When was the last time you did something for the first time? 10 Day Silence Retreat – Vipassana Meditation

As a controller I like the predictable, as an adventurer I love the unknown. So there’s always a new adventure waiting for me around the corner. This Vipassana Meditation retreat was an unforgettable life-event for sure. It was an experience I will share with my grandchildren one day.

Walk the line (and those rules are not meant to be broken!)
There is nothing to sugar-coat: It’s tough. You are not allowed to talk, not allowed to touch anyone and even eye contact is not recommended. Don’t even think about bringing your phone or anything you can write on. You are not supposed to do anything –no sports, not even yoga! You do have to get up at 4 AM every day and only get to eat breakfast and lunch. For new students they serve an afternoon fruit salad. You basically sit cross-legged on your cushion all day long. For 10 days straight! You cannot ‘just leave’ (The gates are not locked though.) Doesn’t sound like a vacation, hm? But it is – it is a vacation for your mind!

We are all full of shit: An intro into Vipassana Meditation
What does meditation mean? Something like ‘being balanced’ or ‘growing self-awareness’ or ‘relieving stress’. People, mostly ‘hippies’, sitting cross-legged on the ground thinking about their breathing and being happy until their dying day? Sometimes it seems to be the new detox, it’s a new buzzword! Overly used, I would say. No matter what skin colour, cultural background or bank account. 99% of the world’s population have one thing in common: We are all ignorant. We see things how we want to see them, we don’t control our thoughts and become very emotionally driven.

When was the last time you cleaned out your closet?
Couple weeks ago, a month, maybe last year? Having everything in order gives a feeling of relief, doesn’t it! But when did you clean out your mind the last time? The answer is getting a little harder I assume.
’Imagine you are born blind. An elephant could be anything else than an actual elephant depending on which part you touch. It’s about the perspective you see. This is where Vipassana starts.’

We go to the gym to shape our bodies, we go to university to expand our knowledge, but what actually do we do for our mind? Generally speaking meditation is a school for your mind. Vipassana Meditation is a step above most other meditation techniques.

How often do you erupt?
Everyone has a sleeping (unconscious) volcano inside – Those are our roots of our misery. The deeper level of your mind is constantly in contact with your bodies sensations. And we react to it: We get excited, we get sad, and we create all sorts of emotions. It’s the trigger! A catalyst if you will. During the course you train the deeper levels of your mind not to react to those sensations. Your sleeping volcano has nothing to do with the outside world, the world you perceive through your senses!

Addicts of craving
Craving means that you want something which is not there at the moment. But it’s important to understand it’s not about the object you want, it’s about a sensation you want! The existence of craving is not a problem, but your reaction to it! What comes after the designer clothes, the villa, the Porsche, the yacht? Maybe a trip to the moon? (Don’t get me wrong, I love beautiful things too, especially a trip to the moon!) Craving is the reason why money doesn’t buy happiness. Satisfying a craving is not the solution – neither than craving for satisfaction is!

The tiny little in-between
You learn how to observe things objectively and stop reacting to it. Why would you need to do that? Take a minute and think about ’what you have thought about today’. We are always thinking about the past, which makes, sense since we are made from experiences. And on the other side we are thinking about the future – striving in life keeps us alive and gives us vitality. Makes total sense. Nothing wrong with that. However, what about the tiny little in-between? Those tiny little moments after those moments, what about the now?

Blind Devotion.
It’s not a philosophy, neither it’s rocket science. You won’t see a pixie waving her magic wand giving you witcheries. It’s simply a technique. The bottom line of Vipassana Meditation teaches you how to change your behaviour pattern of the root level of your mind. Sometimes our eyes are useless because our mind is blind. (Or some of us even have buttonholes instead of eyes.) We have to touch and experience all parts of the elephant to see what an elephant looks like, we have to sharpen our minds!

’Together alone’
It’s a distinct truth compared to the real life out there: We are more connected than ever before but never have we felt more alone. During those 10 days you disconnect from technology and reconnect with yourself. You are not alone. Though you might wonder why you can’t at least talk with your fellows. It’s a simple reason. Once you understood that this trip is a vacation for your mind you don’t want any distraction. Chatting and meditation do not go along with each other. Comparison doesn’t allow you to stay with yourself. It’s the same if you go on your summer vacation, you wouldn’t want to take your office with you, or your mother in law!

’Am I part of something really weird?’
From a bird eyes view it must have looked like a sect. A bunch of weirdos running around in silence waiting for a ’Gong’ to either meditate or eat. You have to throw some of your luggage over board: Your stereotypes as well as your sense of time, otherwise you will freak out. (Being aware of 11 actual hours of meditation time doesn’t help!) You catch yourself observing time – striving for life is fed by limitations. (Otherwise what would be the sense of a never-ending life, right?) You learn how to be a little more pragmatic: Whatever is gone is gone.

