THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN BEGINNING A RETREAT
Welcome to the Association Pian dei Ciliegi, which organizes meditation retreats in Vipassana (Insight) and Metta (Loving Kindness) for the development of Mindfulness and other human qualities through the practice of meditation. Vipassana mindfulness goes beyond the ordinary mindfulness we have in quotidian life, and may be developed to the point where it becomes a Spiritual Power that permits us to experience a Transcendent Reality known as the Unconditioned or Nibbana. The path progresses through the development of “insights”, experiences of wisdom, or an intuitive understanding into the three universal characteristics of existence: Impermanence (Anicca in the Pali language), Unsatisfactoriness (Dukkha) and the Absence of a Self (Anatta). The scriptures and commentaries list 16 levels of insights leading to the experience of the Unconditioned. This very real goal presents an enormous opportunity for human beings, and is within reach of all those who dedicate themselves to the practice with faith and determination, following the method and the indications of the teachers. We would like to stress the value of a retreat especially in the context of modern society where such an opportunity is hard to come by, for here we have the possibility to enter along a path of interior research traced by the Buddha himself, and which has been followed by many Noble Persons in the course of time.
For these reasons, it is important to dedicate oneself to the practice with maximum zeal, bearing in mind that one’s own efforts may lead to the success of a retreat, to the benefit of all.
Here are some suggestions to facilitate your stay at the center:
· We ask that you please move silently about the house, mindful of others, walking softly and not banging doors, especially the entrance door, and you may take the opening and closing of doors as part of your mindfulness practice. We ask that you please pay special attention in the dining room as it is right above the meditation hall. The Noble Silence is fundamental to the smooth functioning of a retreat and should be maintained throughout the center and the external area for the entire duration of the retreat. You may speak to a member of the staff, or to the teacher, for any needs that you may have.
· At the start of every retreat we ask that you please respect the 5 precepts:
1. respect for the life of every living creature;
2. taking only what belongs to you, or what is offered, including food;
3. adopting a respectful sexual practice (in retreat this becomes an abstinence from sexual activity)
4. using words wisely (in retreat we practice the Noble Silence)
5. abstaining from consuming inebriating substances (alcohol, drugs, etc.)
On some retreat you will be asked to take the 8 precepts (sometimes by choice, sometime not). The 3 additional precepts are:
6. consuming solid food only before midday (13.00 with daylight savings); a hot or cold drink will be offered in the evenings
7. avoiding the use of jewels, perfumes, and clothes not consonant with a retreat, dedicating little time to one’s appearance.
8. reposing on firm beds that do not induce indolence.
· Even in the case in which one takes the 5 precepts, the evening meal will be just a light snack offered along with a warm or cold drink.
· If you take the 8 precepts please write your name to the list on the board beside the kitchen.
· The food is vegetarian and will be served as a buffet. At the end of each meal please bring your plates and trays back to the kitchen in the manner indicated.
The kitchen staff is obligated to prepare a single menu for all. In the case of food intolerances, it is up to the discretion of the staff to prepare extra food, or to adapt the menu to the exigencies of people with intolerances. Please show consideration for the staff by keeping your spaces clean, returning dishes used outside of meals, arriving in time for meals and finishing on time in order to facilitate the clean-up.
· We ask you please to wear slippers within the building.
· Smoking is not permitted on the premises. If you need to smoke please do so beyond the gate and do not leave the butts on the ground but return them to the bin outside the entrance.
· We advise you not to read during a retreat, even Dhamma books, and to do so, if you must, only in the privacy of your own room.
· Cell phones should be turned off in the house (as well as in your rooms) and in the immediate vicinity, and the same goes for messaging, tablets and computers. If it is indispensable for you to communicate with the outside you may do by going a reasonable distance away or by asking the staff to use the computer or phone at the center.
· To avoid being distracted and losing continuity of mindfulness, we advise you not to distance yourself from the center; if you do, however, choose to go for a walk, we ask you please to be courteous to the people of the village you may meet on the way.
· We ask you please not to stretch out on the grass, or sunbathe in a costume. There are ticks even quite close to the center, and if you walk in the woods please check yourself when you return.
· Mindfulness in daily life, and generosity, are integral parts of the practice so we ask you to participate in the work of the house through small daily tasks; these tasks are necessary for the smooth functioning of the center, and to create a sense of community or Sangha. You will find a list of chores with an explanation of the work, and the people charged to do them, on the message board next to the kitchen, and the staff is available for any further clarification you may need.
· A bell signals the time to re-enter the meditation hall or the start of an activity after meals. Different people will be charged to sound the bell at the same time every day; the big bell needs to be struck gently three times, and there is a small bell to be sounded outside. A list containing the names of people and the hour at which the bell must be rung will be placed on the small table outside the dining hall.
