I often have people say to me that they couldn't do a Mahasi course. It would be too hard. I am at pains to say that as a beginner (or false beginner - those who stop and start) you can dip yourself slowly into the hot bath. You don't have to scald yourself!
Review from Medi
I first met Bhante Bodhidhamma a few years ago on a day retreat he ran in Birmingham; I expected the usual guided meditaion and talks but this was different. He explained difficult concepts and clarified some of my newbie muddled ideas and questions patiently yet intelligently, I greatly valued this and became completely absorbed in what Bhante was saying. I’d never met anyone who in such an unassuming and matter of fact manner got straight to the point with such insight and understanding. Needless to say, I researched more about his retreat centre and have now been to 2 Bodycare retreats and 2 Mahasi retreats.
The retreats at Satipanya are unique;
• They have a wonderful Monk teacher who joins us for some meditaion sessions and always for meals, gives talks, holds interviews to see how we are getting on but most of all you feel gently supported throughout the stay. There’s a gentle kindness and concern for each retreatant.
• Single room accommodation ; only 10 -12 retreatants.
• Lovely countryside near the Shropshire Hills; popular walking territory.
• Chanting for around 20 minutes morning and evening.
• Metta meditation every day and extended metta meditation including how to forgive on the penultimate day.
• A walk in the hills with Bhante and a chance to chat with him and others.
• Discussions and Q and A
Along with many other Buddhist retreat centres Vegan food is offered, it is a silent retreat, alternate sitting and walking meditation, mindful eating and the optional exercise every morning is Chi Kung .
The Mahasi practice itself works for me, the noting was new, but it steers the mind in the direction you wish it to go. Its not all bliss, at times I have had feelings of being assailed by a torrent of thoughts and wondered at the incongruity of it in such a peaceful setting, other times feeling elated and joyous.
So, the challenge is to maintain some of this practice in the world I go back to.
Although I was out of my comfort zone it didn’t bother me, I have learned to handle new routines and lack of habitual unnecessary comforts in life without actually creating pain and suffering around it. This is something I have taken back into my daily life and has been a huge help in bringing a sense of calm, patience and watchfulness. These inner transformations have been one reason for being at Satipanya, I think the whole family benefits !
In all my visits I seem to suffer from every anxiety about how I could survive the retreat! Starting with getting there, sleep issues etc, however they all recede into the background and any problems a word with Bhante sets it in perspective.
My advice is don’t worry about the routine, food, meditation, getting up early or any other anxiety and obstacle that gets in the way, it all falls into place and feels natural. By the end of each retreat I have felt as if I had swam in a cool lake with a gentle breeze against my skin, refreshed and light
Satipanya is a place where you can find and open the gifts of your heart.
Email from Philip:
This email from Philip is especially inspiring because it answers a regular question of how can we bring the Mahasi technique into our everyday lives. You cannot note all you are doing especially when it is something your have to use your head for such s adding up bills. But the use of noting to still thought during daily tasks is especially skillful. And to bring ourselves back to the default position of 'just sitting', 'just standing' is a great aid to reserving energy for motions tend to snowball into the activity.And from that poise to intend the the 'next thing to be done'.
"I am trying to keep thought at bay in all daily physical tasks, and am deploying the noting technique into activities. I think it has required me to come home from the retreat and "switch on" thinking in order to succeed in developing a naming system for various motions. For example, the day before yesterday, I developed a naming system for general motions around the house (reaching [for an object], moving/lifting/rotating /pushing/pulling [an object], placing [an object], for example).
I realised that developing such a set of names involves many decisions, such as how finely to sub-divide a complex motion, when to name a complex motion as a whole ("turning") rather than sub-divide it ("shifting", "turning foot", "shifting", etc.), and exactly what words to use (neither too long nor too short). Somehow, I wasn't able to develop new names well at the retreat, I think because I needed to have my thinking fully switched on in order to do so, and I didn't realise this was the case.
The noting is a great help --- I only need to switch it on and thought goes away and I come into the action; if I note more carefully (e.g. when chopping vegetables, if I note even the intermediate movements of reaching [for veg], rotating [veg], moving [knife] placing [knife], cutting down, sliding back, etc.), then all tension drains away.
I am now entering the world of work which, for me, means (largely) carrying out tasks that involve thought in some way. I find myself in the curious position of being calm and without the sort of agitated energy that normally drives me to begin work on some task. I now need to learn how to focus and work on a task in a new, calm way.
Email from Max:
Max came on a week's course with virtually no knowledge of the Buddha's teaching nor of any experience of meditation. I asked him to send an email about his experience so as to encourage others who may have doubts about coming. His email shows that such 'hardships' as sleeping only 6 hours and not eating after midday are not arduous when you are practising vipassana. As for his praise of my teaching and the food, well you'll have to take that as it comes! So please don't let fears of 'not being good enough', stop you from coming.
I found out about Satipanya just by chance. And I'm so happy I did!
I've been always curious about Buddhist philosophy , but I never had the chance to get into deeply. I was particularly interested in some form of meditation, but I had no experience at all. Anyway, someone, by chance (Karma?), put me onto Satipanya.
I first checked it out on the website and I found it interesting - the Mahasi course. I said to myself, "That could be what you looking for ". And so I booked for a week retreat.
When I got there I met Bodhidhamma straight away. After few minutes I was relaxed and comfy already ! I don't even remember the last time I had a similar sensation.
At the beginning I was a bit worried because I had no experience, and the schedule was very different from the way that I normally live. For example , no eating after midday. What ?!? I'm ITALIAN. Its part of my culture - eating. How can I do that ? Go to bed at 21:30 and wake up at 03:30?!? I live in London, you know - pub , theatre , restaurant ... I thought, "I'm gonna die!"
But I was wrong. From day one, following Bodhidhamma's advice and teachings, I really had no problems at all. Not with sleeping time, and not even about eating! Well .. I have to say, Pete's (Satipanya manager) "cuisine" was very good. He love's cooking - and you can tell that!
Meditation periods, sitting and walking, were just a natural process during the day. Being aware of everything, or at least trying! And also the Noble Silence. What a wonderful thing! Talking about the meditation itself I have to say that I had some problems sitting for so many hours at the beginning, but no-one forced me anyway.
Bodhidhamma is a very genuine person, no matter who you are or where you come from, he will talk to you in a way that you'll remember for your entire life .. believe me!
First of all I think he is a talented teacher. I mean he could have taught me how to play a piano , or how to dance Salsa , or how to make a wardrobe from the Ikea leaflet .. whatever. He's gonna teach till you get it straight. But apart from that, which is good enough, he is a man who helped me a lot with my mental states.
I learned a lot from him, And since I got back to my "normal" life, I'm just living in very different way. The Mahasi course really helped me. I'm definitely more relaxed about everything and I try to understand what I'm doing (which sometimes is not easy) and I have a different vision about a lot of things.
I'm not rushing anymore like I was doing before. Well, maybe I'm still doing it a little bit, but with awareness!
Last but not least ... Wales ... what a lovely place! Hills and sheep are your landscape. Lovely place to work out what's going on inside your mind.
I'm looking forward to going back as soon I have got some spare time. Maybe for a contemplative course if I have only a couple of days.
I could stay here talking and writing about Satipanya for hours, but you may be getting bored.
My advise is: if you're interested, GIVE IT A GO ! You won't be disappointed.