Understanding the diverse terrain of meditation practices strengthens the practices we choose to cultivate.
We may feel we’ve had a “good” or “bad” meditation, but what is the basis for that feeling? What makes our practice effective or not? How are we evaluating meditation as “successful” or “disappointing”? The answers to these questions depend on the type of mediation we are doing, our purpose in following that approach, and why we are meditating in the first place.
Some of us may find ourselves meditating in only one way, unfamiliar with other approaches. Others might be mixing different approaches without recognizing possible contradictions. Purpose and direction might be fuzzy. We might think what we are doing is successful because it feels good or serves an egoistic need. Not all forms of meditation aim to make us feel good yet are beneficial or needed for progress on the path. With greater awareness of the different types of meditation, we can be more on-target in our practice and better serve our deeper psychological and spiritual needs.
The Discourse on Four Kinds of Meditation (Samādhibhāvanā Sutta, AN 4.41) sketches four categories of meditation that make use of the power of collected, integrated mind (samādhi). Reflecting on the wide variety of meditation practices mentioned in Early Buddhism, we can easily expand on the four categories. Some meditative systems, such as ānāpānasati, can support more than one of these categories.
This framework helps explore and deepen our understanding of what “meditation” is. By sampling practices from these various approaches and categories, practitioners add to their palette of meditative-contemplative skills. All involve mindfulness, wise effort, and calm focus yet may employ them in varying ways. Understanding this variety clarifies the dynamics and subtleties of practice. Further, we may ask key questions: What is the purpose of any practice or approach that we try out or hear about? What needs do each practice or approach meet and how do they do so? What is required to cultivate each approach?
In this retreat we will survey and practice examples from these main categories of meditation. Following guided meditations, each practice and its category will be discussed in ways that show how we might practice them and when, what happens in these meditations, and what we aspire to in such practices. Having an overview of the broad meditative terrain — with all its diversity and competition for our practice time — will be helpful in assessing our true needs and choosing approaches that suit those needs.
This framework helps to better understanding what we are “doing” in meditation and adjust our aspirations as needed. What we experience in meditation is influenced by our sense of purpose, which is in turn shaped by our understanding of what meditation is and is for. We also will consider how fundamental aspects of meditation — such as mindfulness, concentration, effort, investigation, relaxation, curiosity, courage, and compassion — operate in the various approaches. Seeing mindfulness and concentration in various contexts leads to a richer understanding of them. This will provide yogis with richer perspectives on all of these essentials.
Many of us will continue with our primary practice (ānāpānasati in my case) and be better able to draw on secondary and supplementary practices from any of the above categories that suit our needs. Each of us must use what we learn in whatever way appears wisest and most healthy to you.
2021 CURRENT COVID-19 PROTOCOLS:
A vaccination requirement is in place for all participants on this retreat. Follow this link for more information about the vaccine requirement, including an avenue for medical exemption.
All participants will be housed in single sleeping rooms.
We will continue to require all retreatants, staff and teachers to remain masked throughout the retreat.
The retreat container will be constructed in accordance with the current covid-19 conditions at the time to maximize individual and group health. All participants will be required to follow all covid-19 health and safety guidelines in place at Cloud Mountain. We reserve the right to adjust expectations of acceptable behaviors within the retreat environment to respond most appropriately to covid-19 conditions. PLEASE FOLLOW THIS LINK FOR UPDATED INFORMATION ABOUT OUR COVID-19 HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS.
Scholarship funds are available on all retreats to assist those with financial challenges. For more information, read the Scholarship section of our overview information.
Subsidized fee : $490 plus dana offerings to teacher(s) and staff
Sustaining fee : $545 plus dana offerings to teacher(s) and staff
Supporting fee : $580 plus dana offerings to teacher(s) and staff