A Very Different and Literal Trip to a Different Reality
I’ve traveled the world and explored a great many philosophical and religious experiences/techniques. This was a completely unique experience and one that I recommend to anyone who is able embark upon it – to learn more you can visit https://www.dhamma.org. Read on for some of the details of my experience.
First, you should know that my spiritual belief system is pan-syncretic. I’ve long identified as a philosophical Buddhist and a religious anarchist. There is only one religion that I can possibly identify with/as. That religion is Baoism, the serious and mystical religious philosophy born from a very non-serious religion I founded in 2021. My beliefs are too inclusive and diverse to fall into any other box. I state that so that you know where I stand as you read my account of what it’s like to attend a Vipassana 10-day silent retreat.
In signing up, at no point was I asked what my religion or spiritual beliefs were. I was asked if I had mental health issues and when I honestly responded that I suffer from anxiety born from our incessant beep-beep society, I was asked if I had been diagnosed, if it was a serious issue, and several other prudent questions. In short, they don’t care what religion you come from but they do want to make sure that you are not in a delicate condition that might lead to more serious damage. My answers satisfied and I was approved to attend.
What led me to sign up in the first place was attending a number of “Meetup” groups in an effort to overcome social anxiety that sprang up within me in the post-Covid world of 2023. At an entrepreneur group, I made friends with a fellow member. Then, at a meditation group – I ran into that friend again. The meditation group was run by an elderly Vietnamese doctor and his wife and they called it Vipassana Meditation. I had attended several sessions before seeing my friend there and found it to be very useful.
After the session he attended, my friend said “I don’t know what this was, but it wasn’t Vipassana.” When I questioned him why he thought that, he informed me that he had attended a 10-day silent Vipassana retreat and it was very different.
“I’d like to do that someday,” I told him. It was true, I’d long considered doing a sort of ‘meditation bootcamp’ but internet searches had put the closest ones in either California or Japan. “Where did you do it?” I asked.
“Here,” he told me. And of course, I wanted details. I was pleased to learn that not only was the course run on the island of Oahu, but also that it was free. I could see sessions like I had just attended being free, but found it very hard to believe that a 10-day all inclusive course in Hawaii could be. Yet, he insisted it was so.
He sent the link, I signed up, and at the end of November – off I went to Waianae on the west side of Oahu – to check in. I’ll be honest – I expected a timeshare presentation style money hustle to show up before they would let me leave. This is the real world we live in, after all, not some meditation fantasy land. Things cost money. My accommodation, food, and the course itself would all cost money – it had to come from somewhere, right?
I only did one internet search before I went off to the land of the Lotus – I searched “Vipassana Meditation 10 day retreat, cult, dangers, scam” with no quotation marks. The only negative experience I found was someone who said their sister had gone and left halfway through and was ever after more mentally ill than she had been before. Reading through the post, my impression was that the woman had been mentally ill before and probably should not have gone to a 10-day silent retreat focused on inward meditation. This isn’t therapy – though, as you will hear from my experience – it may function as such for some people. The consensus among commenters seemed to be that leaving before the completion of the 10-days could lead to some problems. A fact that I was glad to be aware of in that it gave me a further incentive to stay if things got difficult.
All of this may lead to the question, why did I want to go to a 10-day silent meditation retreat in the first place? It’s both simple and complex. I am and always have been a seeker. I’ve always been aware that I would die someday and that this life is impermanent. I’ve sought answers through philosophy, religion, spirituality, substances, and experience. Formal meditation has always been hard for me because my brain likes to move. I’ve found great value in the little bit of meditation I’ve engaged in over five decades. Transcendental Meditation, Nicheren Buddhist chanting, focused breathing, apps like Headspace and Calm, and moving meditation with things like Tai Chi. I felt like I needed to take myself further though and a 10-day distraction free meditation ‘boot camp’ seemed like a great way to level up my meditation practice.
