My Honest Experience of Vipassana (10 day silent meditation retreat)
Gong at 4am. It was my alarm clock for 10 days.
Yes. Most mornings I felt like covering my head under the blanket and pretend I didn't hear that stupid gong instead of facing a day filled with 10 hours of meditation. No, I was not sitting like a Buddha reincarnate all day long for 10 days though I entertained the idea of keeping that image of ‘serene me’ in your head by not confessing how bloody hard it was to meditate that much. IT WAS HARD.
At the end of August this summer, I went to a meditation course called Vipassana (https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index) for 10 days. Once I was there, I deposited my phone, books, any writing materials in a small box. I was not allowed to speak to others or to myself, or look them in the eyes. Any form of communication with other 80 men and women who were meditating, eating and sleeping in the close proximity was discouraged.
Quite extreme, right? Why would ANYONE want to do such thing? I can tell you why I did it. No, I was not looking for a spiritual awakening or trying to find a meaning in my life. I went for 2 reasons.
Reason 1: my husband Marc, who is not a yogi, who does not meditate completed this course few years back and so I thought ‘if he can do it, how hard can it be? (with a snort).
Reason 2: Curiosity & challenge. I am always up for a good challenge and I was curious what this 10 day silent business was all about.
For those of you thinking - ‘oh my Gosh, this article is so long! I do not have time for this!!! You are in good hands. I shall reveal the verdict. Am I glad I went? Yes. Did I learn a lot? YES. Do I recommend it to you? ABSOLUTELY YES!
When I returned, lots of people wanted to know how my experience was. I obligingly answered them each time, explaining all the details. Then I saw the person’s gaze wonder away when I spoke things like ‘OMG my body was vibrating!’ I realized that except for certain few, people didn’t really want to know in details what it is like to spend 10 days with oneself. That’s fine by me. Then I started to wonder - but why?
Fear. I think many of us are oh so scared to death about finding out what is buried inside us. Because once we discover what’s inside us, there is really no excuse to keep repeating the self destructive yet familiar, comfortable and unconscious ways in which most of us lead our lives. We will be forced to be bigger than what we used to be, we will be forced to grow up and change. That idea does not sit well with our mind at all. How so you might ask. ‘I love to learn and grow’, you might say. Well. have you tried changing your behaviour recently? Say, a diet? How long did it last? Be honest. How often have you sabotaged ANY effort to create a positive change in your life? If you said ‘a lot’, thank you for being honest, and, welcome to the club!
Our mind unconsciously clings to status quo. Our spirit wants to grow and expand. When we are unaware of those two opposing forces within each and every one of us, the inner conflict, turmoil and recurring bodily pain ensues.
Symptoms of this inner conflict can be treated by distracting ourselves. Yet the longer you ignore that yarning of your spirit, the bigger that nagging feeling (or that pain) gets. Sounds a bit familiar?
Our world is full of distractions. Social media, TV, work, money, your spouse, friends, families, pets, the list is endless. We can spend entire life distracting ourselves by focusing what is outside of us till the day we depart from our body, if that is what we want in life.
Facing ourselves for 10 days takes away all that distraction. You must face yourself. So fear sets in. ‘I am not interested at all in this kind of course’ was one of the most often heard comments from the people. Sure, why don't you simply come out and say ‘I am scared to face myself for 10 days straight without distraction’? I would not judge you.
Here is a summary of my experience;
Did I already mention that it was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life? (and I have done pretty tough things in my life, just so you know ;)
My mind monkey is as smart (or as stupid) as I am. This sound very obvious but i realized my mind monkey is a representation of my intellect. Smarter one is, cleverer one’s mind monkey is.
My eating and drinking habit is closely related to my emotional state. I ate 2 meals a day and it was more than enough to sustain me and I felt nourished. I used to really enjoy few glasses of wine, prosecco, beer, whatever but since this course I have zero cravings or wants for any alcoholic drinks and I don’t miss it, either. Alcohol used to relax me but now it meddles with me. One clear benefit: our restaurant bills are much lower! :)
How UNCONSCIOUSLY I spend my days. Once I became aware, I realized that my mind continuously pulled me in either to the past or the future, but rarely the present, HERE and NOW (unless conscious). Lingering in either the past or the future creates a lot of drama in life = distraction. Period.
When I meditated, I saw my thought patterns over and over and over and over like a play. It helped me to break the pattern once I saw it.
Meditation is a great tool for anyone who wants to lead a mindful life and I feel that this course has given me exactly that. I didn’t become enlightened, but I certainly became more aware of so many things and my life became somehow smoother, more in line with the flow of the Universe, it seems.
So why not face your fear and try something you have never done before? It is funner and less scarier than you think. I guarantee you.
Hirono Sasaki Magistrali, M.A. is a life long yogini, teacher, mother of two who lives in Florence, Italy. She can be contacted via her website www.hironoyoga.com.
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