In 2001 I was massaging a client of mine in New Zealand and he told me about this retreat that he went to in the Blue Mountains in Australia. He said it was the best experience and that had changed his life.
He explained to me that he was not allowed to speak or look at anyone else for 10 days and that he learned how to meditate. I remember at the time thinking that it would be so hard for me (being an extrovert) but it was something I said I would do.
So now it is 2012 and I returned 3 days ago. My outlook on life has changed and I want to share my experience with you. I did not look into the course schedule and had no idea what we were going to do while I was there.
I actually think if I had read the schedule before I went, I would have canceled thinking that I could never do this and missed out on one of the most powerful experiences in my life.
My Vipassana Experience
4am Woke up with a ((gong))
4.30 – 6.30 Meditation
6.30 – 8.00 Breakfast
8.00 – 11.00 Meditation
11.00 – 1.00 Lunch
1.00 – 5.00 Meditation
5.00 – 6.00 Fruit Break
6.00 – 7.00 Meditation
7.00 – 8.30 Discourse with the teacher
8.30 – 9.00 Meditation
We did this same thing for 10 days. For an extrovert who loves to exercise and move this is not something to look forward to. I was thinking that 10 days not talking was going to be the hard part.
When I arrived I was overtaken by the beauty of the land; over 40 acres of flowering heath and eucalyptus forest on the edge of an escarpment in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. It also has great natural beauty, commanding magnificent views of the mountains opposite and valley below.
Its extensive gardens and ponds attract many native birds and animals, including some very colorful rosellas, and sometimes ducks and wallabies. We arrived and registered and were able to talk amongst ourselves and have some soup or tea.
After this time we were called into a room and given the rules. The boys were to dwell in one half of the property and the girls in the other. There was to be NO contact. (We did see the boys in the meditation hall when we went in to sit down but our eyes were closed during meditation).
There was to be no talking, no eye contact, no reading, no writing, no computer, no phone. No outside stimulation at all. We were to follow the rules and be in the hall at the times on the schedule.
Showers were only allowed to be used during certain times. After being told the rules we were sent off to meditation and then straight to bed.
4am – Woken by the Gong!
I’m not a really early morning riser so the 4am start was a shock to my system. I got in the shower to wake me up before meditation. It was really strange not looking anyone else in the eye or saying good morning. I felt really rude.
I found that to avoid eye contact I would start looking at the floor instead. It was all a little weird for me but at least I was able to get outside in the breaks and do a little walking in the fresh air… That was the thing that kept me going…
The meditation was not easy. We were instructed to breathe in through our nose and out through our nose, noticing the breath. I could not stop my mind from wandering and it was flicking from subject to subject, in a way i was feeling anxious.
This is a pattern my mind has done for most of my life. Also sitting on a cushion on the floor for 12 hours a day was taking its toll on my sciatica. I was starting to feel depressed.
I woke up on day 2 wanting to leave. I was feeling depressed and my back was sore from all of the sitting. I had only done 1 day and had 9 to go. I didn’t think I would make it so I had decided that I would do the first meditation, have breakfast and then I would leave.
As I was leaving the meditation hall it started to snow. Snow in Sydney at this time of year is not the norm, in fact it was the heaviest snowfall in 25 years. It came down heavy and fast. By breakfast everything was white and it was pretty heavy outside.
Seeing the snow lifted my spirits. It reminded me of home (England) and made me think about my family. I started making snowballs and throwing them.
It made me smile. I don’t know why the snow came in that moment but I’m glad it did as it made me stay there for another day as I was not going to drive back down the mountain in those conditions. My roommate left on this day so I had the room to myself.
I could not do my walk on day 2 because of the snow so I exercised in my room (breaking the rules) but it made me feel better. The meditation was the same as the previous day. Breathe in through the nose, out through the nose…
I woke up feeling much better with a sense of calm. The meditation was getting easier but my sciatica was getting more and more painful. I kept my walking up every break.
15 – 20 minutes in the morning, 30 – 45 minutes at lunch and 15 – 20 minutes in the afternoon. It was the walks for me in the sun that kept me going…
The meditation had progressed and we were to add another part of the technique. It was only on that day that I realised that the meditation was being taught step by step and that I would have to stay the full 10 days if I really wanted to learn the technique.
