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A few months ago, I told my family I was going on a 10-day Vipassana silent meditation retreat.
Their response: “Why? Are you crazy?”
I chose to do this after a recommendation from my coach. He had attended this type of meditation retreat before and thought it would benefit me.
He was right.
This was not a retreat where you meditated for an hour, did some yoga, and received a massage. That type of retreat is still on my wish list. 🙂
A Vipassana retreat involves about 10 HOURS of meditation EVERY DAY. You can’t talk to any of the other meditators, until day 10. You can’t read a book or write in a journal. You are alone with your thoughts every day.
It was one of the most physically painful, mentally challenging things I’ve ever done in my life.
And I would do it again in a heartbeat.
At the end of the retreat, I was physically lighter by 5 pounds thanks to a vegetarian diet consisting of breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea with fruit.
More importantly, I was mentally lighter. The experience taught me a way out of misery and how to lead a happier, harmonious life.
Why is it called Vipassana?
Vipassana means to see things as they really are. It’s a type of meditation based on the teachings of Buddha, and is a universal remedy for universal ills. But that doesn’t mean you have to become a Buddhist to practice Vipassana. It can be used by members of any religious denomination.
The meditation will help Christians to be better Christians, Muslims to be better Muslims, Jews to be better Jews, etc.
What to Expect during a Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat
I took the course at a Vipassana center in southeast Georgia. You arrive in the afternoon and after checking in, you turn in your phone (no technology!), get settled in your dorm room, and go through a brief orientation of what’s to come.
Women are housed separately from men; there is no fraternization between the sexes until day 10. We meditate separately on either side of the meditation center and eat in our own separate dining halls.
The daily schedule looks like this:
4:30 am – 6:30 am Meditate in the hall or in your room.
6:30 am – 7:15 am Breakfast
7:15 am – 8:00 am Rest
8:00 am – 9:00 am Group meditation in the hall (mandatory)
9:00 am – 11:00 am Meditate in the hall or in your room (according to teacher’s instructions)
11:00 am – 12:15 pm Lunch
12:15 – 1:00 pm Rest
1:00 pm – 2:30 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30 pm – 3:30 pm Group Meditation in the hall (mandatory)
3:30 pm – 5:00 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room
5:00 pm – 5:30 pm Tea
5:30 pm – 6:00 pm Rest
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm Group meditation in the hall (mandatory)
7:00 pm – 8:15 pm Group discourse (Video teaching)
8:15 pm – 9:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
9:00 pm – 10:00 pm Get ready for bed
10:00 pm Lights Out!
I’m naturally an introvert, so not talking to people wasn’t as difficult for me as it was for some of the other participants. What I longed for was to write! I would sit on my bunk in the afternoon during the rest period and ideas would pop into my head that I wanted to capture on paper. I decided to let go of that craving and trust the ideas would still be there when I got home. (They were!)
Meditation and the Mind
Did you notice I used the word “craving” in the last paragraph? That concept goes to the heart of what Vipassana teaches you. We create misery for ourselves through craving and aversion. The key to happiness is to become aware of pain and pleasure, and remain calm and composed about it.
I’d been familiar with this concept because for years because I practiced meditation with the use of a technology called Holosync put out by Centerpointe. I would listen to audio recordings with different sound frequencies coming into each ear. The brain syncs them up and the company claims you can meditate as deeply than an experienced Zen monk in much less time. They also teach you to become more aware of your thoughts and just watch them. You don’t react.
If you want to get started with meditation, I recommend Holosync because it gives you a good foundation. It helped me to become more tolerant of things. If possible, it’s a good idea to create a dedicated area for meditation, whether an entire room, or a corner of a room where you can have a chair or mat, and maybe a candle to set the mood.
And if you want deeper, more lasting results, I highly recommend attending a Vipassana 10-day retreat. This teaching goes deeper than the surface thoughts in our mind. It teaches you to become aware of the sensations in your body and remain calm about them – whether they are pleasing sensations or painful ones.
The technique is simple, but NOT easy. It is however, totally worthwhile. I’m already reacting to situations differently than I would have in the past. I’m calmer, more focused and happier. That’s not to say I don’t get mad, frustrated or annoyed anymore. I do. But I’m finding that I can calm down faster or not even react in the same way I would have in the past.
Another benefit of attending the retreat is that I got to meet some amazing women. Once we were able to speak on the 10th day, it was a joyful thing to share our experiences with each other. I know these are now friends I will have for life because of our common bond.
How will this Impact My Business?
Attending this 10-day retreat has already had a positive impact on my business. For one thing, I seem to be getting more done each day! And I’m not stressed either. Vipassana teachers recommend you meditate for one hour each morning and one hour each evening for one year to solidify the practice and get the best results. That’s what I’m endeavoring to do.
I’m confident that this will strengthen my capacity to have more happiness and peace in my life, which will benefit my mental and physical health; that in turn will benefit my family and friends, as well as my clients.
For more information about Vipassana, visit their website at dhamma.org. You’ll find videos that explain in more detail what Vipassana meditation is, as well as locations for courses.
2 thoughts on “What I Learned at a 10-Day Silent Meditation Retreat”
Great story, Gloria!! This is something I’ve always wanted to do and deep down nervous of failure
Because I’m a talker ans 10 days is a long time! I’ve known a few people who have gone, but I never knew you weren’t allowed to journal….ugh ..I love writing, too! Thank so much for sharing your experience!!
You’d be surprised what you can do when you set your mind to it Sherinata! One of the ladies who was sure she would bail early, stayed the course, and now she’s starting to meditate more often.