Hello Beautiful People!
This morning I have been able to re-connect with the outside world again after completing a 10 Day Silent Retreat at the Vipassana Meditation Centre in Blackheath, Sydney.
As I sit here now, close my eyes, and concentrate on my body’s sensations using the the Vipassana meditation technique I can feel the dull pains that arise in different parts of my body (the aversions released from my body). In other parts of my body, symmetrically, I feel the energy flow through each area as I work from head to toe. As I take a deep breath, my body is flooded with the sensation of energy streaming through each limb, whilst, at other times a tingling sensation overtakes my entire being (the cravings released from my body). With each sensation coming and going, my mind is focused and aware. I observe these with an equanimous mind, not reacting, just accepting, as I know that each and every sensation felt within the frame word of my body is impermanent and that this is how we become the master of our mind and selves to change our habits.
So that you are not all left in the dark about the Vipassana meditation technique here is the background about this amazing, unique, and special experience that is the absolute detox and cleanse from society and of your mind, body and speech.
The word Vipassana means “to see things as they really are”. This is an ancient meditation technique that involves mental training, ethical conduct of living a life of morality, and is the essence of what was taught by the Buddha 2,500 years ago. This is a universal meditation technique that does not discriminate against age, gender, religion, or belief systems, but is rather a process of self-purification by self-observation. This technique is taught all over the world for centuries, introduced to the new students with a 10 day course that required to be carried out in noble silence as a way to purify your mind, body and speech. Not only were we required to carry out all actions in noble silence, we also had to surrender any form of external distractions including our mobiles, reading material, writing material and music, as this would only take us away from the technique. Vipassana has been developed as a straightforward way to achieve real peace of mind so that everyone can lead a happy life full of compassion (Dhamma Organisation, 2016).
I still remember the day that I received the acceptance letter to attend this 10 Day Course. I was so excited like a kid on their birthday receiving a gift with the biggest grin on their face. This may not be the materialistic gift that many of us receive, however, this was still a gift that had much deeper meaning , a gift to myself to participate in this practice.
In the middle of May 2015, my friend told me about Vipassana.At this time Vipassana sounded intriguing, but I put it to the back of my mind as I did not feel that it was the right time for me. A week later, during my trip to Byron Bay I had the epiphany to go backpacking solo in 2016 as a career break (view this post here), and this was a transformational and monumental moment in my life. My mindset and my energy shifted and all of a sudden I felt an awakening. With this gut instinct and knowing that this was the right path for me I started to take action to move towards this, and part of this process also involved going to counselling sessions and undertaking a a course called ‘The Spiral’ (mixture between kineseology and chakra balancing). I knew that there were a few underlying disharmonies in my life that I needed to resolve and through both of these processes I reached many ‘AH HA’ moments and self realisations which I have carried forth with me to this day. I also knew that it was the right time for me to undertake a Vipassana 10 Day Silent Meditation Course as there was more self observation and awareness that I needed to do for myself.
Before starting this 10 day course many people commented that they did not think they would be able to go for 10 days without speaking to anyone, let alone give up all distractions. I understood where they were coming from as 2 years ago I decided to take a 3 Day Silent Meditation Retreat at Nan Tien Temple, however, on the first day I broke when someone started to talk to me and we as many of the others started chatting away. This was due to the fact that I was not really ready to seriously undertake this noble silence and to really just concentrate on myself.
Others that I spoke to also commented that the idea of going to Vipassana sounded like a prison and yes I can see where they are coming from as you have no control over your time there and must pertain to strict rules and regulations. However, I more saw Vipassana as a sanctuary, as I made the choice to surrender myself to this teaching and the rules and regulations that this embodied.
I will not lie to anyone about this experience, painting a picture of rainbows and butterflies, because these last 10 days were some of the most challenging days of my life where I had to work hard and continuously.I felt pain in my legs, my arse and my back (brought on by sitting down down for 1 hour straight meditating), at times the boredom was numbing and nearly unbearable, and my monkey brain kept on going rampant with random thoughts of “Am I breathing too loudly?“, “I wonder what their name is and what their story is?”, “Blood circulation…what needs that?!”…and even the song ‘Hakuna Matata’ from the Lion King went around in my head continuously (I thought it was actually quite fitting).
