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This listing has one of the 10 most popular offers available in Spain
This 10 full-day Vipassana Retreat with Mike Helmle offers the supporting conditions, intensive structure and personal guidance for meditators to directly and intuitively experience insight into the conditioned nature of the mind-and-body experience we call our lives. Vipassana insights are conditioned phenomena. Vipassana meditation practice is simply putting the right conditions in place. It is cause and effect. If you practice correctly and the conditions are present – your true nature will reveal itself naturally.
The Olive Branch is a small and friendly bed and breakfast, located in the stunning Ardales National Park. Shared accommodations with twin and/or bunk beds are available. All accommodations are ensuite, clean, simple and free from distractions, enabling continuous meditation. Guests can use the outdoor swimming pool before and after the retreat.
Taught by the Buddha over 2600 years ago, Satipatthana is a meditation technique that ultimately results in Vipassana ‘clear-seeing'. By observing the fundamental workings of mind and body, we manage to create a distance between the experience and the observer. This space allows us in turn to see things as they truly are, not how we want them to be, or how we believe them to be. The technique reveals clearly how our sense of self identifies with the experience you label ‘me’, ‘mine’ and ‘I’ and the confusion and suffering resulting from that.
A continuous practice of Satipatthana (Vipassana) will inevitably bring insight upon one of the most fundamental truths of the human experience; our suffering is self-made. If the inner workings of human experience are not seen clearly, this truth will remain hidden and we continue looking for the cause of our suffering in the outside world. Once the light of neutral observation reveals the truth of our nature, large parts of our suffering simply begin to fall away by themselves. And once we understand ourselves better, we also begin to see that at our very core, all humans are the same. In this way the same insights that liberate us from suffering help us to develop compassion for all living beings.
A Vipassana retreat is the opportunity to directly observe this process; to know and see clearly the arising of suffering. Vipassana releases us from suffering, step-by-step. It is the path to freedom from the mistaken view of ‘self-identity'. The goal of the Buddha’s teaching is the complete end of suffering. Vipassana leads to the complete end of suffering.
The various elements of the Vipassana retreats are like the ingredients in a good meal. They work together to create the best meditation environment possible. Each element performs a different function. When practiced together they greatly assist Vipassana. These elements are the causes and conditions for a successful retreat experience.
The development of moral virtue (sila) was taught directly by the Buddha as the foundation for the higher trainings in concentration and wisdom. Wise attention of our bodily and verbal activities assists in maintaining this purity. Mindfulness of our motivation cultivates mental attitudes of harmlessness, honesty, truthfulness, and integrity.
You will practice moral virtue by adopting the 8 precepts throughout the period of the retreat. The eight precepts are a list of vows that are observed during a Vipassana retreat. They include general precepts such as refraining from killing, but also more specific ones, such as abstaining from cosmetics.
Sense restraint means guarding the mind by limiting involvement with objects of the sense doors – sights, sounds, odors, flavors, sensations, and thinking. Active engagement with these objects distracts attention outward. The goal of mindfulness is to keep the mind internal.
Having the right attitude on retreat is very important. Practice must not be motivated by the desire for results. Sometimes when meditating there is too much wanting: wanting to be successful, wanting to ‘get it’, and not wanting to fail. This is a wrong attitude. Right practice is putting the conditions in place – not wishing, wanting, or hoping for results.
Noble silence is essential for a successful retreat. It helps determine the outcome of your meditation progress. Students are asked to adhere strictly to this precept and refrain from talking to anyone. Silence is needed to look inside the mind.
Verbal speech is rooted in thought. Real silence is the silence of thought. Giving up the habit of commenting over a long period is very effective for calming the mind. It is important that the meditation is not disrupted by chatter. Reading, writing or making hand gestures are also discouraged during the retreat. Silence allows us to be more mindful, detached, and still. Conversations are a disaster during meditation retreats.
Students may, however, speak with the teacher whenever necessary and they may approach the management with any problems related to food, accommodation, health, etc. But even these contacts should be kept to a minimum.
Meditation instructions are taught daily throughout the retreat in clear English. The instructions are practical directions in the core methods of Satipatthana Vipassana. Guidance is provided on how to note, label, and create space around various types of physical and mental objects. The directions are technical, yet simple and precise. The set of instructions is also methodical – building on the previous day's instruction, step-by-step. Tips and hints are given to overcome common errors and mistakes made by meditators.
Daily Dhamma teachings cover the purpose and background of Satipatthana Vipassana meditation. The Buddha’s central teachings such as the four noble truths, dependent origination, the four foundations of mindfulness, the six sense bases, the five aggregates, the five hindrances, the five spiritual faculties, the seven enlightenment factors, and the noble eightfold path are taught in a practical manner.
