The experience may be summed up as one of the most challenging, but possibly the most rewarding, experience of my life. I expected it to be difficult, but ultimately I had no idea how torturous 8-10 hours a day of meditation could be.
I also expected to spend lots of time contemplating my future, my relationships, and my past; instead, I was practicing a technique that brought me completely into the present and left little room or desire for contemplation. I was challenged immensely. Yet with the greatest challenges also come the greatest rewards, and this why I returned back home with a sense of renewed peace, less craving, less aversion, more presence, and an overall joy like I have never quite felt before.
The technique we practiced at the retreat was called Vipassana, and those taking the course had to commit to complete silence and mental pureness 10 consecutive days:
• No talking, eye contact, touching, or gestures towards other students
• Complete segregation between males and females
• No phones, no Internet
• No outside food, no books, no writing materials, no cameras
• No religious/superstitious symbols
• No yoga/jogging/exercise except walking
• No smoking, alcohol, or other drugs
Days 1-3: Observing our Breath
These were possibly the longest days of my life, going cold-turkey into no forms of communication and sitting in meditation for most hours of the day. I was like a horse that needed to be broken in; a rebellious colt, just dying to kick in some walls and break some mirrors.
The technique consisted of obversing our breathe and the sensation of our breathe in and around our nose. If our mind wandered, we would just observe it, and without judgement, bring our attention back to our breathe.
My goal became to sleep as much as possible and to just get through the 10 days. I began having lots of crazy dreams that carried into my meditation sessions and were my main distraction. My mind didn’t want to focus on my breathing and so it resisted by any means possible; after a lifetime of buck-wild non-stop craziness, it didn’t want to be tamed.
I began to get irritated. I was often hungry all afternoon and evening as we only got a bit of fruit and tea for dinner. The prolonged silence caused every sound to become amplified. Every burp, sigh, cough, or sneeze in the meditation hall would send surges of irritation through my body.
I was lonely. I cried every one of these days. I was full of resistance to being there and all I could think about was how I wanted to go home.
Days 4-9: Observing sensations in the body
After spending 3 days observing our breathe, we had trained our minds to become more focused and thus were ready to learn the Vipassana meditation technique.
Things improved somewhat on Day 4. I had a really great meditation session in the morning. For the first time, I feIt something similar to my entire body dissolving, with pleasant sensations running through each individual cell; all my senses were heightened, and I was completely alert and aware. At that time I believed that this was the way my future sessions would be like, and so I experienced a couple hours of bliss, until the next time I sat down to meditate and was brought to tears in frustration as I was no longer able to meditate in the same way. This was how I learned my first lesson in non-attachment as a meditator.
From then on, I experienced numerous highs and lows: amazing meditation sessions, followed by torturous ones, followed by somewhat pleasant ones, followed by hardly bearable ones. I had to learn to remain unattached to any experience.
I slowed down a lot over these days too. I had been physically slow for the first three days (as there was no other option), but I eventually began to slow down mentally as well.
After a really good meditation session, I would walk around feeling like I was on a mild sort of drug; very alert, but subdued. I began observing things that I never normally would have noticed: the colours of food blending together on my plate, the ants crawling in the grass, the tilt of the daisies toward the sun, the intricate pattern of veins on the alder leaves, the early morning dew on the yarrow, the rainbow glint of a spider web high up in the trees. When I walked, I began to notice how the earth felt beneath my feet, and how my socks felt rubbing against my ankles. The breeze took on the characteristics of a silky river flowing past my skin, the air held the faint sweetness of berries and flowers, and I found myself taking extra care not to step on any plants or insects. Everything felt a little more alive and I began smiling for no particular reason. It’s amazing what there is to observe when you slow down – one morning, I even got to see two beetles having sex on top of a flower!
Day 10: Let the Chattering Begin
Excitement was in the air — the course was almost complete! We had survived!
Everyone was allowed to begin talking half way through the day, and the centre that had been so quiet for the past 9 days quickly started buzzing with the constant sound of chatter. After about an hour of talking and releasing the pent up laughter of 9 days in silence, I took my sore abs and spinning head to the garden to be by myself. After a bit of time alone, I could face the group for one last hour before having to go off on my own again. Many of us were finding the noise and chattering overwhelming, although it was amazing to be able to share our experiences with one another! Everyone I had come to know in silence and seriousness became a smiling, chatting person with a unique story to tell; an amazing and wonderful group of people I wish I had gotten to spend more time chattering with.
Coming home and being back in my normal atmosphere, I can really feel the effects of my time at the centre. I feel lighter, more at peace, less reactive, more present and more vibrant.
Since completing this course, I have now had just a taste of what it feels like to be free from the shackles of my mind. There is much more to learn and experience and I look forward to it all, and feel ever so grateful to have had this opportunity.
Anyone can attend the 10-day meditation course and it is completely free, including food and accommodation. Students can give a donation at the end of the course if they wish, to support the centre and to pay for a future student.
About the Author:
Rebecca is a trailblazing guide, friend, speaker, writer, life coach & world changer extraordinaire! She specializes in kicking indecision in the butt, life-purpose discoveries, and helping socially-conscious, independent souls carve out their unique path in life with confidence, clarity, and ease.
Latest posts by Rebecca Beaton (see all)
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