LONG-TERM RETREAT AT A CENTER FOR CONTEMPLATIVE RESEARCH
The distance covered by a great ship
pulled on land by a hundred men
for a hundred days
can be covered in a day when it is put to sea.
In the same way, a single day of meditation
performed with real stability of mind
brings more progress than a hundred days
practicing generation and completion stages
before stability of mind has been attained.
—Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdröl (1781–1851), The Life of Shabkar: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogi
Just as a bird with undeveloped
Wings cannot fly in the sky,
Those without the power of higher perception
Cannot work for the good of living beings.
The merit gained in a single day
By one who possesses higher perception
Cannot be gained even in a hundred lifetimes
By one without such higher perception.
Those who want swiftly to complete
The collections for full enlightenment
Will accomplish higher perception
Through effort, not through laziness.
Without the attainment of shamatha,
Higher perception will not occur.
Therefore make repeated effort
To accomplish shamatha.
—Jowo Atisha, A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment
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:
The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind
The Four Immeasurables: Practices to Open the Heart
Minding Closely: The Four Applications of Mindfulness
Stilling the Mind: Shamatha Teachings from Düdjom Lingpa’s Vajra Essence
Fathoming the Mind: Inquiry and Insight in Düdjom Lingpa’s Vajra Essence
Recommended Retreats for listening and practice
The Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra and Düdjom Lingpa’s commentary (edited by Pema Tashi) entitled The Essence of Clear Meaning
The Enlightened View of Samantabhadra
The Way of Shamatha: Soothing the Body, Calming the Mind, Illuminating Awareness
A Meditation Retreat on Shamatha, Vipashyana, Mahamudra, and Dzogchen
Phase 1: “Taking the Impure Mind as the Path” and Phase 2: “Revealing Your Own Face as the Sharp Vajra of Vipaśyanā” in The Vajra Essence: From the Matrix of Pure Appearances and Primordial Consciousness, a Tantra Self-Emergent from the Nature of Existence with B. Alan Wallace, Glen Svensson and Eva Natanya.
2021 8-week Retreat (with the 2020 8-week retreat as a prerequisite)
Phase 3: “Revealing the Ground Dharmakāya” and Phase 4: “Determining the Characteristics and Qualities of the Ground” in The Vajra Essence: From the Matrix of Pure Appearances and Primordial Consciousness, a Tantra Self-Emergent from the Nature of Existence with B. Alan Wallace and Glen Svensson.
Shamatha Teachings with Drupla Lama Karma
Experiential Instructions on Shamatha from Drubpön Lama Karma, A Teaching by B. Alan Wallace at Miyo Samten Ling
Dzogchen Teachings for Mountain Retreat (Video Course)
or in Audio Recordings only
Extracting the Vital Essence of Accomplishment: Concise and Clear Advice for Practice in a Mountain Retreat