leave the cats out. Geez, I was just copying the other people in the house. I thought I was doing a kindness. She claims the kitten got hit by a car on “my watch”. It is possible that someone else had let it out, since many times I would come home and the screen would be open.
The bottom line is, I wanted my mind clear of this for the retreat. I am sensitive to other people thinking bad things about me. Despite my misgivings, I agreed to pay the $200 she wanted. Now, I just have to let go of my resentment. Which should not be too hard, since it does not serve me in anyway now.
One more concern I have: As part of the airbnb system, we leave reviews of each other. When I sat down to complete mine, I found that, given my experience of this host, I just didn’t want to invest any energy into it. The whole stay with her was weird. Typically we have two weeks to write a review, but since I am going on retreat I only have today. I think if I wrote an accurate review it would create more animosity and not really serve my highest interests as I enter retreat.
As for the review I will not write, I had already decided not to mention that the host had come home drunk the first night, woke me up at midnight and again at three in the morning, and eaten my cheese – since her housemate said that this behavior was unusual and due to some recent relationship breakup. I was, however, going to mention that the couch was too short and too soft for my comfort since that would be applicable to anyone. Indeed, I was surprised that the host would rent such a couch. Someone reading the review might also like to know that the atmosphere was quiet, relaxed and real.
But, I decided not to write the review. I didn’t really have anything positive to say. When I asked myself if writing a review would be a contribution, I got a “no”. In particular, I thought it would just create more agitation for myself. I fully expect the host to write a nasty review of me. I checked with myself if I would be okay with not writing about her, even if she wrote about me. Yeah, my choice is to not spend time writing a public review.
6. Give up Sense Desires
Resolve to give up the things you senses are attracted to. Such as pleasurable:
- thoughts (stupid thoughts or useless fantasies)
These sense pleasures are given up only because during meditation we typically have a goal of learning more about ourselves and our condition by directly experiencing what is beyond the senses.
See you in September!