Fake Retreat

Last week I finished the book How To Practice by the Dalai Lama, and I needed a new meditation/mindfulness book. So I did a bit of research on Amazon and GoodReads, accumulated a list of possibilities, and headed off to Half Price Books.

While I browsed through the Buddhism section, I only found one of the books on my list. I thumbed through it, and decided it wasn’t what I was looking for. I did, however, find The Experience of Insight by Joseph Goldstein, with the tagline A Simple and Direct Guide to Buddhist Meditation.

I leafed through the preface and introduction and discovered it was a series of lectures that Goldstein gave during a 30-day meditation retreat. I’ve looked into retreats before, but I don’t think I’m quite ready for such an actual undertaking. However, I found a lot of value in a post about a 10 day retreat, so I decided to get it.

As I said, the book is laid out as a series of lectures during a 30 day retreat, with each chapter presented at a specific time of the retreat. The first chapter is titled Opening and Beginning Instruction, and it was given on the first evening of the retreat. The second chapter is Noble Eightfold Path and was presented on the second evening of the retreat. The third chapter is Instruction: Feelings, given on the third morning, and the fourth is Bare Attention, given on the fourth evening.

As I was reading through the book, I noticed I was following the schedule of the retreat. I read the first chapter on Tuesday, the second on Wednesday, the third on Thursday, and the fourth on Friday. Since I was already following along the schedule, I decided to keep going with it

I try to read each chapter when the lecture was given during the retreat. If it was given in the evening, I read it by that evening; if it was given in the morning, I read it on the appropriate morning.

It’s not a perfect system, since I read each chapter multiple times between lecture times and I’m not practicing mindfulness as much as the people he’s actually lecturing to (literally, all day every day), but I’m enjoying the progress I’m making as I follow along.

I feel like I’m on a little fake retreat of my own. While it doesn’t have the benefit of seclusion, near-complete silence, and constant mindfulness, I feel like my practice has already improved and my understanding of mindfulness is at a new level.