This day was much the same as day 3 for me. I had a sense of calm. My sciatica was still there but manageable.
I was feeling calm still on day 5 and was so happy I had made it halfway already. It felt like time was going so slowly. On this day we were told that we had to stay in the same posture during meditation.
My sciatica was now screaming at me and I knew it would be impossible for me to do this.
I went up to the assistant teacher and told her about the pain I was in and said that if I was to keep still for an hour I would have to sit in another posture as sitting on my sciatic nerve was not good and I would surely disturb the other students.
I was bought a chair to sit on. As soon as I had finished my first meditation my sciatic nerve started feeling better. At this point I know I could make it sitting for the next few days.
During day 6 all these negative emotions started overtaking me. Was I angry? Did I want to run? Was I frustrated?
I was not sure what the emotion was but it was enough for me to think that this process was too hard and I did not want to feel this anymore and the feelings about leaving came back again.
It was like a big heavy black cloud was following me around. All I wanted to do was run away, get in my car and leave.
This is another strategy of mine. In life, when things get too hard I have just picked up and left without resolving the problem.
I was even getting mad at the people who were sounding the gongs. The gongs would go off every time the timetable was changing.
My internal dialog wanted to stick the gongs where the sun didn’t shine!!! I was not in a good place and was feeling controlled and stuck.
I woke up with the same feeling as the day before. The best way I can describe it is a sticky negative feeling that I could not shift.
I persevered with the feeling and breathed through the feeling until finally in the afternoon, during my walk it shifted and I felt calm again.
Still feeling calm. Did my exercise.
Still feeling calm. Did my exercise.
This day we were able to speak to the other girls. The boys were still segregated. By this time I was so comfortable with the silence and no contact so I found it a little confronting people being in my space, in fact I went for a walk for 45 minutes before I spoke to anyone.
After a while the sensory overload started calming down. The noise of a roomful of people talking was too much to begin with.
As I started talking to the girls and sharing our experiences I realised that we all went through the same thing and there were times where most of the girls wanted to leave, or their internal dialogue was getting the better of them.
It’s amazing what pops into your mind when all you have to do is think! The insights I have come away with will prove to be invaluable in my life.
How Has It Affected Me?
I left Vipassana a different person. I feel a slowed down person, a less anxious person and someone who is much more aware of her body and the messages it gives her.
Someone who is going to commit time to herself to meditate daily and realises even more than before that I have to care for myself over all others.
You can only give what you have got and you need to give back to yourself in order to be able to give to others.
Vipassana meditation is an amazing technique that gets us in touch with our subconscious mind, Through listening to the messages our body give us. There are many techniques out there that do this in the holistic world. I use many of them with my clients.
Vipassana gives us a tool to use to get in touch and clear the emotions that hold us back in life by ourselves, without having to go to a therapist to help us.
Vipassana is the only meditation that has taught me how to do this and has taught me how to sit still enough to sit in one posture for one hour at a time.
I have only been out of there for a few days and already noticing the difference. My body is very sensitive and I am more in touch with the messages it is giving me.
I can feel more sensations on my skin, when it is touched or even when I shower. I am calm and even tho I’m still as busy as before, feel like everything will get done in the timeframe needed.
Because of this my anxiety levels have decreased significantly. I feel strong and confident and I am sure as time goes on i will notice more and more changes in me for the better.
I would highly recommend that everyone should try this experience at least once in their life.
How Much Does It Cost?
Courses are run solely on a donation basis. There are no charges for the courses, not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation.
All expenses are met by donations from those who have completed a course, experienced the benefits of Vipassana, and wish to give others the same opportunity.
Neither the Teacher nor the assistant teachers receive remuneration; they and those who organise the courses volunteer their time.
If you are interested in going to a course check out their facebook page.
You can find much more information on living a holistic lifestyle in these free magazines and on our YouTube channel.
If you would like to learn more and work with me one on one I would love to work with you. I am passionate about people having a voice, being heard and creating the change you want in your life.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how I can help you. Sharon is the founder of Global Healing Exchange. You can work with her on her Emotional Freedom Program here.