Personal one-to-one interviews with Mike take place thorough the retreat. They are an opportunity to share meditation experiences and ask questions in order to clarify any possible questions about the practice. You will be given recommendations and advice and Mike will suggest changes and/or corrections that are tailor-made for your experience if needed.
Formal 45-minute sitting meditation sessions are in a group setting. Sitting meditation is done throughout the day. The breaks between sits are not longer than two hours. This is to maintain continuity and momentum. The majority of your effort is noting the main objects – the in and out-breath (Ānāpānasati), the whole body, and touching points. Secondary objects – painful sensations, feelings, moods, and thoughts – are attended to if and when necessary. They are noted, known, and let go.
There are 71 silent sitting sessions during the retreat – Each sitting is a new learning experience. Each sitting is valuable in its own way. Accepting the present – not attaching to it or rejecting it – develops contentment, happiness, and wisdom. The effort to be present is a continuous discipline. It requires confidence and patience. Freedom is the art of equanimity now.
Walking and standing meditation play an important role in retreat. Walking sessions are 45 minutes and often alternate with the sitting sessions. During the retreat, you will progress through four stages of formal walking meditation – three-step, four-step, intention-step, and six-step.
A combined walking, standing and sitting practice balance the meditative faculties of energy and concentration. A good, seamless walking practice strongly enhances sitting meditation. It also leads to its own special insights.
Daily yoga exercises are practiced mindfully for one hour every morning. Yoga unites the body, the breath, and the mind. It helps stretch the muscles in the neck, shoulders, back, and legs, to cope with sitting for a long time. The integrated yoga practice will help to:
Chanting in the Pali language (with English translation) is carried out for 15 minutes every morning and evening on retreat. Buddhist chanting is a traditional devotion that uplifts the mind. It is not praying to God. Instead, it is showing respect, going-for-refuge, and recollecting the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma (teachings), and Sangha (community). Recollection – or bringing to mind – is a form of mindfulness training that inspires trust. The practice develops faith and confidence (saddha) in the teaching and in the noble lineage of the Enlightened Ones. It is a beautiful expression of verbal gratitude whilst on a silent retreat.
To ensure an efficient retreat experience, we follow a strict schedule that allows the participants to let go of any need for decision making and fully immerse themselves in the practice of the teachings. Each day follows the same simple and clear routine, where everything needed to dedicate one’s attention towards the inner landscape of the self is provided; a schedule that allows the mind to slow down and fine-tune itself towards the most subtle layers of perception.
Mike Helmle is the resident meditation instructor at Riverheart Retreats, sharing his passion and knowledge about the practice of meditation by leading the nine-day Vipassana retreats. Together with his wife, Samm Helmle, Mike co-founded the Riverheart Retreats center in 2017 in order to create a space for people to come and develop their spiritual practice; a space where people could find the peace needed to ground themselves and listen to their inner voice. A previous graphic designer, Mike spent seven years studying and practicing meditation in Thailand and Peru before moving to Spain.
Ardales National Park is a remote space surrounded by nature, free from the distractions of daily life with beautiful hiking trails into the mountains and lakes. Located only 1 hour from Málaga Airport (AGP), this meditation retreat is held in The Olive Branch - a simple and welcoming space perfect for up to 20 guests.
All food is vegetarian. Any special dietary requirements can be catered for if notified in advance. There is no dinner and in the afternoon break time, students will have access to the tea station for herbal tea or hot chocolate. On the arrival day, there will be a light supper provided in the afternoon.
Porridge and fruit are provided for breakfast and lunch has a healthy option. Ingredients are organic and locally sourced whenever possible. Eating is part of the meditation practice as students are encouraged to practice mindful eating.
The Ardales National Park is a haven for climbers and hikers - guests wanting to stay at The Olive Branch before or after the retreat can contact the venue directly to arrange these activities.
Riverheart Retreats is the home of the retreat instructor and his family - located in Coin 40 minutes from The Olive Branch, guests are welcome to extend their stay and add on some extra days at Riverheart after the retreat if arranged in advance - yoga, creative writing and massage therapies are all available.
Transfer available for additional US$68 per person
Please book your flight to arrive at Málaga Airport (AGP). Check-in is only available from 2 p.m. onwards. Riverheart Retreats will organize a group transfer from the airport at 1 p.m. to coincide with this and to offer you the lowest price possible. So, please book your flight to coincide with this.
If you arrive earlier, there are cafes at the airport or you can travel into Malaga city to enjoy the sights before the group transfer arrives. Orientation is at 4 p.m. on the arrival day so all guests need to have arrived by this time. Please let Riverheart Retreats know if you intend to make your own way to the center.
Check out is at 12 noon and Riverheart Retreats will organize a group transfer at this time. Guests are welcome to extend their stay at the teacher's home and retreat center if booked in advance - this is 40 minutes from the Olive Branch, so please contact the teacher for more details.
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