· We ask you please not to pick fruit and flowers as a mark of respect to the surrounding nature.
· Please use the equipment made available to you by the center with care.
· The meditation room is at the heart of the center: here we practice only sitting meditation. We do not use the room for lying down (or sleeping) or stretching out during Dhamma talks, or for physical exercise or walking meditation. We ask you also to please not point your feet at the teacher as in Asia this is seen as a sign of disrespect. Please arrive in time for every sitting and refrain from entering once a sitting has already begun; dress appropriately, don’t carry bottles and bags into the room, don’t use perfumes, keep your seat tidy, don’t fold mattresses, and don’t use blankets as cushions or to rest your feet but only to cover your shoulders. Blankets and mattresses should not leave the room, shoes or sandals are not to be worn in the room, and if you sit on a chair please don’t place yourself in front of someone who is sitting on the ground. A single person has been charged with the opening and closing of windows to change the air, regulating the light and lighting candles; we ask you please in no way to interfere with this person’s work, but to accept with patience whatever condition you may find in the room.
· As for walking meditation, if the weather is good, you can use any part of the garden; there is an area behind the center you can reach following a narrow path just above the first raised field, with paved paths prepared specially for walking meditation called “the garden of divine snails” which we would be glad to have you use. If the weather is bad you can use spaces within the house: corridors, balconies, the reading room, the small meditation room etc.
· We will communicate the manner and place in which teacher interviews will be held at the start of each retreat. We ask you to check the list with the names and times for interviews on the message board outside the meditation hall.
· We ask you to maintain the cleanliness of your rooms and to keep them clean for those who will come after you. Please don’t take duvets and pillows outside the room; please don’t bring food into the room; the staff is available for anything extra you may need. Take care of the windows, and close them (as well as the external shutters) in the case of storms or heavy rain and wind. You may control the heating with the valve of the heater; please don’t leave the windows open and the heating going; if you open the window, lower the thermostat to 1; an optimal temperature is obtained with the thermostat on 3.
· We ask you to be mindful of the needs of others when using the bathroom: please be quick in the morning, and reserve longer bathroom activities for times when it is less crowded. We ask you also to avoid using the bathroom contiguous to the rooms during rest hours, using bathrooms on the ground floor instead.
· The center has a laundry room, but we discourage people from washing their clothes (either by hand or washing machine), except for longer stays. We assume people will carry changes of clothes sufficient at least for one week. Use of the washing machine must be arranged with a member of the staff.
· Use water with moderation, take short showers, don’t leave the tap running if you aren’t actually using the water. If you notice something is broken or malfunctioning please inform the staff immediately. To help with sanitation please throw little toilet paper in the pot, and don’t throw sanitary pads or anything else in there.
· For reasons of safety, it is not permitted to light candles anywhere in the house.
Respect for the rules is essential to the smooth functioning of the retreat, and cohabitation within the center; it is a responsibility that every person takes when they subscribe to a retreat.
We entrust ourselves to the personal sense of responsibility of every meditator, recognizing that each one of us is free to dedicate or distract ourselves as we wish. But it is worth remembering that a retreat is a unique opportunity for personal growth and introspection, and it would be best to use one’s time proficuously.
It is nonetheless our task to protect the quality of the retreat, intervening whenever people’s behavior disturbs others who are practicing seriously; in extreme cases, if a person persists in behaving inadequately, and flouting the rules, we will be forced to ask the person to leave without refunding the cost of the retreat.
We wish you a fruitful stay at Pian dei Ciliegi, that you may achieve deep insights, and progress rapidly in your practice.
What to bring at a retreat
- Comfortable and warm clothing*
- Sheets for a single bed or sleeping bag and pillow case**
- Towel and personal toiletries
- Personal medicine if needed
- A torch
- Your personal meditation cushion or bench***
- House shoes.
- Notebook and pen
*For long retreats it is possible to use the washing machine, for a 5 euro charge
** In exceptional cases (if you forgot to bring them or if you are travelling long distances by public transportation) the Centre can provide sheets and towels for a 5 euro charge
*** There are individual mats in the meditation hall, and we have a number of cushions of different height and benches
Associazione Pian dei Ciliegi
Loc. Bulla di Montesanto 1
29028 Ponte dell’Olio (PC)
FOR BANK TRANSFERS AND DONATIONS
Associazione Pian dei Ciliegi
Address: Via Roma, 2
29027 Podenzano (PC) - Italia
IBAN Code: IT36S0200865410000104574143
- From abroad:: SWIFT CODE: UNCRITM1V57