On Sitting Through a 10 Day Vipassana Meditation Retreat and the Sweet Hereafter

On Sitting Through a 10 Day Vipassana Meditation Retreat and the Sweet Hereafter

3 months ago I returned from a 10 Day Vipassana silent meditation retreat.

My life had been flipped upside down. I had learned things that can’t be unlearned. It was the most physically and mentally challenging thing I have ever done. And all I did was sit on my butt for a week and a half with my eyes closed and try to turn off my insane brain.

Before signing up for the course, I had zero experience concerning meditation except for some basic breathing exercises that come from doing yoga most days of the week. In fact, I mostly scoffed at meditation.

Yes, I had moved to hip, granola crunching Oregon where spiritual awakening is a popular activity to pursue. But still I thought that it was… well, not for me.

Even after the trip I was hesitant to let people know what I’d been up to for those 10 days. Though when I did mention it, there has been an overwhelmingly positive response each time. In fact, a girlfriend of mine who had been interested in Vipassana signed up for the course after I told her about my experience.

Who knew the world was so open to meditation? I certainly didn’t. Perhaps there’s hope for us humans after all.

At any rate, I thought I would write about my experience right away, but there was no way to put into words what I had been through. Digestion time was absolutely necessary. Apparently a relaxing trip to Orcas Island was also necessary in order to get out all this word vomit I’m about to spew on you.

As a disclaimer: by no means am I sitting here writing a “how-to” or a “you’ve gotta do this” type of post. Vipassana can’t be taught via a blog.

It took me a good 2 years to wrap my brain around the concept before I even signed up for the course. I just think it’s time to put pen to paper (so to speak) on how Vipassana has affected me thus far. Also, I think I needed time to talk out my thoughts with various people — some Vipassana students, some not.

Overall, I’ve had an overwhelming contrast of feelings concerning meditation (at least this type because it’s the only one I know).

On one hand, I am so grateful to have this tool come into my life. I don’t need anything to meditate. Only my breath. And, for me, it works. I came out of those 10 days feeling light and clear-minded. Whenever I sit down to meditate (which is much less often than I care to admit), I come away with a sense of calm that doesn’t come from anything else I’ve found (granted I’ve never tried heroin… and for the record don’t plan to).

My yoga practice has completely changed. It’s incredibly easy for me to practice Vipassana every time I come to my mat. And more often than not, I can fall into deep meditation during Savasana (the final resting pose for those of you not familiar).

Do I sound like a trippy hippy dippy yet? Probably. And I’m okay with that even if my old NYC-based self is cringing in the corner.

On the other hand, those 10 days seemed to open up some things that I can’t quite articulate other than that I either need another 100 days of meditation camp, or a damn good therapist.

The reason for the latter is that it became obvious just how batshit crazy we all are living in this unnatural, interweb dominated world. Dubstep and Facebook are symptoms of our increasingly distracted society. We forget that sometimes we need to BE rather than DO.

Yet this is the world we live in. It’s quite the contradiction to sit here typing these words on my shiny MacbookPro with plans to publish them on my fancy pants blog.

Are you starting to see where I’m coming from?

Not to mention that the 5th precept of Vipassana — and the one I have the most inner struggle with — is abstaining from intoxicants. If you and I are at all acquainted, then you know that I am a bit of wino, beer hound, and whiskey lover.

The core of me knows that perhaps I’m much better off without these things. That a more fulfilling lifestyle without such seemingly cheap thrills is mine to have by turning these things away.

Yet I refuse to. Hell, one of the most enticing things about moving to Oregon was the Willamette Valley and craft beer! How can I turn my back on these old friends??

The answer that I’ve found in the 100+ days since those eye-opening 10 days, is that this is a lifelong path. Huge lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight. Quite frankly, I don’t have to give up my vices at the moment.

Part of me feels guilty for partaking, but the other part of me says to shut up and simply enjoy the things I enjoy. I’ve always felt that guilt (as well as anger) is nonsense anyway; only truly negatively affecting the person feeling that emotion.

But that doesn’t mean those emotions don’t come up. After all, I’m only human.