However, in saying this, this was the most rewarding experience as well and what I write below is based only on my experience alone. As S. N. Goenka explained to us that each and everyone of us can be shown the path to undertake, yet to fully reap the rewards one must experience it for themselves as this can not be taught and fully understood just by reading about this technique, this has to be felt on the experiential level.
Day of arrival
The day that I arrived at the Vipassana Meditation Centre I still contained the excitement from the very first day I received the acceptance letter, and had also grown a curiosity for what I would experience during these days to come. I automatically felt safe within this environment, being surrounded by so many like-minded individuals that all came here for different reasons, yet to experience something so unique and profound. That afternoon the noble silence and the course began.
Day 1 to 3
For the first 3 days of this course we were taught about Sila, living a life of morality and the five precepts that each and everyone of us needed to abide by during the course. In addition we were introduced to the meditation technique of samādhi — concentration of mind, whereby at first we were taught to just concentrate on our respiration, the inhale and exhales. On the second day we were introduced to not only concentrating on the inhale and exhale of the breath, however also the sensation that this left on the top of our lip.
Day 1 was certainly the hardest for me getting used to sitting still for some long (as I am normally a very active person) and through this I must have changed my sitting position at least 4 to 5 times in each meditation session.
During the 2:30pm to 3:30pm meditation session in the hall I recall being overwhelmed with the immense feeling of love, happiness and gratitude for someone very special in my life today, and yet at the same time sadness for having to part with him in 10 days when I go travelling overseas. At this thought and feeling my eyes welled up with tears. This overwhelming sense came and went. Prior to entering into this course I already had an understanding of detachment and impermanence, so I knew that this feeling would pass.
On this first day I also quickly came to the awareness that my ego was dissolving and I felt liberated at the fact that I no longer had to care about what clothes I wore here or even wearing make-up (my skin never felt so clean). There was no case of people showing off their prada bags, their lorna jane active wear, or their new make-up techniques…it was time to just get comfortable in your gypsy pants, loose fitted tops, and shawls.
On Day 2, I could feel my monkey brain starting to become more focused and the constant chatter starting to quieten down. I still had a few thoughts such as “I wonder what my friends and family are up to now?” and “I wonder what is happening at my old work place”…and then I drew myself back to myself and remembered that the reason that I am going through this 10 day course is to not focus on everything external, but to take this time to look internally. So many time we give our thoughts and energy to everything else around us and don’t concentrate on our inner self.
On Day 3, I knew that I was progressing in my practice, now only shifting 2 to 3 times during each meditation sitting, and the pains from sitting down for this period of time were starting to fade. My mind was becoming clearer and my thoughts were more succinct. However, with this knowledge that my practice was becoming stronger with each day I still had to ask the assistant teacher the question about why I did not feel any different as my friends had proclaimed that this technique has changed their lives, as if I was expecting a miracle to happen over night. She advised me that on day 4 we would be introduced to the Vipassana meditation technique and that I should just accept what is happening now and that I am progressing, to not expect anything and just be happy with the reality of the moment.
Day 4 was the beginning of the real work on ourselves and where ‘Mind Over Matter’ really came into play, yet also the interrelation between the two. The Vipassana meditation technique was introduced where we were to concentrate on the sensations of the body and observe these with awareness, acceptance and observe them with an equanimous mind as this was the way to reach paññā – inner wisdom and happiness within.
Day 5 to 9
On the morning of day 5 as I was meditating in my room and concentrating on the various sensations in my body; prickling, dull pain, numbness, and tickling…then all of a sudden my body was overcome with a tingling sensation that swept through my entire being. A few moments afterwards I then experienced an out of body experience, whereby, I felt the energy of my body shift out of its physical form and settle next to me few a few breaths, and then settle back into me. I did not react to these sensations as I knew they were just my bodies impurities manifesting itself.
On this day as I was walking around the grounds I finally stopped and watched the birds and leaves dancing in the wind. So many times through my daily life I rush from task to task and place to place, sometimes barely taking in the scenery and what is happening around me. It felt so calming to take this time to just sit still in nature, not blocking out that time to do so, but really just taking that moment to observe my surroundings to its full entirety.
Day 6 was a WooHoo, Happy Dance moment in my head when I I was able to finally able to sit through a the entire 1 hour of meditation without moving positions. The pain that was felt in my legs and arse were still there, but only in the background as I was able to finally sit through my pain and endure this.
Day 7 was the mark of not only sitting still in the one position during the hour of meditation, but I also started to enjoy the practice without counting down the moments after 45 minutes to when the chanting would start marking the end of the meditation session.
On this day after listening to S. N. Goenka’s discourse the previous night about how our misery is derived from our attachment to our ego – my, mine and my- and how this causes so much aversion and negative reactions internally, that during my walking meditation it really started coming together.
Through the ‘The Spiral’ I realised for myself that one of my fears itself is losing my sense of identity and having this compromised. I reflected upon my old patterns and my reactions in the past when situations arose that I reacted to with frustration and anger. That through vipassana I can identify how I would use this going forward in my life to liberate myself of these attachments that cause my internal dysfunction. Ongoing when a situation arises I will be able to tap into my body and breaths, to observe my reactions first with a balanced mind, and if action is needed to act accordingly with compassion and goodwill rather then blind anger. On this day I felt a renowned sense of trust and knowing within myself.
On the night of Day 7 we were advised that the noble silence would be lifted at 10am on Day 10 so that we could share the experiences with those that surrounded us. Prior to this the noble silence was a nice retreat from the day to day hammering of constant social media, messages, emails, etc, however, upon hearing this I started to look forward to speaking to those around me, as for the past 7 days I could only observe them from a far as we were not even to make eye contact with another.
Day 8 and 9 were the days that I started deepening my practice, meditating for longer period of times and focusing more on the changing sensations of my body, knowing that the course was coming to an end. On the other hand these were also some of the most challenging days as my excitement to talk to others again and re-connect with the outside world were only a few days away and I had to still fill the times of boredom with another 6 rounds of walking meditation in the area that we were assigned to. On these days I realised that my own inner self determination, drive and persistence strengthened, knowing that I had to master my mind to stay focussed and remain at the centre to see the full benefits of this practice and what the following days would unfold.
At breakfast on the morning of Day 10, there was an excited buzz of energy in the room (noble silence still upheld at this point) as we all knew that in a few shorts hours we would be able to speak and laugh again with those around us. To share all of our experiences together.
Before the noble silence was removed we were introduced into the new meditation technique called mettā which was to follow after Vipassana for a few moments. This relates to how Vipassana will lead you to a life of Dhamma filled with selfless love, good will, and a pure mind. That once you walk on the path of Dhamma you will live a life of gratitude, compassion, and most importantly an egoless life wanting to serve others without expecting anything in return.
The moment that the noble silence was removed I and everyone else was overcome with happiness and glee. It was amazing to see how after being silent and with ourselves for so long how easily it was to connect with one another again and that each and everyone of us had so much to say. That so many of us shared the same experiences, but also each and everyone of us also came out with a new and different perspective. Everyone I spoke to feltcalmer within themselves, came to their own resolutions to part of the reasons that drew them to this practice, and started feeling an inner peace.
Day 11 and onwards
Reflecting back upon the day that I made the decision to commence this 10 Day Silent Vipassana meditation retreat, the day of arrival, and each day of the course I realise how blessed and grateful that I am to have had this opportunity. I know that will still continue to uphold my meditation practice on a daily basis and integrate the teachings from S. N. Goenker and my own recognitions to change the habits of myself to live a more compassionate life.
This 10 Day Course should not be entered half heartedly without self discipline and determination to knowing why you are there and being committed to seeing this through to the end. You will constantly be challenged physically, emotionally and mentally, but at the end you will come out stronger then ever with more vigilance, self assurance, awareness, perseverance, calmness and an inner grin knowing that you are on the path to finding your enlightenment and purification.
If you have any questions about the practice then please feel free to leave a comment or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With much love,