(Originally written on: January 27th, 2020)
A 10 day silent retreat, sounds doable right? A good way to reset, recharge, maybe even a rebirth? Well- maybe not a rebirth- that sounds hefty. But can I really, should I? I’ll put aside that idea, no need to make a decision yet right, it’s only January. Registration doesn't open for 5 or 6 months anyway. These were all the thoughts swirling through my head. Then the guilt sets in, taking myself away from ‘life’, my family, responsibilities, clients etc. It’s a funny thing how we prioritize, put ourselves near the bottom when it comes to doing things that we want, need and crave. When, truly- in the end when we do things things, we have so much more of ourselves to give.
July rolls arounds, first thing that pops into my head is registration is open for the retreat! Thanks universe, that’s just what I needed, always love those little nudges you give me;)
Here we go! I am in for a 10 day silent meditation retreat in Nov. I see they have a rideshare board- I have a van, why not offer to give a ride? I pick up the sweetest, kindest lady in Edmonton, she is originally from India, and oh the conversations we had, the things I learned on our shared roadtrip- I knew it was Serendipity we embarked on this new journey together! Youngstown, here we come!!
Now, Youngstown, is no ‘New York’ of Alberta- If I remember correctly- their tagline is “Sportman’s Paradise “, a small village with the population of about 150. Well, I’m not here to mingle with the locals anyways. My new friend, Mamta and I follow the signs to the Vipassana meditation centre. I take a deep breath, and remind myself why I am here- to learn Vipassana style meditation, deepen my meditation practice, and learn about myself - I mean really learn about myself.
Once inside, we are re-reminded of the rules, and given the opportunity to leave one last time, if we feel we cannot follow them. NO talking, no really, NO TALKING- no saying excuse me if you bump into someone, no saying please and that you, absolutely no talking. Meals are vegetarian, and are served at 6:30am, and 11:30am, with fruit offered at 5:00pm. No practicing any other rite or rituals- I agree to leave all my beloved crystals at home( although a few forgotten stones were found in my coat pocket later -opps;), put Reiki aside, and immerse myself into Vipassana. I got this..
My experience was a roller coaster of emotions. Day 1 was rough- and not for reasons expected. An angry, explosive conversation with a loved one the night before rang in my ears, circling around like a tornado in my head…no-one to talk to- to gain perspective, get my feelings off my chest and out of my head. Just me, myself and I. I ran through the myriad of emotions and then started all over again. Oh, crap ‘What did I get myself into?
We are awoken at 4am with a gong. 4:20, I made my way down to the meditation hall, still half asleep. I am a morning person, but 4am is painful. My first sit was hard, and I was still feeling upset from that conversation. My body started to whimper with aches and pains. Then this feeling of naseau washed over me, I became light headed, dizzy and was scared I was going to topple onto the person in front of me. Instantly, my mind went to a conversation with a chance meeting of a past retreat participant - she told me everyone got violently sick from releasing and detoxing. I thought Oh no, 2 hrs into day 1 and this is happening?!!! Please no:(.
Thank goodness that feeling only last for 5-10 minutes.
Meditations were guided by recorded talks from S.N. Goenka. His teachings and talks were delivered with the most genuine and light manner. He had the ability to guide you with the right amount of repetition, insight and sprinkled in just a touch of humour. His talks were wonderful in helping you connect to the practice. I found it fascinating how Vipassana held such deep roots in history, and surprised it really had no religion or belief system attached to it, since its birthplace was rich with religions.
Breakfast time came, and as tempting as the instant coffee was, I stuck with tea. I mean, why not tackle my coffee addiction at the same time right? Then there was the food, the food was amazing! Breakfast was simple but good. But the lunches, oh the lunches were so tasty!
The simple, but adequate accommodations gave me space and time needed for reflection. I looked forward to our to break time, most of which I spent contributing to the well-walked path in the field. Having the sun warm my face, my physical body craved movement so bad after long meditation sits. Luckily, for me- my oversight of proper winter gear for a late Nov retreat wasn't an issue. The weather was so warm, there were numerous days I could leave my coat behind. Thank you universe!
As the days rolled into the next, I was amazed how in-tune I was becoming to my senses and the sensations in my body. After all, that’s what Vipassana meditation is all about. But to actually experience it, was like nothing I have ever felt. Good, bad, indifferent- I was feeling it all. By about day 6, I really noticed a shift in myself- almost a ‘letting go’. Staying aware of my breath, scanning my body for all the different sensations. 10 plus hrs of meditation a day, became dare I say — easy. My hunger was non-existent, sometimes I even skipped the fruit offered at supper time. This was incredible to me - as a night time nibbler, how could this be so easy? I came to the realization, my body was craving this reprieve, just as much as my mind.
Day 8 is when the sensations in my body really showed up, to the point where, while sitting in stillness, I could actually feel and hear the cartilage in my nose crunching, and moving. I thought to myself - is this really happening? Am I seriously feeling energy in my body move to this degree??
I just wasn’t sure if this was what was happening, so I signed up to talk to the teacher. After getting over the crazy sound and feeling of hearing myself speak out loud for the first time in 8 days- I was reassured that this is all apart of the process, and these experiences are quite common. Phew- Im not crazy;)
Day 10 emotions re-surfaced. After our morning sits, we were allowed to talk, and mingle, they wanted us to adjust before being thrown back out into the world. For me, It was just too overwhelming and intense. After taking myself on one last solo walk, I realized all of the emotions, and thoughts floating within needed to come out. I was overwhelmed with gratitude, and I was also proud of myself for staying course.
Before my departure, I got to know some of the people I sat in silence with for 10 days..some really cool people, from all over the world, all with different stories and backgrounds.
An experience like no-other , thank you Vipassana, Ill be back;)