Preparing to Become a Qualified Applicant
It takes years of careful preparation to enter a long-term solitary retreat successfully. One must be deeply grounded in the teachings and practices of a time-tested contemplative tradition, and this requires in-depth study and consistent daily practice. The heartfelt aspiration to spend months or years in solitude and silence must grow over a long period of time, becoming a steady and determined intention—far more than a mere pipe dream.
Specifically, one gains confidence that one is ready to enter a long-term retreat when one’s practice already so completely suffuses one’s days and nights that there is no doubt one could sustain a continuous stream of practice in solitude, even when most forms of external stimulation and activity are removed. That is, does one wake in the morning with the aspiration to be of benefit to all living beings? Does one go to sleep at night in a mode of honest self-reflection, dedicating all the virtues of one’s day to a higher and more encompassing goal?
The application process for entering a long-term retreat at any one of our Centers for Contemplative Research is rigorous and highly selective, with many qualified applicants seeking places at a limited number of cabins. Since current retreatants remain in retreat for many months or years, applicants should be willing to apply for a place long in advance, sometimes waiting a year or more before a cabin becomes available. This is normal, and can be a welcome part of the process, as the more vigorously one practices meditation and virtue when not in strict retreat, oftentimes this will lead to ever greater readiness to enter the depths of practice in full-time retreat, once the outer and inner conditions are complete.
Since our contemplative research observatories are designed to maintain the most conducive possible circumstances for sustained, silent retreat, it is rare for formal teachings to be given on site. That is, one’s training in the contemplative methods that one will be practicing in retreat should be largely complete before one begins. Ongoing guidance from resident teachers focuses on helping retreatants to navigate the difficulties and discoveries that arise while in full-time practice, but it is expected that everyone at a CCR is already well-versed in the array of practices in which they will be engaging. Occasional teaching events inspire and take us into new details of the practices, but are not the primary source of training for long-term retreat.
Therefore, in order to prepare years in advance to be ready to submit a qualified application, we encourage you to turn to the following resources, available through the Santa Barbara Institute, our affiliate educational institution: