In June this year I spent 10 days in total silence.
Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, was one of the hardest, most frustrating, irritating, lonely, depressing YET most rewarding, liberating, blissful, transformational experiences of my life.
When I mentioned to people that I was doing a 10 day silent retreat, their first reaction was horror at the proposition of not being able to speak. Especially because they know I’m a little chatter box.
On the contrary, the no-talking-thing was the easiest thing to manage.
For me the crunchers were sitting for 10 hours a day and being solely with my own mind in the aim of meditating. Zero distractions, only of the mind, which was on a leash.
Other biggies that almost took me around the bend were 4am gongs, no laughter, no eye contact, no physical contact (yep, no cuddles!), no meal after 11.30am and no yoga/exercise (whoops, broke this one).
It was more like a meditation bootcamp than a ‘silent retreat’, but nevertheless was such a wholesome experience and one which I feel every being should try, or at least attempt, once in their lifetime.
I learnt these things about myself, and life, during my time in silence…
1. I forgave myself.
I had a meditation meltdown on Day 4. After four tiresome days of trying to learn the meditation technique and sit still without squirming, coughing, sneezing, swallowing, itching, scratching, laughing or crying, I found I was blocking all the thoughts from my mind – avoiding the onslaught that was to come. Then all at once I was swamped with thoughts, inundated with memories and completely overwhelmed with my mind – I can only describe it like my mind was holding a gun to my head and shooting millions of thoughts at me, one after the other after the other – an annihilation, obliteration of thoughts. It felt like an ambush; an attack of all my past mistakes – especially in relation to men that I had let in when I ‘shouldn’t’ have, both physically and emotionally. Tears started rolling down my cheeks and I felt I couldn’t breathe. I ran outside collapsed on the ground hyperventilating, whaling, sobbing and wanting to vomit – what I can only assume was a panic attack. In those moments of despair I realised that all the thoughts were things I hadn’t forgiven myself for. As I gasped for air and tried not to choke in between my tears, I held my hands on my heart and womb space and made a vow to forgive myself, learn from those mistakes and move on being a better woman because of it. I thanked all the mistakes and all the people who made me feel worthless. I forgave them too. After this breakdown, I felt lighter, clearer and stronger. It was a full body-mind-heart-womb breakthrough.
2. I can sit for an hour and not move
The first time I attempted this, I moved position about three times. Then the next time, I moved twice, and then finally I nailed it. If anything the high you get after meditating for an hour without moving is SO worth the pain (but that’s not the point). Since you are with your own mind all day long (and night, if you can’t sleep) the meditation hours are a huge relief and release as it means you can give your mind a break! You begin to look forward to meditating. I could reach about 10 – 20 seconds of body observation and awareness before a thought crept back it…and this was on a GOOD day. As the days went on, I would observe and embrace any sensation on my body, whether it be good or bad, small or big, gross or subtle. Yep, an itch was worth a celebration as it was a gross sensation! However, the whole point of the meditation was being able to acknowledge both pain and pleasure with an equanimous mind (i.e. not celebrating an itch lol). By not attaching any feeling or emotion to the pain or the pleasure you are able to simply remain equal and balanced. A lot harder said than done, especially when you’re entire right leg is numb and your nose is itchy.
3. I embraced ‘Ruby’ – my Introvert
I grew up thinking I had to be an extrovert to be noticed, heard, accepted, acknowledged and loved even! Her name is Roxy – she is wild, vivacious, fun, chatty, social, busy, outgoing, naughty, rowdy, funny, playful, promiscuous, cheeky and bossy. And I freaken love her. However, during Vipassana I felt I could give Roxy a break. I could exhale, soften, relax, not be ‘on show’ all the time. I didn’t have entertain, please, coach, write, speak, express, play, make conversation, make any phone calls, reply to any emails or text anyone. I didn’t even have to smile or say thank you if someone held the door open for me! I could just go within, be still, quiet, gentle, shy, reserved, self-nurturing, receiving, and not feel bad or guilty for that. I found my inner introvert – Ruby – and she found her voice. Exhale….
4. I like to break the rules
As a teenager at boarding school if I was told not to smoke, drink, try drugs, sneak out, talk in class, go into the boys dormitories or hook up under the blankets at movie nights, you would find me doing all of the above. Well, a lot has changed and a lot hasn’t changed. No I wasn’t drinking or smoking at Vipassana, however I was a conscious rebel! I was doing Yoga headstands and a strong practice most days, I snuck in some chocolate, dates and prunes to eat when I was ravenous at 3.30pm, I wore a sleevless shirt showing my shoulders (and got into trouble for sun tanning close to the boys grounds) and I accidentally self pleasured. It wasn’t until the final 2 -3 days of the retreat that I started to realise the reason and importance of not practising yoga, wearing conservative clothes, abstaining from sexual thought and eating less food. It’s all part of the process and helps to keep you clear for meditation without distraction – or distracting others. So after my rebel phase, I started abiding by the rules and found my meditation practice improve.