Let’s do this: the first couple of days
In the beginning I felt a little silly, I felt like a prisoner holding my own chain. I didn’t come here to find myself, I actually don’t really know why I went there (I wanted to learn how to focus, I guess.) So I kept asking ’Why the hell am I here? Why am I doing this?’ I figured in the future I shouldn’t poke my nose into everything anymore! Since it’s always easier to blame it on others, I damned my Freediving Instructor (Sorry Emil!). He introduced me into Vipassana Meditation and told me it’s one of the hardest things I might ever do in my life – And he was right. But in the end we are all creatures of habit anyway. So what did I do all day long? I meditated. I ate. I took a shower. I took small naps. I’ve been daydreaming a lot or did I accidently fall asleep? ’That’s it? That meditation session went by fast.’ Those thoughts came up in my mind during some of the first sittings. The German in me worried a lot about ’doing the technique wrong’ when I realized I just slept the whole session.

Run Sara, Run! But where to escape?
Of course I also thought about ’just running away’. But where would I go? Just back home? And what am I running away from? From myself? After the first day or two I recognized something: No matter if you built a house, moved to another country or cannot decide where to live and hop in-between places (Busted!): It doesn’t matter which place you live in besides one: Your body – It’s the only place you have to live in. You cannot run away from yourself. From then on the actual work started.

‚Hi, there!’: What came up from the surface
If you are dealing with yourself (and only yourself) for 10 days straight you realize a lot. Human beings have the memory of an elephant. I consider myself as a reflective and stable person, so nothing ’surprising’ came up to the surface. I went through pretty much every chapter of my life. My childhood, my school cone, my first love, my environment, my passions, my characteristics, and also casualties, losses, anxieties, fears, and sicknesses. Special thoughts about people I was allowed to meet on my path came up. A door to appreciation and altruism was opened! I am a polite person, my parents did a good job with that, but those 10 days taught me how to feel altruism. Not only that: During my favourite meditation sitting at 4:30 AM (who would have thought that, big hand for this sleeping beauty!) I learned to appreciate nature. Right before sunrise I sneaked out of the meditation hall, cuddled up in my cosy blanket and went for a walk. (I swear, the only time I was wearing socks and flip flops together! Even though it’s Bali it was very cold) I quickly developed a morning ritual. I watched a breathtakingly beautiful sunrise over Mount Agung. I grasp nature is free for everyone, but the appreciation of it is priceless! Magic moments – I even cried once because it’s so pretty (Nothing wrong with that, but usually I am not that type of person.)

Back to reality: Switching on some senses
On the last day you are allowed to talk again. I felt weird. I felt vibrations in my ears, I had difficulties absorbing all the voices and didn’t know how to react to them. My throat was also sore. I felt like coming out of a hibernation. Other than that I was really confused – for days! With a little distance since retreat I can say I learned some lessons. If you want the rainbow you have to deal with the rain. It’s the same with ’being balanced’. Once in the while I want to take a vacation for my mind. So, yes, I will definitely do it again. There’s no hurry though. At the beginning I couldn’t wait for the end until I realized the end is a start of something new, so there is plenty of time.

Once up in a time I realized ’the now’
Sitting in my rocking chair in 50 years I will tell my grandkids about that experience. Especially ‚first times’ we will always remember. (Of course you remember your first kiss, right?) You never know when it’s the last. I am a fan of the metaphor ’life is like a rollercoaster’, even though it’s quite stale. But a rollercoaster is a safe construct – never mind that you don’t know when you turn (especially when you’re eyes are closed), It’s a safe construct and the journey continues. That’s all what matters, for now.

I felt like on an island of bliss (You might know I have soft spot for islands!) I hope you enjoyed that piece of writing. And you might want to check it out someday, The ‚only’ thing you need is 10 days.
www.dhamma.org

THE END

Thanks

Meet the Guru
S.N. Goenka – I don’t only like him because of his accent. He has always a good story and a couple of laughs!

You don’t only have to relive the cause of the pain. You have to go back to the origin of the pain and take out the roots. This is the holistic way of thinking of Chinese Medicine. Not only your body, also your body, mind and spirit!

Thanks a million
Thanks to the whole Dhamma Organisation. You attend without receiving – Your effort is speechless. In a perfect world you would ’rule’ the world.

And thanks to the kitchen. I am still dreaming about those vegan coconut palm sugar wraps!

A special thanks to my Freediving Instructor Emil who first introduced me to Vipassana when I did my Master Classes at Dumagat Freedive in Romblon (Philippines). Thanks Emil.

And thanks to all those incredible people I was allowed to meet there. Lots of Love.

 

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