What I learned from my 10-day vipassana journey?
This past April, I decided to go on a 10-day silent meditation retreat to practice a type of mediation called Vipassana. At the time, I had no idea what Vipassana was; I just wanted to try out mediation (I had never practiced before) and thought the retreat would be a cool experience. Little did I know, I was about to embark on the
HARDEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE IN MY LIFE!
WHHHYYYY? Why would I go? Was I going through a hard time? Why put myself through that “torture”? What made me want to go? I was asked a lot of questions from my family and friends and my answer was simple:
“I do something each year to get me out of my comfort zone and this year it happened to be this. I have heard so many benefits of meditation and wanted to see what the hype is all about.”
This wasn’t one of those tropical, beach, yoga practicing type of retreats that everyone always raves about. This was a true mental & physical cleanse of your body. The ultimate mental boot camp.
WHERE DID I DO THIS?
The centre is located only 45 minutes from Toronto in Simcoe County. (I have attached a link at the end of post if anyone is interested in learning more about courses and the centre).
There are centres located everywhere in the world, from Australia, Italy, India, Spain etc. So check your area to see if there is a Vipassana Centre near you. It is absolutely free of charge and if you want to leave a donation at the end you can but by no means are you obligated. Also, if you quit before the 10 days, donations will not be accepted.
The centre in Simcoe County (photo courtesy of Torana Dhamma)
WHAT WAS THE SCHEDULE FOR THE RETREAT?
Within 10 days, you finish mediating for about 100 hours. YES! 100…completing 10 hours each day.
You are prohibited from the following for the 10 days:
- No talking, touching or eye contact with other students
- No reading, writing, listening to music
- No cellphones, laptops or iPads
- Strict vegetarian diet with no dinner (fruit and tea provided)
- Practice with strict adherence to the method of Vipassana
I was wondering why they were so strict but at the end of 10 days I realized the importance of being stripped away from the outside world. Their intention is to eliminate all distractions so that you can dive deep into your meditations without any new thoughts entering your mind.
This was our daily timetable for 10 days:
The first 3 days were the most challenging. I was ready to quit and head home but the teacher suggested that I battle it out at least until day 5 and then make a decision about whether I wanted to leave or not.
I just couldn’t sit still during the mediations, I was moving around every 5 minutes, my mind was going places I never thought possible, every incident (good or bad) were going through my mind. It was driving me insane. I finally found a pen in my bag and cheated a little bit. I went into the washroom and sneaked out those brown tissue papers and started writing on them because I was losing my mind.
Pathway to the Meditation Hall (photo courtesy of Torana Dhamma)
I was getting a lot of business ideas, blog ideas, life ideas and I wanted to put them all down on paper. I created a countdown for when I was finally able to go home. Each day I kept telling myself, just make it through ONE MORE DAY.
10 days felt like a month had gone by but day 6 onwards, I was noticing changes within me. My thoughts were suddenly more positive, I could focus on my mediations more, my mind wasn’t wandering as much and I could sit still for an hour without moving an inch of my body. During one meditation, I literally felt like my foot was on fire but I sat through it. I couldn’t believe it. ME, not move an inch of my body for an entire hour, sitting crossed legged with my back straight! I was so proud of myself.
I used to have a negative view of myself because I always viewed myself as a quitter. I used to quit everything I started since I was a kid. If I didn’t learn quick, if I felt I wasn’t good at anything, I would quit right away. I would never give anything a fair shot. And I was about to do the same at Vipassana. I was going to quit and leave on Day 3. But I was there to not repeat the same thought patterns. I was there to change the habit pattern of my mind.
I was so proud of myself for not quitting. For me, it was a true achievement having to not give up. The beauty of Vipassana is that you are competing against your best self and no one else.
From 4:00 in the morning till 9:00 in the evening, we would sit in quiet contemplation, observing our breath and eventually moving to the technique of Vipassana (moving your awareness through the body and observing subtle, sharp, pleasant or unpleasant vibrations).
The goal of Vipassana is to attain happiness and be free of suffering in everyday life through non-reaction. Remaining equanimous in every situation that life throws at you; good or bad because nothing is permanent in life.
“THIS TOO SHALL PASS”
Inside the Residence (photo courtesy of Torana Dhamma)
Meal time in the women’s dining hall (photo courtesy of Torana Dhamma)
WHAT DID I GAIN FROM THIS EXPERIENCE? DO I SEE ANY CHANGES? WAS IT REALLY LIFE CHANGING?
10 Things I gained after being back from the meditation retreat:
- Increased awareness
- Learning to remain equanimous
- Law of impermanence
- Detox from life
- Learning to fail
- Going to the depth of any problem
- Improved time management
- Improved posture
For me, this retreat was life changing. I saw immediate effects when I cam back home. We were told to meditate 2 hours a day at home (one hour in the morning and one hour at night) but obviously that didn’t happen. But I do manage to get in 20-30 minutes of meditation most mornings. I saw my focus and attention on tasks improve significantly. Suddenly, I was able to get more work done in less time. I started to DO more things than just think about it or dream about it. I started taking action on almost every project I have ever wanted to do. A perfect example is this blog itself. I don’t think it would have come to fruition if it wasn’t for that retreat.
If you are interested in trying out Vipassana in Ontario, here is the link or if you have any questions about my experience or questions about whether you should go, send me an email or comment down below.