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FAQ - Attending Retreats

What is a Non-residential Retreat?

Non-residential means that you leave at the end of each day of the retreat and return home. Each day includes: - alternating sitting and walking meditation session (approximately 45 minutes in length each). - instructions, guided meditaiton and dharma talks from the teacher - group Q&A sessions with the teacher

What is a Residential Retreat?

At a residential retreat, you stay at a retreat centre for the duration of the retreat. These retreats are usually 7 or 9 days in length (or even longer). A residential retreat provides the environment for deepening your meditation practice with sustained practice periods.

What is dana?

Dana (pronounced "dah-na") is a Pali word meaning generosity. Since the time of the Buddha, there has existed a mutually supportive relationship between those who offer the teachings and those who receive them. The teachings are given freely, since they are considered priceless. According to the Buddha, generosity - or sharing what we have - is one of the central pillars of a spiritual life. In the act of giving, we develop our ability to let go, cultivate a spirit of caring, and acknowledge the interconnectedness that we all share. The Buddha created a system to develop this quality of open-handedness whereby those who share the teachings are dependent on those who receive them. To this day in the East, monks and nuns go on daily alms rounds with a begging bowl, relying on the generosity of lay people for support in continuing their teaching and spiritual life. As this ancient teaching moves to the West, we hope to keep alive this joyful tradition. At BCIMS, our goal is to maintain reasonable fees for retreats and classes so that everyone in our community may participate in the programs we offer. Registration fees cover venue rental, food, and teacher transportation. None of this money goes directly to the teachers or residential retreat staff. To allow the teachers to continue their dharma work, support from students is needed. There will be an opportunity to contribute at the end of each retreat, class and daylong. The practice of dana is an expression of appreciation for something of great value that has been freely given. Your support allows BCIMS to flourish and others to benefit from the teachings. May your practice be for the benefit of all.

What do I need to go on a residential retreat?

Not much. Here is a brief list of what you will need: - Comfortable clothing; layers to adjust to the temperature in the dharma hall. Sometimes a light shawl or blanket is useful. Please bring “quiet” clothing: do not bring nylon jackets into the meditation hall. You’ll need outerwear for walking periods outdoors, and shoes to walk between dormitory, dining hall, and meditation hall. As a refinement of courtesy to other retreatants, please do not bring clothing with lots of text on it, and please stay relatively covered-up (t-shirt and long shorts in warm weather rather than halter top and short-shorts). - Something to sit on. Your options are a chair (usually supplied); a zafu (a meditation cushion) which is usually set on a firm mat or folded blanket; or a meditation bench, which also is set on a mat or folded blanket. Most bring their own zafu or bench but if you’re just starting a practice you might want to experiment before you invest. At some residential retreats there may be some extra benches and zafus for you to try. - Unscented personal products (soap, shampoo, body lotion, etc.) out of consideration for persons with sensitivities.

What don't I need on a residential retreat?

You can leave books, journals, pens, drawing tools, portable audio devices, cell phones, and other technological devices at home. You support the inner journey when you minimize your usual outward distractions.

What should I bring to a non-residential retreat?

There are three things to remember to bring on the weekend ... a bag lunch, a blanket or shawl because the meditation hall can sometimes be quite drafty and cold and a mug for the hot water that will be available during lunch on Saturday and Sunday. Please bring any tea that you wish to use. There are chairs provided. If you wish to sit on the floor, you will need to bring your own sitting gear (cushions, mats, pillows, etc)

What should I not bring to a non-residential retreat?

Please do not bring perfumed products on your person or on your clothing. Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

What is Noble Silence?

The retreat will be held in silence. This means that we do not talk with one another while we are practising. Please preserve the silence in the hall and throughout the building.

Anything else I should know about retreats?

It helps to know a little retreat etiquette. Here are a few things to keep in mind: - Keep Noble Silence: this includes avoiding unnecessary direct eye contact, signals, and notes except to the manager and teacher. It’s useful practice to keep your mind to yourself. You’ll find it’s a full-time job! - Help to maintain a tranquil environment by taking off nylon jackets and undoing velcro, zippers, and noisy snaps outside the dharma hall. - Be on time: out of respect for the practice, your fellow retreatants and yourself, be settled in your place when a formal sitting period starts and stay until after the sitting has ended. - Wait until the teacher has left before getting up from the sitting. - Unless you’re not well (in which case, let the teacher know), keep to the schedule: it’s designed to support your inner process. - Learn the vipassana sneeze and cough: cover your coughs with the crook of your elbow, or upper arm, not your hand. - Keep track of the information BCIMS will share about Covid safety precautions for your retreat. - At the centres where we run retreats, vegetarian food is provided, with options for dairy-free and gluten-free retreatants. There is also space (shelves and refrigerators) to store food that you bring from home.

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