As some of you know, I decided to do something very different this holiday season, and instead of the usual basking in the sun or enjoying the ski slopes, surrounded with people and a non-stop banter, I opted for silence. Yes – silence. The noble one. The one I craved for for a very long time…
I first heard about Vipassana silent retreat a few years ago. A dear friend was off to meditate. For a week. In total silence! It sounded interesting. I didn’t think much of it though, as I was already doing a regular meditation practice that, with few exceptions, worked for me, and in all honesty, I had serious reservations about my ability to maintain silence for that long.
The thought of spending days and days in meditation, keeping silent, with just my mind as a trusted companion, made me a little anxious. And paradoxically, it was exactly this anxiety that helped me pluck up the courage and sign up. I wanted to explore what was behind that anxiety. I was curious to see what I’d learn by being in silence.
Vipassana is a meditation practice that was used by the Buddha to realize enlightenment. Buddhism is not what the Buddha himself practiced, but a variation of his teachings.
It is an excellent technique for people with a logical mind (me), as the core of the technique is simply experiential, so it totally makes sense…logical sense, that itJ.
If you can, and are so inclined, I warmly recommend it. It is an invaluable experience.
The first day of the retreat began at 4.30 am, and ended at 9.30pm, with 12 hours of meditation practice a day. For most of the time you were on your own, so the good old intention is useful! I took it very seriously, as my intention was to come out of it with a razor sharp clear mind and a very open heart. I wanted to liberate myself from anything that wasn’t mine, from all the yeses when I meant no, from all the heavy and subtle conditioning…in short, from anything that no longer served me and that stood in the way of Me! In order to reach this state, a heavy workload was needed…I had to offload and totally empty my mind. Not an easy task, but hey, I had all the time in the world, on my own, undisturbed, just me and my mind! Fun times ahead…or not?!
Like with everything in life, a good preparation is essential. So to start with a meditation technique called Anapana was called for. It is practiced to calm the body and mind to prepare you for silence.
To begin with I found the meditation technique very physical and tiring on both the body and the mind. Having spent a good number of years practicing meditation and yoga, plus NLP and all the wonderful techniques it offers, I still wasn’t prepared for this. This first part of the meditation is to do with becoming familiar with sensations in your body, and becoming aware of impermanence. Because of impermanence, one has to maintain equanimity of mind to all that is happening in your body as you meditate. Everything passes, and it makes no sense to attach yourself to any manifestation. Attaching opens the door to judging!
I was going though moments of absolute ease and moments of absolute unease, thoughts and feelings were coming and going, creating space for more of the same.
With nothing to distract me from my thoughts, no conversation, no reading, no TV, I became aware of the content of my mind. Filled with useless stuff, and jumping from one thought to the next, constantly being drawn to the past and moving swiftly to the future…Planning, arranging, going, moving, stopping briefly in the present, only to be quickly transported to either past or the future! How boring! How frustrating!
Luckily, my teacher came to the rescue, by proposing that I observe this incessant influx of thought as I would observe the rain outside my window, without being caught in a raindrop. These thoughts are not me. A worthwhile Aha moment ensued – a moment of razor sharp realization and clarity. What a weight off my back to finally detach myself from my thoughts. What a blessed opportunity to connect to my true self. To witness who I truly am. What a moment – to experience the awareness behind thought! Letting the mind do what it does – thinking, without me having to fight or engage in every thought! Witnessing = Bliss.
This is not to say that I am now an enlightened being. I still get caught up inside the individual raindrops. Even while I am meditating. This is of course, for the time being, an inevitable part of the process. But the awareness that all these mindtraps are just raindrops makes it possible to retreat and watch and listen to the rain, without being lost in experience, but aware of it.
Meditation is not about stopping the mind from thinking, it is about experiencing all that is happening within and without. With meditation, one becomes more aware of what one is thinking and how one is thinking.
I learned a lot from this experience. First and foremost to always be honest with myself, understanding fears, hopes, desires on a very deep level. I learnt that thoughts are an essential part of human experience, and are valuable in many ways; however, when they (thoughts) distort our perception, we need to see beyond the limits they create and discover the subtle awareness of our true self.
Vipassana is probably the hardest thing I have ever done and the most valuable one. The world has become an even better and lighter place than I remember it.
To let go of what we are not is the first step towards allowing that what we are to come forward.
With this in mind, I invite you to spend some time this week, in silence, and to get a glimpse of your true self. Give yourself the gift of experiencing YOU!
Wishing you a light and wonderful week,
Copyright© Momentum Strategies 2013