Our world is busy-busy beep-beep attention grabbing clickbait siren yelling cellphone notification madness. The average TikTok video is three seconds. Not even enough time for an ant to cross a sidewalk. I am recently single after a friendly ending to a thirteen year marriage, my child is almost a teen and increasingly independent, for the past four years I’ve spent the majority of my time immersed in the online world while I built startups, traded financial assets, and dove head first into the ocean of community building in a networked world. I needed a full reset – and I intuitively knew – this was it.
I knew I would be driving so I added myself to the shared ride board. I had enough space for three passengers and luggage and agreed to pick up one rider in Waikiki and two more who would be flying in at any location outside of the airport several hours after they arrived. I don’t do airport pickups because I know that flights can be delayed, coordinating times can be challenging, and the parking, waiting, bag claim, delays etc. tweak my particular flavor of anxiety. In a previous employed life, I was paid to pick people up from the airport – it was never worth it.
My passengers were all from the Big Island. The Waikiki pickup went smoothly. The other two had a delayed flight to deal with and very kindly released me from the obligation since they weren’t sure how long it would take. My passenger was an experienced Vipassana retreat attendee and while she didn’t want to spoil the experience by telling me about it, she gave me two very solid pieces of advice. First, no matter what, stay through Day 4. Second, take the opportunity to practice seriously and avoid the temptation to half-ass through it.
We checked in, turned in our phones and car keys, and started meeting the other attendees. I never counted but would guess there were somewhere between 80-100 attendees and 10-12 volunteer staff members. A great number of the attendees felt so familiar to me that it was almost as if I had met them before. I commented to one of them that I had reached the age where almost every face started to look familiar.
We were assigned to cabins and separated male from female by a line running from the meditation hall to the communal bathrooms. Cabins had between eight and sixteen residents and there were also a dozen or so tents set up on the property. In the time before we ate dinner and then took our vow of silence, I met most of my cabin mates. We ranged in age from early twenties to mid-sixties and were a mix of ethnicities. I liked everyone I met – which was a surprise to me because in all honesty, that’s not usually the case. In hindsight, however, it makes sense. Every person there was a seeker looking for a reality beyond that of earn consume take exploit die. These are the people I always vibe with; they are usually outnumbered by the other kind in the day-to-day world.
The volunteer staff prepared and served a delicious vegetarian meal. Men and women ate separately. I got the chance to meet a few more of my fellow students – this is what we were referred to as: new students like me attending for the first time and old students like my passenger friend who were coming back – some I met having attended as many as eight times in centers around the world.
The rules were laid out. Over the course of our time there we would abstain from killing anything, stealing, all sexual activity, telling lies, and intoxicants. There would be no physical contact between people, the separation of men and women, and an agreement to abstain from any forms of religious devotion. After dinner, we assembled in the hall and all took a vow of ‘Noble Silence’ after which we would not communicate by words, by gestures, by eye contact, or any other way. There were no games, books, reading, writing, technology or other distractions. This included yoga and exercise; light stretching was allowed but that was it.
Every day started with being awoken at 4 am with a gong. The majority of the next ten days would consist of:
4:30 to 6:30 Meditation in the hall or in the residence.
6:30 to 8:00 Breakfast and personal time to shower etc.
8:00 to 9:00 Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 Meditation in the hall or residence
11:00 – Noon – Lunch
Noon – 1:00 Rest time or time to schedule questions with the teachers.
1:00 – 2:30 Meditate in the hall or residence
2:30 – 3:30 Group Meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 Meditate in the hall or residence
5:00-6:00 Tea break. New students could eat a piece of fruit.
6:00- 7:00 Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 Video Discourse from deceased teacher S.N.Goenka
8:15-9:00 Group meditation in the hall
9:30 Lights out.
For those who don’t want to do the math – that’s just shy of eleven hours of meditation every day plus one hour of watching a video of Goenka discussing meditation. The camp was in a beautiful setting that is usually bone dry but we had two days of heavy rain that turned it into a mire. The men had to trudge along a mud path between the men’s cabins, the men’s mess area, and the men’s entrance to the meditation hall. The peculiar mud would cake in one inch thick layers on the bottoms of our shoes. Every surface that could be used to scrape mud from shoe bottoms was used for such.
I want to take a moment to describe the setting. A meditation retreat needs to be away from the distractions of civilization and this particular location, Camp Waianae, fit the bill perfectly. Located in between the volcanic peaks of Oahu’s Waianae Mountains, this camp owned by the Seventh Day Adventists is a true oasis. Nine cabins, a large dining hall, mens’ and women’s restrooms, a beautiful lawn area, big gorgeous trees, plentiful bird populations, and surrounded three-hundred-twenty degrees with the rugged mountains and a forty-degree view of the Pacific Ocean to the west. The neighbors were small hold farms and distant enough to be neither distractions nor observers. I’m told that all locations for Vipassana Meditation courses are beautiful, but it would be difficult to imagine a setting more idyllic than this one.
We took our vow of Noble Silence, had our first group meditation, watched the introduction video with Goenka and then trudged down the mud path in the rain, using our flashlights to avoid stepping on the countless bullfrogs that seemed to be having a holiday of their own. One can’t quite express the strangeness of silently brushing teeth, using the toilet, and then climbing into sleeping bags while avoiding all forms of communication with the many others around you – all doing the same thing. It was close quarters and that first night, I admit I lost sleep worried about whether I might snore or fart loudly in my sleep and disturb the rest of the other men in my cabin. Eventually, as they all snored and farted around me, I realized how silly my people pleaser attitude really was. I let out a loud fart and then presumably snored my way into the oblivion my companions had so easily already fallen into.
Days 1- 4 – Anapana and Challenges
One of the great learnings I encountered during this experience came at 4 am every day. I really enjoy being awoken by the sound of someone hitting a gong outside of where I’m sleeping. It may be the second best way to be woken up only being surpassed by having sleep end with the soft kisses of a lover. Yes, this is how I came to love the gong.
I’m grateful to the servers who wielded the gongs each day. I also liked the regimentation of ‘hear a gong, go do the next thing’ – it’s not a harsh sound like high school bells or industrial time clocks.
I also quickly discovered that I really liked being freed from chit-chat and obligatory good mornings, excuse me, pass the time, meaningless drivel. I was instantly quite happy to not have to talk to anyone. One might even say that I was overjoyed by it. Granted, there were moments I wanted to share discoveries. I was sitting on the porch watching the wind and rain tear through the trees, birds were participating in the show and it was dramatic and beautiful. The sound of the wind, the rain, the birds – uninterrupted by any human sound. No cars, no voices, no music, no leaf-blowers. Watching this drama while my cabin mates hunkered down inside I wanted to scream “Come outside and experience this with me!” The gentleman in the bed next to mine finally came out and sat in the chair next to me. I was grateful to have someone else bear witness to this extraordinary performance of nature. After our vow was lifted, I checked with him if that moment had registered – it had, but I can’t imagine it had hit him with as much meaning as it did me – but I certainly hope that is the case.
One big challenge of not talking (for me) was wanting to say ‘excuse me’ or ‘pardon me’ when I needed to squeeze past someone. This faded but the desire to share natural wonders did not. Over the course of ten days, I tried to draw attention to natural things that inspired me – but it seemed that the majority of men were almost unable to see these things – though that could be a perceptual error on my part. My private wonders included:
- A colony of ants
- A cockroach and a smaller beetle doing some sort of dance
- The orchestra of the birds
- The play of the wind upon the grass or the tree leaves
- The movement of the clouds
- The gentle change of color and light as the sun moved position through the sky
- A bird’s nest that had fallen and the baby birds had mummified within it
- All of the birds – Grouse, Japanese White Eye, Zebra Doves, Java Finches, Mynah’s, Bulbuls, Sparrows, and more.
- The toads and lizards
- The joy of walking barefoot through the mud and grass
- Honey bees on the flowers
- The change of the weather and landscape as the mountains went from brown to green
At the end of Day 1 we had the most remarkable sunset I’ve ever seen. A sunset to the West and a full rainbow to the East. The clouds and sun went full spectrum in the sky with soft oranges, reds, and pinks over deep blue, purples, and greens. This may be the only period in my life, outside of Marine Corps Boot Camp, where I watched the sunrise and the sunset every day for ten days in a row. I am sure that my phone would not have done any of them justice, but I regretted it being locked away for this reason.
On Day Two, my leather slippers (flip-flops/sandals) went stanky. I live in Hawaii and these were the only shoes I had brought but the rain ruined them. Constant wet and mud had made them into toxic sponges that left my feet reeking to high heaven every time I put them on. I stopped wearing them and started barefooting – which presented other challenges since you can’t leave your mud covered bare feet at the door. I approached the camp manager about the situation and at the end of Day 3 they presented me with a new pair of slippers. I was profoundly grateful but can only imagine those around me were more so.
Another major challenge cropped up on Day 2 and bounced around until Day 3. My monkey mind had latched onto the fact that my 12-year-old daughter didn’t know how to contact me in an emergency. I had left all the info with her mother, but I began thinking about the ‘what if’ of her mother getting in some sort of accident and then no one knowing how to contact me. Again, I approached the manager and he called, made sure that my contact details were shared, and then reassured me. This sort of crisis and asking the teacher questions are the only allowances for speaking. It was astounding how frantic my mind became at the thought of 1) making others concentrating on their breath smell my stank feet and 2) the ‘what if’ of the well-being of my daughter. The relief of both situations was manifest in my entire being.
As to the teachings, those first four days we were not overtly taught anything so much as directed to spend hours upon hours focusing on the triangle area from between our eyebrows to the top of the upper lip. The idea being to sharpen our ability to pay attention to a small and specific area. We were also learning to sit still and to let our bodily discomforts do what they naturally would, fade away. It’s not easy. The body demands attention and doesn’t want you to focus so narrowly. On Day Three I noticed a lot of sneezing and coughing in the meditation hall. The weather was shifting from rain to sun but there seemed to be a virus among us. I felt the tickle of a cold in my throat – I knew it had gotten ahold of me.
On Day Four, I awoke with a fever, cold sweats, body aches, and a dripping nose. In truth, if I had not been ill, I might have left that day. I had learned to sit for an hour, focusing on my nose area – a technique called Anapana. It didn’t seem to me that we were going to be learning much more than that. I was sick and my body didn’t feel good. I considered throwing in the towel but remembered my new friend saying to definitely stay past Day 4, remembered reading about the dangers of leaving early, and I knew that I had gotten the illness in the retreat and that everyone in the meditation hall had already been exposed to it, but if I went home, I would be exposing my daughter to it. So, with that all factored in, I decided to stay. Sick as a dog and bored as hell with the technique we were being taught. I figured I would be over the cold by the time I went home.
Days 5-10 – Life & The Undiscovered Country
If I’m completely honest, I think my illness made it easier. It was fascinating to watch the detailed reactions of my body to the virus I had contracted. My assumption is that it was flu but it felt a lot like the last bout of Covid I had. I’m vaccinated for both – but this hit me pretty hard. I figured if I went into a coma they would call an ambulance or something and saw it as an opportunity to deeply watch the progression of illness in my body with literally no distractions except gongs announcing meal times or meditation times.
The meditation itself became more interesting as we were now instructed to start doing mental sweeps over our body looking for the same types of sensations we had felt in the Anapana triangle. When I wasn’t watching illness or sweeping over my body for sensations, my mind was literally reliving every painful moment of my existence so far – from bad decisions I’d made to things I had suffered due to circumstances beyond my control. If your life flashes before your eyes right before you die, it must be very quick because it took me nine days to relive every thrill, agony, defeat, bad decision, lucky grace, resentment, attachment, and pain I had caused.
This particular aspect was never talked about in the official program, but I spoke with several other participants in the days after and found that while not a universal experience, it seemed to be more common than not. The teaching was talking about what I interpreted as more physical pains and blocks and finding a way to deal with each of them with equanimity – a word that I had to ask the definition for to be sure that I understood what was being requested. Equanimity in this context is responding to sensations with neither attachment nor aversion. This was what I endeavored to do with my life experiences – no small task. All of this was very different from what I had encountered with therapists, self-help, or even religion. This wasn’t about forgiveness or letting go or even working through things – it was about honestly acknowledging pleasures and pains as they were and then sort of filing them as moments in the past, not so dissimilar to the feeling of an inhale upon the rim of the nostril – and having no more weight, positive or negative.
I found this to be far more settling than any treatment or philosophy I’ve encountered. What I’m not sure of is whether it is a peculiar result of my own experience or something that is common within Vipassana Meditation. The teacher seemed to indicate that events would arise but that they would do so as physical pains – this wasn’t my experience at all. It was full cerebral and interior. Having obsessively worked solo through a lifetime of trauma, I felt light and ready to dive into the next level. At this point, I know that I diverged from the standard teaching and went fully rogue. This was towards the end of Day 7. I tried to focus on what was being taught – but there simply wasn’t the pain they were talking about. I could sweep over my body in moments, I could randomly pick a place and feel sensation there, I could sense the sensations on my entire body at will. I sensed that I could do more.
At this point, I started creating portals to dive my body through. I used old forms of meditation to create patterns that would allow me to open a vortex in front of my astral self. I developed a ten-step meditation that would lead me to a light circle floating in front of a dark circle which I would virtually step through and find my projected body (which now felt real) standing in a sort of spiritual metaverse. Things took on astounding rendered detail like I’ve never seen in waking meditation and only rarely seen in dreams. Colors were – and this sounds crazy as I write it – more vivid than in ‘real life’. It was like the world I could briefly step into was rendered in higher resolution.
I wasn’t seeing extraordinary things – but everything I was seeing was extraordinary. The movement of the clouds, the flow of the wind over the grass, the leaves moving in the trees, the patterns on walls, the movement and dance of the stars above as I looked from beneath what I named The Forever Tree in the Undiscovered Country. To reach it, I had to journey through the Council of the Birds. If this sounds like fevered madness to you, I completely understand. I began to spend every moment – meditation or rest exploring the limits of the Undiscovered Country. At times, it was like my life was playing on one screen in the sky while I explored a new existence hiking through landscapes that felt far more real than the ones playing on the screen.
Late on Day 8, I started having visitors popping into my visions. I felt that I knew them but they were strangers – in fact, though it took me a while, I suspect they were my past incarnations or if the idea of past lives doesn’t ring true to you – it may be that they were psychological constructs born within my psyche that represented different aspects of who I am. Some of them were dark and grotesque, others were incarnations of evil, still others were kind, noble, bright. At first, I was annoyed by them because they were pushing into my visions but then I realized that I was reacting to them with aversion and reacting to the Undiscovered Country with desire and attraction. I focused on equanimity in both the land and the people I was encountering. Slowly, they passed.
Finally, on the morning of Day 9 – I found myself deep within the Undiscovered Country staring upwards through the Forever Tree’s boughs. I came to know this tree and realized that it had lived to see two-hundred or more of my lifetimes as they came and went like breaths within Anapana. My lives, human lives, nothing compared to the life of a tree that can sit for thousands of years, watching, observing, not moving, not giving judgment, reacting with neither attachment nor aversion – just being.
My fever had broken. The nasal drip was mostly gone. The cough was subsiding. I felt stronger and confident in my practice.
We came out of the group sit and the vow of Noble Silence had been lifted. The men were ecstatic. I could hear the women crying and reacting with joy to one another. I was not feeling that way. I was sad to have the chattering of humanity back.
I am very grateful they gave us back our voices on Day 9, but I was sad to no longer hear the voice of the wind, the chorus of the birds, or the sound of nothing in particular. Still, it was a joy to be able to talk with the people I’d already spent so much time with but never spoken with and to be able to speak with the friends I’d connected with in our brief hours before the vow.
I had come together with strangers to live and meditate for nine days without words but when the vow of silence was lifted – I was among friends. It felt like I was among people I had known for lifetimes and as I looked around at those faces that had looked so familiar on Day 0 – now I felt like I knew why. I knew them. I had always known them. Somehow we had all come together at this particular time and place to know one another again. Don’t ask me how that works or what that means. I don’t know.
The return of words was overwhelming for me. It was too much. In the bathroom, in the dining area, in the walking areas – words, words, words. Don’t get me wrong, I was talking too – I felt compelled to – but my desire was to run and hide back in the meditation hall. That night I had a nightmare – it was a different time and place, I saw some of these people I loved then and now, die horrible deaths. These felt like old deaths, not psychic foretellings, but memories. I’m not psychic and I’m on the fence about past lives – so take this how you want but don’t impose that on it.
In the real world, I don’t like to talk before I’ve had time to wake up, sit, drink coffee, and think. On Day 10 – the men’s bathroom at 4 am was hell for me as everyone gave smiley and cheery hellos and good mornings. I laugh at my description of hell there – it was really quite pleasant. There were never a more happy, genial, peaceful, and pleasant group of men assembled.
Our final group sit and then we were released. We collectively set about dismantling the camp, cleaning up, and getting to know one another. While there had been a separation of the sexes – many of the participants had been couples and it was lovely to see the couples reunited. Also, though we were not supposed to ‘see’ the women, nor they us – it was clear that some attractions had formed, some bonds had been remembered, some connections were seeking reunification. All I can say is that I’ve rarely been amongst a group of so many women that seemed to be seeking exactly what I have always been seeking – but romance wasn’t why I was there. If romance or attraction was going to happen, it would need it to happen elsewhere for me – so as much as I wanted to hug and squeeze and laugh and kiss and ask for phone numbers – I mostly didn’t. I didn’t want to impose on anyone else’s experience – and in our world I think that’s a pretty good thing for men to keep in mind – myself included.
We cleaned up. I was grateful to be able to provide a ride to my original passengers – now friends and also the man who had bunked next to me – now also a friend. Driving out into the real world was a serious trip. There was so much human sensory data – and the cars moved so fast. I feel like they really should have warned people about driving. I worked for years as a professional driver, but without that experience, I could easily see where this might become a tragedy. If you drive to and from a retreat – please be careful.
The high pressure time-share pitch I was expecting never came. There were some well-placed pitches for making donations and a bit of very savvy sales technique utilized, but overall I can confirm that as advertised – there is no big ask. They don’t try to brainwash you into giving them your money. They won’t bombard you with donation requests. This is truly a free experience for those who choose it and any donations made afterwards are completely voluntary. The truth is that this is an extremely valuable experience that someone else has paid for when you do it – so if you get value out of it, how could you not want to return the favor if you are able? And if you are unable to donate money, you can also donate time, work, and effort. The non-monetary aspect of it makes it far more pure than if this were done differently. As such, this is worthy and beautiful. The organization and people who run it have my utmost respect.
Reuniting with my daughter was wonderful. Somehow I had gone in still seeing her as a little child but now this 12-year-old girl was very clearly a young woman. She is growing up so fast and I’m so proud of her. Hugging her was a relief – the worry for her had never really gone away.
It has been several days now and the world is still different than it was. I can’t quite express how that is. My guess is that we have reset some sort of processing speed and there is now a mismatch between reality and perception. This reality doesn’t exist with human perception overlaid – it just sort of bombards us.
