Vipassana Retreat: 10 Days of Silent Meditation
Before the Vipassana Retreat…
Today I’m starting a Vipassana retreat, 10 days of silent meditation near the Sea of Galilee, in northern Israel. I won’t have access to any technology, not a book or even something to write with…
I’ve never done anything quite like this. I do love yoga and have studied a bit of it in India, however, this is something different for me, something brand new. It will be a challenge, but one I hope to learn a great deal from. I don’t think I’m necessarily good at mediating, my mind is constantly racing and analyzing my surroundings, so I’m hoping to work on calming my mind. If that doesn’t work then I guess i have 10 days to think about everything I’ve been through in the past 8 months traveling. Or who knows, maybe I’ll go completely insane and just leave…
After the Vipassana Retreat…
Yesterday I completed a Vipassana retreat, it was 10 days of silent meditation in northern Israel. I have to say, this was quite possibly the most grueling mental challenge I’ve ever gone through.
It. Was. Innnnntense.
We had 10 hours of scheduled meditation everyday starting at 4:30am. We ate at 6:30am and 11am, plus a few fruits around 5pm. We practiced noble silence, meaning not only no speaking but no communication or even acknowledgement of the others around us.
How was my experience?
I was thinking of escaping on day 2… What the hell did I willingly sign up for? Ok cool, spend 10 days diving deeper into my own mind than I’ve ever gone before, sure no problem. I obviously have 10 days to spare to give it a shot. Why not? I mean I have to live with my mind my entire life, for me it’s absolutely worth exploring. But no one can explain what it’s really like to be in your own head for 10 days straight, no pen or paper, no electronics no speaking, no distractions. Your choices are 1) Lay around going insane staring at the wall. 2) Running away. 3) Giving this method of meditation a fair trial… I chose #3.
I managed to sit on a small cushion on the floor of the mediation hall for around 8 hours everyday. My back and knees hurt, I became restless and at times anxious. My mind wandered and wandered and wandered, like a wild monkey jumping from branch to branch. I pulled up memories waaaay deep in my past. I began reviewing all my travels and achievements, my jobs, loves, anything I could think of to pass the time. I thought heavily for days about the wars going on all around me. Especially since the 5 days before entering the center I was deep in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which is the most tense place I’ve ever experienced, basically the opposite of what I was currently doing and feeling… I reflected on all this, processed, then sorted and filed it somewhere in my mind.
OK ya, I went insane at certain points. It got pretty weird hanging out in my mind for 10 days… Then on the 10th day we were able to talk. At first no one knew what to do, what to say. We slowly began hearing our own voices again. I didn’t recognize my voice at first, I felt like a had to connect my brain back to my vocal cords, a strange sensation. After 10 minutes we were all laughing and hugging, making bonds and friendships within minutes of speaking. We had never spoken to each other before, but we somehow knew each other and felt an instant bond. 90% of the 80 or so students were Israeli. My roommate, who I slept in the same room as for 10 days began speaking to me in Hebrew, I had to explain 3 times to him that didn’t understand. He just couldn’t understand how I wasn’t Israeli, for 10 days he had this image that I was Israeli, “How could this be?”. Haha, his idea of me was instantly crushed, we laughed and exchanged stories and contact info.
Another crazy side story… Turns out the person I sat next to the entire time during meditation went to my high school! (Groves High School in Michigan) He graduated 12 years before me, but still. That and he used to live 1 mile from where I grew up. He moved to Israel about 15 years ago, wow, crazy small world. I couldn’t believe that. There was 1 German, 1 Russian and the rest were Israeli, except myself and this guy who grew up in a house that I remembered right down the street. And somehow we were sat directly next to each other for 10 days. Weird, I know.
But for real. How was it? Would I recommend it?
Absolutely. It was a profound experience and I would recommend it to anyone with a slight interest. It’s completely secular, it won’t go against any previous beliefs or religions, this is universal and they can coexist…
Now understand, I consider myself a very logical and practical guy (after all I used to study accounting, at one point even wore a suit and worked at a bank), I’m not some crazy hippie and don’t follow any religion, but I’m curious about it all. I want to experience and learn about it, I want to dive deep into the mind to better understand this crazy beautiful world that we live in… Two years ago (when I first head of it) I was told by a friend it was like being in jail, but she came out with a clear positive mind and explained that she was more sensitive to touch, smell, sound, sights and to the personalities around her. Sounded good to me. This could only enhance my understanding and observations of the already incredible experiences I’ve had around the world… I feel this is what I’ve gained. It’s a tool, a tool to see the world from a deeper and clearer perspective.
The day the Vipassana retreat ended I felt extreme freedom, I felt released from the prison that was my mind. I couldn’t be happier that I had finally made it through the countdown of days, hours, minutes of mental torture. However, I was also able to progress in my meditation techniques. I began realizing that I felt lighter and happier, my mind felt clear. One day later (today) and I feel even better.
Vipassana meditation is the closest thing I’ve found that can almost connect science with spirituality. I’m not going to go into all the details of how, but if you take the course or do some further research it will be explained. I highly recommend the documentary below, a beautiful story, and it will give you a much better understanding. The same vipassana retreat is available at 280 different locations around the world.There are no charges for either the retreat or for the lodging and boarding. These vipassana retreats are supported by voluntary donations of people who want to contribute for future retreats….Official site: https://www.dhamma.org