In order to engage in a qualified retreat, we require certain external and internal conditions.
Ideal external conditions include:
– a quiet and peaceful place with a solidly built room in a secure and healthy environment. All necessities such as meals, water, heat etc. should be readily available.
Ideal internal conditions include:
– Little Desire
If we cannot abandon attachment to objects of desire when we do retreat, it will be very difficult to abandon other distractions and it will be impossible to develop pure concentration. Therefore, one of the necessary conditions for doing tranquil abiding retreat is to reduce our attachment to objects of worldly concern such as wealth and reputation.
During our retreat, if we are not content with what we have – the accommodation, the food and so forth – we shall keep seeking to change and improve our external circumstances, and this will cause our distractions and conceptual thoughts to increase. These are the very enemies of concentration. Furthermore, if we are not content we shall experience physical and mental discomfort and we shall become discouraged and want to give up our retreat. To overcome our discontent we should repeatedly consider: It does not matter that for a few months or a few years my conditions are poor.
– No Distracting Activities
If we are to attain completely pure concentration we need to disengage from all worldly activities and discipline ourself to do only the things that will help us to develop and maintain a calm mind. We must leave aside all harmful and meaningless activities. For example, during our meditation breaks we need to avoid reading books that are unrelated to our practice. In our meditation breaks we should engage in activities that will increase our collection of merit and purify our negativities.
– Pure Moral Discipline
In this context pure moral discipline means conscientiousness with regard to our actions of body, speech and mind. If we engage in reckless activities, distractions will naturally occur. Therefore we need to protect ourself against any tendency towards negative actions, and we need to guard against incorrect attitudes and defiled conceptions.
– No Distracting Conceptions
During retreat we have to stop distracting conceptions such as recalling previous activities and worldly experiences, or thinking about and planning future activities.