10 days of Mind, body, soul and energy detox (Vipassana Meditation – Silent meditation)
One of the benefits of the shadow work I do, is knowing when and how to unplug from the busy-ness and chaos of life, from time to time. When my mind starts to feel busy and overwhelmed, I know it is time to pause and drop everything that does not agree with my soul and disconnects me from my true self. I have been feeling like there is so much noise around me lately, with everything that is going on in the world, even watching news makes me anxious. I needed to declutter, recentre and come back home to myself.
In a conversation with my life coach, who is my yoga master, also an Ex-Monk (Because a teacher also needs a teacher), suggested that I join them for the Vipassana meditation. They had just introduced the online course to cater for these global lockdowns and provide accessibility for all. I was first introduced to vipassana at the yoga retreat in Bali,**, all I remembered from the sessions was that we sat for long hours waiting to feel some sensation that never came, and since it was usually the last subject we did, by then my body and mind was only tired from eight hours of yoga. But when I read book ‘The Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari where he mentions and gives high praise to the practice, he totally grabbed my attention. Vipassana is different from mindfulness meditation which focuses on awareness, or to transcendental meditation, which uses a mantra. Instead, Vipassana dictates a blanket command of non-reaction. No matter how much pain you feel as you sit, or the fact that your hands and legs fall asleep and that your brain is crying for release, you have to sit it through. You are instructed to refocus attention on the objective sensations in your body, arising and falling, as you do a scan of your limbs in a specific order. By doing so, over 10 days, you train yourself to stop reacting to the vicissitudes of life. When you train the mind to focus on something like the breath, it also gives you the discipline to focus on much bigger things and to really tell the difference between what is important and everything else.
During the 10 days of the retreat, you are not allowed to talk, NO phones or technology, NO reading books, NO watching tv, NO sex, NO touching, NO lying, NO killing (not even a cockroach), No movement during the ‘meditation sitting of strong determination’ and NO alcohol. During the course it is essential that all forms of prayer, worship, healing, or spiritual practices are suspended. This is not to condemn any other technique or practice, but to give a fair trial to the technique of Vipassana in its absolute purity. Having to do 10 hours a day of meditation for 10 days straight (or at least attempting to) was the most intense and challenging thing I have ever done in my life yet one of the best. For ten hours of meditation for 10 days straight, I sat in my yoga studio and meditated. Forty minutes was the longest I have meditated before and mostly in savasana, yet there I sat about to embark on almost 100 hours of meditation over ten days in a lotus position.
The day starts at 04:00am – 08:00 hours with Silent meditation and guided meditation, and the first four of 10 hours of meditation are scheduled every single day for 10 days straight. Then from 08:00 to 17:00 I continued with my work life in noble silence. I then continue with meditation from 17:00 – 21:00, and close off meditation day with a discourse and question and answers just to recap the day. The recommended diet while we were on this mediation was ohsawa diet #7 metabolic diet. The Ohsawa 7 diet originated from George Ohsawa, the founder of Macrobiotic philosophy. It has been known to cure cancer and other dis-ease and is popular amongst the yoga community to balance the physical and emotional bodies. The intention of this cleanse is to balance the yin and yang aspects of our being, bringing us into a more harmonious state, both physically and emotionally. For this course we were only allowed to eat brown rice, with sea salt and sesame oil for the 10 days we were on this retreat.
Having experimented with many fasts and diets over the years (Literally all my life), I have to say that other than one day where I felt a little nauseous (which I put down to emotional purification), I found this incredibly easy. It helps that I love rice in all of its form and colours. And you could eat as much rice as you want during the window period. This diet helped me get deeper into meditation because my digestive system was not working too hard.
The first day of meditation was a bit harder, everything in my body hurt. It turns out I was not flexible enough to comfortably sit crossed legged for more than an hour. My sitting bones were killing me and ten days of this is surely impossible but that was just my ego talking. I have never realised how much my mind have to say and could not even stop the flow of my thoughts. My mind was thinking continuously past, future, future, past again, breath, past, future, future, future of the future, back to the past and then a jump to the future again. I could not focus on the present moment nor focus on my breath for more than 5 minutes. I could not even pay attention to my most natural sensation of my being. Minute by minute, hour by hour I struggled but somehow, I made it. The first days were long, everything was going extremely slow, my mind wanted to escape and do something different, because I felt like I was in prison. Immediately I noticed that the more thoughts were negative, the harder for me to survive that experience and I learnt that the only solution not to get crazy was to focus on my breath. I had a hard time focusing on my breath because of the persistent burning in my back and knees despite the many pillows I piled under my knees. I however, was told to disassociate my panic from the pain. If you have mastered acceptance of your own body sensation, you can face anything.
Towards the last days of the course, by day 6 I was exploring my body with conscious awareness, and I had gained an incredible ability to sense the tiniest details all throughout my body. Increasingly often, I run into those rapid, pleasurable tingling sensation wherever I focus my awareness. The diet also helped, as my meditations got much deeper since the rice is also very sattvic (no spices or stimulants to activate the mind) and some days I felt so much joy bubbling inside of me that I would have to stop myself from laughing out loud during my meditation sessions! I was feeling very elevated, and glowing. Due to my digestion not having to work too hard, I was also only needing 4-5 hours sleep every night. In the great words of our Guide ‘Vipassana is the art of staying comfortable in the uncomfortable. That means you train yourself to be happily where others don’t even want to visit’.
My top 3 insight and learnings from this experience:
1. I am not my mind, not my stories.
• There is me – the awareness witnessing my thoughts, experiences, and emotions– and there is my actual thoughts, experiences and emotions. When we lack awareness of this separation, we tend to get caught up in our streams of thought and identify with our stories. As a result, suffering occurs. Not being good enough is just one example of a widespread story that people accept as their realities because our minds can make it sound so real and we start feeling inadequate and develop self-doubt. Meditation helps us become aware of our stories, giving us opportunities to detach from them and see them from what they are, just stories.
2. You have to do the work.
• Shortcuts exist in life, but to train your brain you need put in a significant amount of effort. The first few days are devastating because the work is both mindless and extremely taxing. But you can see a change in a mere 10 days, with disciplined practice.
3. Perfectionism can be dangerous.
• Believing that doing your best is not good enough is dangerous. There is no perfect, and there is no objective measure of what “right” can be. The course reminded me that if you have a value system that thrives on making decisions with integrity, for the right reasons, doing your best is good enough.
Would I do this practise again, DEFINITELY but I have booked my next in the meditation centre so I do it around people with likeminded.