I went to an in-person group sit a few nights after the retreat ended. The house it took place in is only several blocks away from my home. All of the people were lovely – but I confess I felt a bit of distance. This may be because from my perception – most of them are what I might call ‘true believers’ but I am more along the lines of a tourist in their midst. I’ve been sitting in meditation morning and evening since leaving – but I must confess it is not the same process they sit in. I’ve shortened it from one hour to thirty minutes which feels like plenty to me – I’m sure there are people who would disagree with that.
I had some pretty major philosophical takeaways from my 10-Day Vipassana experience. I tried to distill them.
- We spend most of our time living in a fake future and a fake past. Only the present moment is real.
- To be truly present, one must somehow juxtapose personal present reality of the self with the totality of actual reality
- Sensations of the self (breath, senses) allow you to superimpose yourself on the patterns of the natural world you exist in. An intense study of both is necessary.
- All suffering truly is created from desire; either the longing for past/future fictions of pleasure or the desire to avoid past/future pain and suffering
- When you can exist in the present with both internal and external perceptions – be they pleasant or unpleasant – you can explode in a sense of happiness and joy. Like a bird flying – but you cannot become attached to it – when you go back to the nest, you cannot long for the joy of flying
- To avoid suffering from desire – it is really as simple as ‘Want what you have’ instead of seeking to ‘have what you want’. The moment you decide you want your pain or suffering as a way to live in the moment, it ceases to be suffering because suffering is actually a desire for what you don’t have (i.e. for the pain to stop)
- During our period of silence, I thought one of the men in the other cabins was glaring at me. In the bathroom I thought he shoved his way ahead of me. In the mess hall, I thought he took something just so I couldn’t have it. All of this was nonsense – I realized it, of course, but some part of my brain insisted on creating an ‘enemy’. If we had been talking/touching, maybe I would have been offended by his words, maybe I would have used my words against him, maybe I would have given him a shoulder as I walked by him, maybe he would have noticed all of that and returned it all. In fact, as soon as the Noble Silence was lifted, he was the first person I went to. I knew my brain was trying to trick me into enmity. “We made it,” I said to him. His smile would have lit the room. “Heck yeah,” he said. We chatted – he was an absolutely lovely human being without an aggressive bone in his body. I take this entire thing as a very valuable lesson – we do this as humans. Be careful not to let your brain create enemies from nothing – as mine tried to do here and has certainly also done in the past.
- We live in a world of distractions. It would do all of us some good to spend a little time each day with no distractions. No tech, no games, no entertainment, no gym or exercise, no conversation, no food – just nothing but our selves in front of us.
- I’d like to have more opportunities for structured time away from technology. No phone, news, noises of traffic, or modern distractions. I wonder what this experience would have been like stripped of the meditation and silence. I can imagine a camp like this with games, activities, workshops and quality interactions but stripped of technology, intoxicants, and outside contact.
- Not everyone made it. Several people left at different points. Of those who reached the end, not everyone could adhere to the rules. There was talking, I saw at least two cell phones that were snuck in and used (one person I walked up on was checking stocks which I found very funny) , and some people ignored the prohibition on yoga. I left the boundaries of the camp at one point to take a short hike – which was a serious violation of the rules that could have gotten me expelled. I’m sure others broke rules or wildly deviated from the curriculum in their own ways. I’m not judging here (I have no room) but if you are going to do this – I really suggest you at the very least give up your technology and take the vow of silence seriously.
I’m not sure I’ll go back to sit another 10-day course. I’d like to volunteer to serve at some point to give back and provide for someone else to have this experience. I’m very grateful to have Vipassana in my tool box and to have become a better meditator in the process of learning it. Mostly though, I’m grateful to have connected with the people I met and also for the opportunity to have been able to work through my life experience and to have learned how to lay those things aside. This was a truly life changing experience.