5. I learnt patience
When day 9 rolled around, I had another meltdown; on a smaller scale. I just wanted tomorrow to come so I could talk, laugh, scream, run, drink a soy latte, get to know all these beautiful women I was spending so much time with! I had miscalculated the days so was a day ahead of schedule and when I went to the female manager in a fluster, she brought me back down to earth by saying ‘Cmon Rosie, in hindsight what is this day going to mean in five days time!? You’re being impatient. There is learning in your resistance’. She was so right, and in that moment, I sucked it up and went back to enjoying the moment and being present by sitting with the uncomfortability. My suffering was not making the day go quicker. I learnt not to keep dreaming of tomorrow, hoping for something bigger and better, constantly looking forward, planning, scheming, getting excited for what’s to come. If we do this, we miss the beauty in the moment. Through Vipassana I learnt to just be here and now…in this moment. That’s where the growing is.
6. I relished in Body Care
For the 10 days at Vipassana I made my body care routines sacred by infusing love and complete presence in each act. Showering was an invigorating ritual. Shaving my legs was a careful and meticulous event. Washing my hair, whoa, complete ecstasy! Even brushing my teeth, I took my time and focused on each and every tooth. I moisturised daily until every inch of my skin was soaked with moisture and soft & dewy. Not only that, but as I moisturised my body I did it with care, love and gratitude, acknowledging the body I have, my skin, hair, muscles and bones. Coming out of the 10 days, my skin was so soft and clear, my eyes were bright and my whole attitude was positive, lively and energetic from the inside out. I was glowing!
7. Just because you’re alone, doesn’t mean you have to be lonely
A few days in I started to feel some foreign sad feelings, which I later pin pointed as loneliness. As I lead such a busy lifestyle work-wise and socially and am usually always surrounded by people, I hadn’t felt ‘lonely’ in a long time! I was so used to picking up my mobile phone and texting or calling someone, or checking Facebook, or walking into my housemates room for a chat. All massive distractions to what is actually going on within, and to a certain extent without.
At Vipassana I learnt to sit what was is and tune into my inner landscape. I learnt to be the observer and not the reactor. If I felt lonely, I felt it in my body without judgement, and let it go. Because the biggest paradox about loneliness, is actually, we are never alone.
8. You don’t need drugs to get high
One day when coming out of my morning meditation (which I could have sat in for another 2 hours had I not needed to pee and had a numb right leg), I decided to walk around the rain forest and continue my meditation. I felt the EXACT SAME HIGH I felt when I had taken San Pedro Cactus medicine in a Sacred Shamanic Ceremony a few weeks before. The trees were alive, the raindrops were glistening, the leaves were glowing. It’s like I had a new set of eyes. Every foot step was like an orgasm sent up my entire being. I discovered tiny little frogs in the plants. I threw rocks into the pond and watched the ripple affect. I don’t remember how long I stood staring up at the sky through the branches, but I’m sure people would have thought I was crazy. My awareness was so high up in my upper Chakras that I felt I was floating and everything around me was alight and everything I touched was electric. Who knew meditation could get you so damn high!? Way better than regular drugs – no come down or hangover!! Just pure bliss.
9. I practiced mindful eating
In my opinion breakfast and lunch were the EVENTS OF THE DAY! Since dinner entailed only of a measly piece of fruit and some herbal tea, you had to make the most of the two meals you got. I didn’t realise how much I am ruled by my stomach (well, my friends would know as I tend to get ‘hangry’ when I don’t eat)! Volunteers had taken the time to create these beautiful meals so I gave thanks before eating and focused all my awareness on each mouthful, instead of letting my mind wander or looking around at the other women eating. So often we distract ourselves with the TV or talking to each other or being on your phone while we’re eating so I was on a mission to feel the texture of the food, relish the taste, look at the colour, chew slowly, smile and honour each of the food types I was eating as well as the farmers who had grown the vegetable or fruit or grain. From eating consciously, I digested the food better, enjoyed the food more and soaked in the present moment – making me a happier person!
10. You don’t need physical touch to orgasm ~ Kundalini Rising!
I had to leave this juicy one til last!! One of the Vipassana rules is to refrain from sexual misconduct (masturbation) so as not to attach to any lustful thought or sexual desire because we all know what happens when we starting thinking about sex…we’re like a dog with a bone! However, for most people during Vipassana their sex drive diminishes quite substantially; being in such a clean, disciplined, sacred, meditative space tends to clear out the mind of those naughty, promiscuous thoughts – but not always. The first few nights I woke up having experienced full-blown ‘sleep-gasms’ which felt like my bodies’ way of moving the energy up from the base Chakras. Woops. I broke the rules, unintentionally. As the week went on the Shakti power-packed energy slithered her way up and up and up. On one of the days during a meditation sitting in the hall I felt waves of ecstasy flooding through my body, with my yoni pulsating and lower Chakras vibrating. I hadn’t touched myself and I hadn’t thought a sexual thought. My body was simply orgasming from the meditative experience. Something I can only put down to Kundalini rising…
Vipassana is literally a ‘brain-washing’ experience. It washes your brain of all of it’s filth and junk and creates a beautiful, shiny clean slate to start knew.
If anything I came out a vibrant, giggly girl full of gratitude for EVERYTHING – the women I shared the experience with, the Soy Latte I was about to experience, music, writing, reading, family, friends, running, beach, blogging, coaching, everything in my life that I was deprived of during Vipassana.
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