Monday, December 28, 2015

A ten day silent meditation retreat in Argentina, 10.5 hours of meditation a day


Vipassana is a meditation practice. I signed up to take a Vipassana course which is a 10 day course, in which for the first 9 days you do not speak to anyone else nor do you look anyone in the eye. You can talk to the instructor once a day briefly if you have any questions about the practice, that is all. You meditate for just under 11 hours a day in silence, 3 of those hours you are highly encouraged not to move your body at all. For an hour in the evening there is a discourse in which the instructor on the TV explains what you are going through and what to expect in the days to come, and just about philosophy in general in relation to what you are going through (the best talks I have ever experienced). Meals are vegetarian; you get two meals a day, with a piece of fruit and tea in the evenings.

Where we meditated for the 10 days, I was 2nd row down 5 cushions in

Cost: By donation, only being allowed to donate after you have completed the course. The reason it is free is because it is so good for humanity and for people to do it is not required to pay, and you can live off other peoples good will, and trust me after you complete the course you will want to donate.

Why did I sign up:

The dining hall
I have been spending a lot of time over the past 2 years on self-development. Why? After doing so much traveling, when I am back at home, I have a huge hunger to do a lot of things and live a certain lifestyle. The way I have grown up and been taught to live doesn’t provide me with the type of life I want. Therefore I am spending as much time as possible learning from those I want to be like by reading their books, watching them on YouTube, attending there conferences, finding ways to connect with them, etc. A significant number of people I am studying recommend meditation as a requirement to having massive success in anything you do. I would try to mediate for 5-20 minutes at a time, with little direction except for a few different apps I tired on my phone. My friend Jared wrote a blog about this 10 day mediation course he did in Argentina, and it sounded really good, and 8 months later, as part of my South American trip I ended up at the same retreat. I really wanted to go above and beyond anything I have done before on this adventure and be able to take away new skills and learn new things. Sitting quite for 10 days and meditating is something I have never done and I knew it would be a real challenge and a new and interesting experience as most of what I do traveling is adventure based, so I decided to sign up. For those of you who think you could never do it because you can’t sit still I have ADHD and am very hyper, and I did it so you can to.

Quick overview of the 10 days:

Day 1-3: Focus on breathing through your nose and focusing on the feeling of your nose and just below it.

Day 4-7: Focus on your breathing and feeling the outside of your body everywhere, by concentrating on small areas at a time, and then eventually larger portions.

Day 8-10: Focus on outside and inside your body and feeling everything

My experience:

Doing this course was one of the best things I have ever done. It made me aware how miserable I am in my own life. Let me be clear though that I didn’t realize I was miserable, I thought I was pretty happy, and so would a lot of those around me who know me. A brief summary of the realization: During the meditation we were taught to view things like having an itch or a pain in your leg as a sensation, and not to view it as positive or negative, but just as a sensation, and to experience it and let it pass. You can take this into all areas of your life: For example I have always been chasing positive sensations:

-       The feeling I get from volunteering in Zambia with the youth
-       Flying through the air on a ski jump
-       Scoring a goal in hockey
-       Making a sale
-       Good food vs. bad food
-       Positive social interactions v.s negative ones

Chasing these sensations all the time doesn’t allow us to fully live in the present, and be focused and enjoy what is at hand. Meditating and focusing on the sensations in our body allows us to learn to work towards being in the present and really be able to focus on what we are currently doing. I would describe after finishing this meditation course it would be like taking the pill from the movie Limitless, in which Bradley Cooper takes a pill that enables him to use his whole brain vs. a small portion of the brain, which is normal. You are able to be way more present, and it just allows me to be more successful and calm. Furthermore although I don’t view myself as extremely consumerist, it is good practice to realize that doing something like buying a new sports car and the feeling you get from that is temporary, and to chase things is never ending and not a long term solution to happiness (nor is it good for the planet).

It was really hard during many of the days, especially during the sessions where we are not allowed to move for an hour straight, as it was a real mind game to realize that the pains I feel are just sensations that will pass, vs. a discomfort that I must get out of right away. Especially the first time we were not allowed to move, I only got it through sheer will power and being stubborn, it was very painful and I was not able to view the pain as sensations. I will tell you though I was really happy when the session was over and I was actually able to get through that, I almost cried with joy silently ;)

Another big realization I had after only being in my own thoughts for 10 days straight is that once we were able to talk to those around us (70 students), within a few minutes I was being told by others the way the course was and what we learned from it etc. I realized that this was not my experience, and I had very different views. It showed me how important it is to really listen to myself more than anyone else when making decisions as only you have your experience and know what is best for you, although getting advice from others who have been successful in what you want to do is a good idea to use as a map. This is not a new idea, and have heard this over and over again, but it was the best real life example I have ever had.

Life after meditation:

 I still practice mediation for two hours a day, or a minimum of 1 hour a day if I am traveling and I absolutely can’t realistically meditate due to not having my own space. I don’t eat as much meat, and most of my meals I eat at home won’t be cooked with meat. I constantly ask myself when I find myself upset with something, what would I do if I had just finished meditating, or if I have just finished meditating handling everything with a more clear and focused mind. I have already in the last month of being done the course such positive results in my personal life and professional life.

Would I recommend it?

I would highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to learn and develop themselves, is hungry for success, and isn’t afraid of hard work. I wish I could recommend it to everyone as if everyone in the world went through this I personally couldn’t even imagine all the good that would come of it, but it is a very hard thing to do, sitting for 11 hours a day silently for 10 days with no communication of any kind or reading materials etc. Unless you really want to do the course, you will put yourself through pain and either not get much out of the course or you will end up running away part way through the session which could be even worst then just not doing this course as you will get confused. But if you do want to become a higher functioning and happier version of yourself (even for all you already happy campers and Elon Musk’s) I would say that this mediation is as important to your mind as physical exercise is to the body.

How to sign up for a course:
Go to the website: if you don’t want to do the one in BC, google the centres around the world, I think there are 120 different centres.

Sign up for a sitting, and wait to be accepted.

Video of the head of Vipassana giving a speech to the United Nations (He was in the midst of getting nominated for a Nobel peace prize until he died), worth watching:

Documentary about Vipassana and how it is helping to heal serious offenders in a US Prison, great and really interesting documentary: