Vipassana is 10 days of silent meditation where men and women are separated. And not only that, you’re separated from all human interaction (even eye contact), your own pursuits, your own habits, your ability to speak, your ability to write or read, all comforts of home and all comforts of a loving spouse. All this while you meditate for 11 HOURS A DAY. Eeeeeks!
I was shocked at how emotional I was going into it. Giving up 10 days of my life was not an easy thing to do. I even cried several times leading up to the day. (This photo was taken on our bus ride there. Don’t let that smile fool you.) I wasn’t sure yet if I would be completely miserable. Or if I could do it all. Or if it would be a meaningful experience. Though deep down I was willing to find out. It felt like a human experiment.
The Vipassana course took place at a beautiful Catholic monastery just outside of Quito. I loved seeing the nuns from time to time and all the vintage Catholic relics around the monastery. One night I heard the nuns singing while I was in the courtyard – with a full display of bright stars overhead – and it was one of the most beautiful sounds on earth.
DAY 1: Ohhhh crap. We did the first meditation. What in the world did I get myself into??? Maybe coming was a mistake. This ancient form of “meditation” is not at all what I thought meditation was. 9 more days??? Crap, crap, crap.
DAY 2: Missing Danny like crazy and tearing up over it. The silence is driving me crazy. Distracted by thoughts. Hard to focus for 11 hours ONLY on my breath. Mainly thinking about loving up with my husband and Mexican food. And then every other craving I could imagine. breathe, breathe, breathe.
DAY 3: OK. They finally gave us a new thing to focus on: sensations. Best thing in the world!! It is breaking up the monotony to just have something NEW to focus on. I saw Danny across the courtyard between some bushes. Most handsome guy in the world.
DAY 4: Holy crap. Some new instructions during meditation. This time it is HELL. Mental and physical exhaustion. We now are not supposed to move a muscle during 1 and 2 hour meditations!! This is so hard and painful it makes you sweat. Afterwards people were making unlawful eye contact and cussing without saying a word.
DAY 5: Heaven help me. I want out. I don’t think I could ever recommend this torture to anyone. Everybody is walking around like zombies. No smiles. No human interaction. I miss people!!
DAY 6: OK, I’m trying to see the pain and the non-pain equally (according to the instructions). And I can’t believe this is happening, but the pain has gone away. THIS WORKS. I am experiencing something transformative.
DAY 7: Thank goodness for the evening discourses each night (with the meditation Teacher). They are really, really BRILLIANT!!! They are FULL of truths that I already have come to know. This is some of the most beautiful stuff I’ve ever heard.
DAY 8: This still works. I am experiencing miracles. I am experiencing my own power.
DAY 9: OK, I’m amazed. And I also CANNOT WAIT TO SEE DANNY!!!
DAY 10: This has been incredibly enlightening and worth the silence and the pain. I would recommend it. I am VERY glad I came. What I have learned is worth GOLD. But I’m also so, so very ready to go.
THIS IS WHAT WAS SO ENLIGHTENING:
You are taught to LIBERATE YOURSELF from your misery by harnessing actual laws of nature.
Yes, it is possible.
Our misery is truly in our minds.
As you sit for hours on end with physical pain in your legs and back and with intense cravings to do something else, you are taught to notice all the physical sensations that you have (both good and bad.) You are taught that physical sensations (good and bad) are ALWAYS changing, like a flowing river. So why let a moment dominate you? This only makes the pain worse.
Instead, if you just OBSERVE your sensations coming and going (instead of dwelling on them), the pain and craving loses it’s power. It’s called equanimity. It’s being able to see both good and bad sensations, without reacting to either – as you know that they will pass.
By not reacting, your mind becomes free.
Your body becomes free. Your pain and misery actually melt away. And in the absence of misery, LOVE AND COMPASSION are more freely able to dwell. You are more able to share your TRUE peace, harmony, and compassion with others (free of your own pain such as control, dysfunction, fear, anxiety, resistance, and the needs of the ego.)
This all may sound difficult and hard to imagine.
But at Vipassana, you experience it. The course is all about you having the opportunity to have an EXPERIENTIAL moment. Not one that you hear about. Not one that you are taught to believe in. But one that you experience FOR YOURSELF.
I loved that. Because I think too often when it comes to religion, you are taught to just believe in something. And too often you don’t actually experience the truths or the spirituality for yourself.
Danny and I both left Vipassana feeling EXTREMELY at peace and EXTREMELY calm about life and any fear or doubt that we might have. (For me, those fears and doubts at the time were related to our state here in Ecuador and the uncertainty of my future and what I might do with my life, time, and occupation going forward. And also, we were weeks away from hosting our first retreat.) Also, the 10 days sharpens and exercises your mind and focus like nothing else. And being 100% separated from distractions and screens was extremely cleansing.
Vipassana is certainly not for everyone, but I can highly recommend it to anyone seeking greater ways or tools to be happy, to feel liberated, to feel powerful, to feel spiritual, to feel true peace instead of pain, to feel true love instead of misery. This experience is helpful for life, suffering, uncertainty, healing, forgiveness, marriage and all relationships, religious or spiritual uncertainty, or drama of any kind. (Note: They have Vipassana centers all over the world, including a concentration of centers in India.)
Do you have any thoughts about Vipassana? Could you see yourself doing something like this?